The Auchumpkee Creek Covered Bridge

Photo by me, April 2015.


raveling the back roads is the way to see what a place is really about. You slow down and often stop on the back roads which isn't something you do whizzing down an interstate highway where all you might see are advertisements, gas stations and hotels. Whatever hidden secrets a place might have, be it natural or man-made will remain hidden from you on the highway. Unless we slow down and pay attention in everything we do we often miss the truth of a place and the same applies to people too. In the modern world, we sacrifice truth and understanding for speed and convenience.

You Ain't From Around These Parts
On a trip from Atlanta to a town in South Georgia, I decided to take the back roads and not take Interstate 75. One place that I passed through was Upson County. Upson has no interstate highways just the regular roads with lower speed limits, stop signs and traffic lights. Upson is one of those places you wouldn't normally pass through or go to visit unless you had some specific reason to be there, much like Paulding County was when I was a child.

The county hasn't changed much for decades and it has had the same amount of people living there since 1940. In 1940 the population was 25,000 people and in the latest census from 2010 the population was 27,000. 


A Storm Is Coming
In the third week of June 1994, a tropical wave would form off the coast of Africa and by the end of June, it would form a tropical depression off the southern coast of Cuba. Two days before the United States would celebrate independence day Tropical Storm Alberto was gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico.

On July 3rd, 1994 it would start raining in Upson County and it would rain every day except one until July 15th. When the rainfall was finished it would rain a total of nearly seventeen inches (16.86 inches officially) and over twelve of those seventeen inches would come in only two days.

You can imagine what that amount of rain would do to the ground and to the creeks and rivers.

The nearest river gauge on the Flint River indicates flooding when the water level reaches 18 feet. Alberto shattered all the records and that gauge hit 45.73 feet.

On the nearby Auchumpkee Creek which is normally a lazy creek only a few inches deep swelled under the unrelenting rain became a river and carrying debris such as trees decided to dismantle the wooden covered bridge that had stood there since 1892.

Tropical Storm Alberto which made landfall in the Panhandle of Florida moved straight up into Georgia and right through Upson County then stopped and then proceeded to do a loop and cross the county again before finally sauntering off into Alabama and dying there.

Alberto would kill thirty-one people in Georgia alone.

By Chance A Bridge

Photo by me, April 2015.

I came across the Auchumpkee Creek covered bridge by chance. I was driving down U.S. Highway 19 through the rolling hills covered in pine trees and the sporadic fields south of Thomaston in southern Upson County when I saw a sign for the bridge.

These are the surprises you find on the back roads. A sign with an arrow pointing a direction to something interesting that you didn't know existed and you find yourself changing your plan to see that thing. I wouldn't normally go out of my way to see a covered bridge but if I happen on one I will stop, take a few photos and admire the craftsmanship and beauty of the bridge.

Covered bridges fall into the same category as lighthouses for me. They are objects that have been highly and unnecessarily romanticized in popular culture for no good reason. They represent the past and some mythical idea that life was better then. When I see covered bridges and lighthouses I think of terrible prints hanging on bathroom walls in some country themed restaurant or some elderly relative's kitchen wall. The Bridges Of Madison County is a perfect example of this romanticizing of covered bridges.

Photo by me, April 2015.
Photo by me, April 2015.

When the original covered bridge was built in this spot in 1892 cotton and peaches were the main ways to make a living in Upson County. The American Civil War was only twenty-seven years in the past and plenty of people that had been alive during it were still around so it had not much faded into history yet. The bridge would last one hundred and two years before Alberto born in a distant sea would flood the creek it was built over and take it down.

After the flood of 1994 when federal relief funds were funneled into Upson County they decided to rebuild the bridge. It took $200,000 and to bring in a bridge builder by the name of Arnold Graton from New Hampshire but the new covered bridge was finished in 1997.

Photo by me, April 2015.
Photo by me, April 2015.

The area around the bridge is a park now. It is a pretty spot on a side road off a federal highway in a county in the middle of nowhere. It is far from the interstate, a modern reconstruction of the past in a place that has turned its back on the modern world. It is worth seeing if you pass it traveling the back roads of time.

*Rainfall statistics used were from the National Weather Service reporting station in the county seat of Thomaston.