Red Oak Creek Bridge

Red Oak Creek Bridge

The Red Oak Creek Covered Bridge, sometimes called the Imlac Covered Bridge, spans Red Oak Creek in the small community of Imlac not far from Woodbury, Georgia.

Only 12 miles north of Warm Springs, the old bridge is a rare surviving example of the ingenuity of famed bridge builder Horace King. Including approaches, it stretches for 391 feet, making it the longest wooden bridge in Georgia. The main span is 253 feet long and is the state's oldest covered bridge.

Born into slavery in South Carolina in 1807, Horace King was either set free or bought his freedom from contractor John Godwin, who encouraged and mentored King after it became evident that he possessed an intellect for engineering that can only be described as genius.

To allow King greater rights to move about as needed and to own property, the Alabama Legislature passed a special act granting him full freedom in the eyes of the law.

On his own, he supervised crews of slaves that built bridges across Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. This was a remarkable achievement for a freed slave of African American and Catawba Indian descent during the antebellum days of slavery in the Deep South. Among his projects were a number of bridges, including the long spans over the Chattahoochee River destroyed by Union troops during the Battle of Columbus.

Horace King also designed the spiral staircase in the State Capitol Building in Montgomery, Alabama. The sweeping staircase is an architectural wonder, but King was best known for his bridges. And there is no disputing the statement that he was a master builder of covered bridges.

At one time much of the Deep South moved on bridges built by Horace King.

In November 2021 the Georgia Trust named the Red Oak Creek Bridge to its 2022 Place in Peril list. Because the Red Oak Creek bridge has remained open to traffic, there is a consistent threat of damage to the structure. A recent accident damaged several structural braces inside the bridge. With its popularity, the bridge provides an opportunity for improved heritage tourism, greater access for recreation and continued appreciation of history, but first, further protection of the bridge is necessary to ensure its continued longevity.

For more information, contact The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation