I have been dreaming of abandoned roads.
While my road-trip hobby isn’t as active as it was a few years ago, I still enjoy it and normally make time for a couple day trips during the good-weather months each year. But home projects and moving have kept me home so far this year. Fortunately, in a couple weeks my old friend Dawn and I will make our annual road trip. Usually annual, anyway — we couldn’t sync our schedules to make a trip last year. So we’re way overdue!
I know just where I want to go: State Road 37 between Indianapolis and Bloomington. Its original alignment, which winds all around the current four-lane SR 37 expressway, was once the Dixie Highway. I’ve driven it before, in one of my earliest road trips (documented on my old site here). There are several wonderful abandoned segments, like the one above. I found it just south of Martinsville.
But it might not still be there. SR 37 is being converted into Interstate 69, and a giant interchange is being built here. While I don’t buck progress, I do lament the probable loss of the short ribbon of concrete road here that likely dates to around 1920. It’s quasi-abandoned: it exists to serve one solitary house, but receives no obvious maintenance.
I want to know whether this concrete survives. But time’s a wasting: since I-69 is by nature a limited-access road, when it is complete all the turnoffs to these old alignments will be removed. The only way to reach them will be via back roads, forever complicating exploring the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington. Now is the time to go.
Here are some of my other favorite abandoned roads.
A bridge was removed on US 50 near Washington in western Indiana, abandoning a short section of the old highway. Here’s where that abandoned section ends, just east of the removed bridge.
Just east of Rockville in western Indiana, the Army Corps of Engineers submerged a section of US 36 in a flood-control project that created Raccoon Lake. The westbound old highway ends at a mound of dirt and brush. It continues beyond to eventually sink into the water.
The National Road and US 40 in Illinois has been a frequent subject here because the current alignment of this road was built alongside the old, and the old was left to rot. Here’s the old concrete road, probably poured in the 1920s, busy doing nothing east of Martinsville, IL.
Longtime readers might remember that I wrote about this segment before: the central concrete section is from the early-mid 1910s, and the two flanking sections were added about a decade later. Happily, that 1920s improvement rerouted the road around a dangerous railroad crossing, abandoning a section of this nine-foot-wide highway. It’s now a farm’s long driveway.
A good portion of this abandoned road is paved with bricks, and if you’re brave you can still drive some of it. This is west of Marshall, IL.
Not far from there, near Livingston, IL, nature has reclaimed the old brick road.
Bridges sometimes go abandoned as well. Here’s one on old US 50 near Clay City, IL.
And here’s one on US 40 near Plainfield, IN.
That bridge leads to the first abandoned road segment I ever found. This photo is from my first-ever road trip, which was in July of 2006.
Lest you think all of my abandoned-road activity is in Indiana and Illinois, here’s a segment of abandoned US 127 in Tennessee my sons and I came upon while hiking through Cumberland Mountain State Park.
And here’s an abandoned section of old Route 66 near Doolittle, MO. You’ll find the crumbling John’s Modern Cabins here.
Sometimes an abandoned road lurks in plain sight. This concrete was poured in northwest Indianpolis in the mid-1920s and became the first alignment of US 52 here. But by the mid 1930s the road had been straightened and widened here, abandoning this little segment. In later years it was reused to provide access to some commercial buildings that got built.
I can’t leave out the Michigan Road, of course. Its best-known abandoned alignment is Sycamore Row, about ten miles south of Logansport.
Here’s hoping that in a couple weeks I’ll have some brand new abandoned-road photos to share!
To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!