A staple of Lee County, Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge has weathered more than a century of traffic. The now Opelika-based bridge has gone through reconstruction and renovation, but its impact on the local community has continued to last through the decades.
The Bridge’s Beginnings
Erected in 1900, the Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge spans a dozen decades. The bridge’s original builder was Otto Puls—and it crossed the Wacoochee Creek. This spot is around 10 miles east of the bridge’s current site in Opelika.
The Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge owes its name to its first location, which was on what is now Shotwell Road, north of the small community of Salem. Its original construction measured 76 feet. It was built from longleaf heart pine, with a roof of cedar and white oak pegs keeping the structure together. The bridge hastened the commute between Shotwell and Salem.
The Decline and Fall
As the years passed, the Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge underwent occasional repairs. It was restored in 1973 by the Lee County Commission. In 1994, due to unstable bridge supports, the bridge was closed to vehicles.
Disaster stuck in 2005 when a tumultuous thunderstorm felled a tree onto the bridge, resulting in considerable damage. The bridge was swept away by the Wacoochee Creek later that day.
Rebuilding the Bridge
In the weeks following, parts of the bridge were recovered and housed in an Opelika building. Plans were soon set in motion to restore Southeastern Alabama’s sole remaining historic covered bridge. Eventually, the city of Opelika—along with the Lee County Historical Society and Opelika Kiwanis Club—agreed to rebuild the bridge over Rocky Brook at Opelika Municipal Park.
In 2007, the bridge began reconstruction, being resized to 43 feet in length to fit the river width. Its Town Lattice truss design remained, along with many of its original pieces. The bill for landscaping and reconstruction totaled approximately $60,000. A reopening ceremony for the bridge’s public use took place on Aug. 14, 2007.
Rebuilt and standing strong, the Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge calls Opelika Municipal Park home. We’re proud this historical landmark still resides in Lee County!
If you’re looking to reside in the area too, we’d be happy to welcome you to the Tree Tops community. You can see what our lifestyle is all about online! More on local life—from further spotlights to fascinating sights—can be found on our blog!