Elder's Mill Covered Bridge

110 years old and still kicking map
From Elder Mill Covered Bridge

There is an argument as to how many covered bridges exist in Georgia. The Georgia DOT has 16 on their list, the purists argue that the number should be 13 or 14 due to stylistic differences, or more prominently upkeep has changed the very nature of the structure. But anyway you slice it, a covered bridge spanning a piece of water in the Georgia Countryside is a pretty sight. There is one not to far from Athens, in the town of Watkinsville where you get the treat of still being able to drive across in your car. This is the Elder‘s Mill Covered Bridge .

We stopped by there when we were driving South on 15 from Athens to Eatonton. There’s a sign for the turn pointing out the Bridge and its located a scant 8/10ths of a mile down the aptly named Elder’s Mill Bridge Road. A tremendous spot to stop and stretch your legs on a car trip.

The Bridge was built by Nathaniel Richardson in 1897 and it originally carried folks across Calls Creek on Watkinsville-Athens Road (which I believe may now be 441). After a little over 25 years of use, the bridge was moved to its present location in 1924, carried by wagon by John Chandler. The new creek it spans is Rose Creek, which I have seen referred to as Elder’s Mill Creek, and, alternately the bridge is sometimes called the Rose Creek Bridge. The bridge is 100 feet long and is built in the town lattice style. I couldn’t find out much about the Mill itself except that it closed down in 1941, and was presumably near the original Calls Creek site.

Not exciting enough for you? Danger you are looking for? Looking for more thrills than picturesque scenery? How about going there knowing this: this bridge has the second lowest structural safety score, according to a 2007 Federal Highway Administration scoring a 14.5 (out of 100). But don’t fret, it sits on a sporadically used road and we crossed it twice without a single gasp. And considering its still usable after 110 years without reinforcements, I’d say that’s some fine American workmanship. And remember, its still a beautiful spot. The Watkinsville Garden Club has done some planting on both sides of the bridge, and there is even some grumblings it might become a full fledge park one day.

But remember, as the popularity of covered bridges waned, and time took its toll, we only have 13 (or 14 or 16) of these historical structures to get to know and appreciate. Elder’s Mill Bridge sits waiting for you, if you are ever in Oconee County, as a pleasant reminder of things past.


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