It’s been months in the making, but the cabin that perches alongside the rustic water wheel at Clarkson Covered Bridge has at last cleared its long list of renovations and is ready to welcome guests as the Cullman County Parks department’s newest (or newest-again) recreational rental properties.
Back in November of last year, Cullman County Extension coordinator Kira Sims invited local Master Gardener volunteers to apply their skills at the bridge’s surrounding park grounds, asking the group to consider the site as one of its landscaping projects. The timing was right: The nearby cabin was undergoing concurrent renovations as part of a refresh aimed at reintroducing the amenities as a public rental.
Those renovations are now complete at both the cabin and across the parks’ landscape, and the cabin is now available to rent through the VRBO app (to find it online, just search “VRBO/Clarkson Bridge.”) Outside at the historic park, guests can go back in time exploring both nature and the main bridge attraction — a 270-foot covered span first built in 1904.
The cabin itself is converted from its original use as a mill house below the easy-to-spot big red water wheel, which still draws water from the dammed reservoir above. In the early 20th Century, locals brought their wagons to the site to have grain ground into flour and corn mill. County parks staff say that reviving the mill to serve its original function — this time as a fully-functioning tourist attraction — isn’t an out-of-reach restoration project, funds should become available to get it working once more.
The cabin might look rustic on the outside, but inside is where the recent renovations really shine. Guests can expect the comforts of home, including three bedrooms, two bathrooms and enough space for an entire family or group. Cook a meal in the fully-equipped kitchen, take a rest on the living room couch, or even head outdoors with a provided pair of donated binoculars to venture down the park’s walking trails, over the bridge, or along the shores of the meandering Crooked Creek that burbles far beneath.
Sims credits a core committee of local Master Gardeners for stepping up to the outdoors task, with assistance from other Master Gardeners, community volunteers, Cullman County parks staff, and county facilities manager Shane Bailey. Master Gardeners are focused on integrating a variety of plants into the surrounding curated landscape, including native azaleas that can bloom throughout the springtime in shades of red, orange and pink. Hydrangeas (including cultivars “Incredible,” “Little Lime,” and “Little Lime Punch”) will bring large blooms to their aptly-sited shaded woodland environment, with colors ranging from white and soft green to tri-colored red and pink with white .
More southern flora favorites also made the Master Gardeners’ list of new landscape additions, including sweet shrub, “Yuletide” camellia in red and gold, and “Frost Proof” gardenias. The species-spotter should also look for a red bottlebrush (which begins to bloom in early May), and might even be surprised to spy a bay leaf shrub (“Yes, like the one you cook with!” says Sims.) A final planned plant grouping will feature evergreens to welcome park guests and renters, with additions that include “Soft Touch” holly to Champion’s wood ferns.
“It was an honor to have Cullman County Master Gardener volunteers to assist with this project,” said Sims, “alongside the Cullman County Commission, the Cullman County Parks Department, and the students from Cullman Area Technology Academy (CATA).”
Admission to Clarkson Covered Bridge is always free to the public, with the park open daily year-’round from sunlight to sunset (though cabin renters will, of course, be able to remain at the property overnight through the full duration of their stay) .
Located just a short drive west of Cullman off US Highway 278 near Bethel, Clarkson Covered Bridge is one of the county’s most unique public parks, and is ready with a fresh face to welcome guests for a glimpse at the cabin’s new landscaping — or perhaps even for a cabin rental stay, it’s better to linger and relax a while.