Barns & Bridges of Clay County Kentucky

Though Clay County is bent on looking forward and progressing toward a bright new future, Clay Countians everywhere keep in their heart romantic images of their past.

Nothing evokes such notions as do the county's numerous swinging bridges across Goose Creek, Red Bird and the South Fork rivers. The brooding colors of the old bridges are the very stuff of soulful memories, and are worth seeking out as you drive around the county.

A suspension bridge is an early type of bridge that is supported entirely from anchors at either end, suspended from two high locations over a river or canyon. This type of bridge is also known as a rope bridge due to its historical construction based on the ancient Inca rope bridge.

A good many of Clay County's historic bridges remain, but many have succumbed to aging and are continuing to do so year after year.

Keep your camera handy as you pass these reminders of a simpler time. It may be your last chance.

Swinging Bridges of Clay County Map   

The Land of Swinging Bridges                             Click to Enlarge & Print

1. Manchester's Goose Creek Swinging Bridge

The Goose Creek Swinging Bridge in Downtown Manchester has recently been restored. Those brave at heart can cross the bridge, which connects Manchester on the Square to the River Walk Trail and park system. The Goose Creek Swinging Bridge was originally constructed to replace the old wagon bridge that was washed away in the Flood of 1947. This unique icon of cultural heritage literally connects the area's history...the Heritage Pavilion on the Square to the Warrior's Path on the other side of Goose Creek. Walking the Old Swinging Bridge takes you back in time. It is located on the actual route taken by Daniel Boone in 1769, and before him, Dr. Thomas Walker when returning to Virginia after constructing the first building in Kentucky in 1750.

2. Frazier Rd Swinging Bridge

This work of art, hanging above the Goose Creek, was recently restored by local families to allow pedestrian access over the river during flooding. From Oneida, head south on KY-11 South for 6.8 miles. Turn left on Frazier Rd, go .4 mile (veer right at Goose Creek to stay on Frazier Rd.) For a scenic, country drive, continue on Frazier Rd which will come back out on KY-11 after 5.3 miles.

3. Old Homeplace Swinging Bridge

This unique, all-metal swinging bridge, is located 1.4 miles south of Oneida, KY on the east side of KY-11 across from the gas plant. There is also a low water driving bridge offering photo opportunities. Just a few minutes south of the swinging bridge, take an incredibly scenic drive on Sutton Branch Rd. Go south on KY-11 South for 4.2 miles. Turn left onto Beech Creek Rd, then left onto Chandler Br Rd, then right onto Sutton Branch Rd. 

4. OBI Swinging Bridge

This well maintained swinging bridge is located on the south side of the Oneida Baptist Institute campus in Oneida, KY. It connects the ball fields on the campus to OBI Farm Rd. Also on the campus is the James Anderson Burns' Museum & Gift Shop. The two room museum offers a glimpse into the rich and fascinating history of the area. The Oneida Baptist Institute was founded in 1899 by Professor James Anderson Burns as a way to help stop the feuding at the end of the 19th Century. It has grown into an outreach to young people from around the world. The large gift shop includes handmade items by volunteers. Nearby is the Oneida Park, the South Fork of the Kentucky River and numerous back-roads providing stunning scenery, an abundance of nature and wildlife, family farms, rivers and creeks, rolling mountains and historic weathered barns. From KY-11 near Downtown Oneida, go northeast on KY-66 South/Riner St to 2nd St. Turn right onto 2nd St. 2nd St becomes Oneida Bottom Rd. Go about .3 mile and turn right on OBI Farm Rd. Follow it around the farm to the swinging bridge. 

5. Rooster Branch Swinging Bridge

This cherished relic of times gone, still in use, hangs above the Kentucky River in a breathtakingly beautiful location. Take HWY 11 north from Oneida 5 miles to Rocky Branch Rd. Turn right onto Rocky Branch Rd, go about 1.5 miles. The swinging bridge is at the intersection of Rocky Branch and Rooster Branch (dirt road). Additional historic attractions nearby include Laurel Point Cemetery: Revolutionary War Veteran Adoniram Allen Final Resting Place, and the Cedar Valley School Ruins. To reach the cemetery, cross the low water bridge near the Swinging Bridge. Follow the gravel road, New Found Rd, to Laurel Point Cemetery. The cemetery is on the right. Beyond the cemetery, about a mile or so, turn left on Cedar Valley Road and follow it a short distance to the Cedar Valley School Ruins. The school is on the left in a field.

6. Red Bird Swinging Bridges

Numerous old, weathered bridges swing over the Red Bird River south of Oneida. From Oneida, take HWY 66 South for 4.6 miles to Martin Cemetery Rd. Turn right onto Martin Cemetery Rd. An old swinging bridge is on the left. About .4 mile turn right onto Salmon Rd. Cross the river and veer left for .3 mile to the Swinging Bridge Farms bridge, still in use. An additional .8 mile south on HWY 66, turn right on Laurel Branch Rd and take Laurel Branch Rd about 1/4 mile. A bridge will be on the left. About 1 more mile south on HWY 66, turn right onto Bar Creek Rd to view another swinging bridge. Continuing south on HWY 66 for 24 miles takes visitors on an especially scenic drive to Red Bird Mission, home of the historic Dillon Asher Cabin and Red Bird Mission Crafts. Dillon Asher's cabin is one of the oldest structures in Clay County. Red Bird Mission Crafts offers Appalachian crafts including works by gifted artisans in wood carving, weaving, basket-making, toy making and corn shuck flower name a few. Red Bird Mission has been marketing local crafts since the early 1960’s and continues to be a source of secondary income to mountain families today.

