09/20/2013 04:39 pm ET Updated Nov 19, 2013

America's Most Beautiful Covered Bridges

A covered bridge played a supporting role in one of Hollywood's most intense and fleeting love stories: The Bridges of Madison County, which still inspires visitors to seek out Iowa's Roseman Covered Bridge. (It ranks higher on TripAdvisor than John Wayne's nearby birthplace.)

Embodying a simpler time in American life, wooden covered bridges like Roseman began springing up across the country in the early 1800s. You'll find them in state and national parks, amid the rolling hills of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, and in popular leaf-peeping corners of New England.

The structures are often referred to as "kissing bridges" since their enclosed domes provide lovers with just the right amount of privacy. Yet it was practicality that inspired their construction. Covered bridges made it possible to cross rivers, lakes, and valleys, and before the advent of air-conditioning, they provided local residents a cool break from summer heat (some even fished from their decks).

Only about 10 percent of covered bridges have stood the test of time, among them, Wawona Covered Bridge in Yosemite National Park and Maine's Artist's Bridge -- one of the state's most photographed and painted sites. It's worth taking the scenic route to find them.

Katarina Kovacevic

See All of America's Most Beautiful Covered Bridges

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