Back in 1995 there was a wonderful movie starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep called The Bridges of Madison County. It was a love story which chronicled the life of Meryl Streep’s character that was unfolded as they visited several bridges in her rural Iowa county.
Madison County, Illinois has it’s own bridges and they have their own stories. The locals consider most of the bridges to be haunted and tell stories of strange events that happened to them while visiting the bridges. The 7 bridges I am most familiar with are all railroad bridges that cross country roads in the backwoods of Madison County. I have spent many days and evenings driving through the bridges. The locals are correct that many times they can be quite spooky, particularly at night. The bridges have earned the local name of “The 7 Gates of Hell.”
Tradition has it that if you drive through the 7 Gates of Hell along Lebanon Road between Collinsville, O’Fallon, and Troy, Illinois starting at the stroke of midnight and driving through them in the correct order that the most sinful person in the car will be ushered straight to the otherworld as you finish driving through the 7th Gate. We have tried a few times and haven’t lost any family members yet, but you never know what lies ahead.
Be careful driving the 7 Gates. The roads are narrow, people drive fast on these back roads, and the gates are eerie at night. If you want to visit the 7 Gates during the day it makes for a great bike ride.
We have also established a GeoCache at each of the 7 Gates. If you are a GeoCacher please have a go at it. Here are the GeoCaching website pages for each of the gates. Gate 1, Gate 2, Gate 3, Gate 4, Gate 5, Gate 6, and Gate 7. Each includes a description of the Gate and a map of the Gate.
Here is a Google Map of the location of each of the 7 Gates: Link.
There are a few websites that document the story of the 7 Gates, but I believe the best of them is the one by Brother Thorn.
I have taken photos of each of the bridges. Here are some driving directions:
To Reach Gate 1: Begin in downtown Collinsville, Illinois. Exit Collinsville eastbound on Main Street. Main Street turns into Lebanon Road. Follow Lebanon Road until you reach Gate 1.
To Reach Gate 2: Continue eastbound on Lebanon Road after Gate 1. Turn left on Lockmann Road and you will immediately pass through Gate 2.
To reach Gates 3 and 4: Gates 3 and 4 are right next to each other and are called he “Twin Gates.” To reach them continue eastbound on Lockmann Road until reaching Longhi Rd. Turn Right on Longhi Road and pass through the twin Gates, Gates 3 and 4.
To reach Gate 5: After passing through Gates 3 and 4 continue south on Longhi Rd. As Longhi Rd turns into Lebanon Road continue straight ahead. Turn left on S. Liberty Rd. Follow S Liberty Rd to Gate 5.
To reach Gate 6: After passing through Gate 5 continue on S. Liberty Rd. Turn right on Mill Creek Rd. Follow Mill Creek Rd to Gate 6.
To reach Gate 7: After passing through Gate 6 continue eastbound on Mill Creek Rd. Cross over Troy O’Fallon Rd and continue straight. Turn left on Blackjack Rd. Turn right on Bauer Rd. Bauer Rd will turn back to the north and lead you to Gate 7.