7. Sextons Creek Swinging Bridges

From Oneida, take HWY 11 N for about 9 miles. Turn left onto KY-577 W and drive about 3.5 miles. A swinging bridge will be on the left. Continue south for about 1 mile to another swinging bridge; restored with remnants remaining of the original structure. About 4.5 miles further south lies the Old Joe Clark Home. The legends are many about Joe Clark, of Sexton Creek. The text on the Kentucky Historical Highway marker refers to just one. He was a soldier in Clay County's Colonel T. T. Garrard's Seventh Kentucky Infantry in the Civil War and fought in the Battle of Wildcat, the first battle of the war in Kentucky in the fall of 1861. A mountain ballad sung during World War I, and later wars by soldiers from eastern Kentucky, featured this shiftless and rough mountaineer. His enemies were legion; he was murdered in 1885. In the moonshining days of 1870s, he ran a government-supervised still. Also nearby is Bishop Bend. While not technically a park, Bishop Bend offers breathtaking views of the river, hiking and ATV opportunities, and scenic nature. Bishop Bend is an old road originally populated by the Bishop Clan that housed the Bishop Bend School. An old cemetery, Bishop Cemetery, is still located on Bishop Bend School Road. To reach Bishop Bend from the Sexton Creek swinging bridges, turn right on HWY 11 going south, heading back towards Oneida. Go about 1.9 miles. Bishop Bend will be on the left.

8. Bullskin Creek Swinging Bridge

From Oneida, head northwest on HWY 66. Continue onto HWY 1482. Go 7.7 miles to Martin Branch Rd. Turn right onto Martin Branch Rd. An old, weathered swinging bridge lies across scenic Bullskin Creek. Just minutes from the swinging bridge is one of the area's best kept secrets, Leatherwood Recreation Area. This beautiful picnic area and boating destination offers breathtaking views of the lake and mountains. Continue northeast on HWY 1482. Go 1.6 miles. Turn left onto Hwy 484. Go 5.7 miles. The road dead ends at the park.

Historic Weathered Barns of Clay County

Proud guardian of the countryside, the barn stands solemnly as a lasting reminder of America's rural heritage. But the barn has begun to disappear from the American landscape. Obsolete for modern farming needs and too expensive to maintain as family heirlooms, old barns appear destined to be preserved only in photographs and memories.

Old farm buildings of the countryside contribute to the landscape, and help define the history of the location, i.e. how farming was carried out in the past, and how the area has been settled throughout the ages. They also can show the agricultural methods, building materials, and skills that were used. Most were built with materials reflecting the local geology of the area.

Barns are working buildings; they are the largest tool on a farm. Like any tool, their shape and size reflects the way in which they are used. Just as the tip of a screwdriver will tell what type of screw it is meant to be used with, a barn's shape, size and attributes reflect the job it was intended to do.

As farming practices developed over time, the types of barns that farmers built also changed. Although family farms continue to operate as suppliers for local population centers, the middle of the twentieth century heralded the decline of small farms. Changes in the way American's ate, increasing property values, and the growth of giant agribusinesses meant that family farms had a difficult time making a living. As farms went out of business, many of their barns became unused. Since the buildings were no longer needed, they were no longer maintained. The result was demolition by neglect.

Another threat to the farms and barns also appeared in the second half of the 20th century - development. Since the farms could no longer generate enough income through their produce, a new way of getting money out of the land was sought. The result was the process, which continues today, of turning farmland into developments that have no place for a barn.

Today, a renewed awareness for the important place of barns in America's past and present is making progress in preserving this physical reminder of our agricultural heritage.

Just as the mountains have served to isolate the Clay County area, preserving forests, waterways and wildlands, they have also helped to protect our countryside from the development that has plagued much of America's farmland. As a result, historic barns are a common site in and around Clay County.

Clay County Kentucky Quilt Trail

There is a quality about quilts that evokes a feeling of comfort, of home and family. Quilting is a tradition that thrives in Kentucky, not as a nostalgic reminder of days gone by, but as a vibrant part of community life.

Grandmothers still sew quilts for grandchildren; quilters still get together to share patterns and gossip; family members still cherish the quilts that were made for them by loving hands.

In the past, quilts might have been seen warming a bed, gracing a couch or flapping on a clothesline, but with the advent of the Kentucky Quilt Trail, images of quilts now blossom as bright patterns on the sides of weathered barns and other buildings across the commonwealth.

The Quilt Trail project began in Adams County, Ohio, when Donna Sue Groves, a field representative for the Ohio Arts Council, decided that she wanted a quilt square painted on her barn to honor her mother, a lifelong quilter. Donna Sue shared her idea with friends in the community, who offered their help. They decided that if they were going to paint one quilt square on a barn, they might as well paint twenty and create a driving tour to attract tourists to their rural community. The project was such a success that word of it traveled quickly, and soon other communities were contacting Donna Sue asking if they could join in the project. Donna Sue offered her enthusiastic support. 

The Quilt Trail project has taken deep root in Kentucky and spread quickly. The project has spread as a grassroots movement with each community introducing its own twist, painting quilt squares not only on barns, but also on floodwalls, craft shops and restaurants.

Volunteer leaders and painters include extension agents, teachers, school children, senior citizens, homemaking clubs and tourism committees. The local utility company often provides a bucket truck and workers, who hang the quilts on barns, delighted to be part of this heartwarming community project. 

Many Kentucky literary artists weave the imagery of quilts throughout their stories and poems as symbols of family unity through hard times or as an expression of the connection that Kentuckians feel to their home-place. Kentucky painters often include quilts in their landscapes.

Discover the Clay County Kentucky Quilt trail on your travels throughout Clay County...including its towns, hamlets and countryside.