Mary’s River Covered Bridge is a beautiful, well maintained, bright red covered bridge that crosses over Little Mary’s River 4 ½ miles northeast of Chester, IL on highway 150. It was constructed in 1854 and was in continuous service for 76 years until 1930. It was closed to traffic in 1930 when another bridge over Little Mary’s River was built. It is currently open only to pedestrians.
The bridge was originally part of an 8 or 9 foot wide planked toll road over swampy land from Breman to Chester. A road in Chester still bears the name Old Plank Road. The planked road and covered bridge were designed to handle wagon and ox cart traffic carrying agricultural goods to the Mississippi River at the port of Chester.
The bridge is 86 feet long, 17 feet 8 inches wide, and has a vertical clearance of 12 feet. It was constructed using native white oak timber, hand hewn throughout, and used the Burr Arch design with double arches on either side of King posts. The structure rests on its original stone abutments and with the exception of the floor, floor joists, roof, and siding, all of the original timber remains. The first roof lasted 45 years. The floor has been replaced several times. Steel channels have been placed under the lower chord for support.
The bridge was acquired by the State of Illinois in 1936 for the purpose of preservation and a small picnic area was built at the bridge site.
Mary’s River Covered Bridge is currently the only covered bridge in Southern Illinois. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.