Let’s return now to my 2007 road trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.

US 36 used to pass through the flood-prone land on either side of Big Raccoon Creek in Parke County. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers resolved to control the flooding, and so between 1956 and 1960 built what is commonly called Raccoon Lake. Along the way, they built a straight and modern new segment of US 36 over the new lake – and submerged a couple small towns and a segment of what had been US 36. This 1939 aerial image shows how the road used to flow. It’s not a great image but it’s the best available.

IHAPI, https://igws.indiana.edu/IHAPI/Map/

This map shows how the old road, marked CR 312, goes into the east side of the lake. Since current US 36 was built, old US 36 has been diverted a couple times so that it’s no longer a continuous road. But if you trace CR 312 back from the lake, you can see how it used to flow back into current US 36. 

Windows Live Local map, 2007

This photo below shows the curve in US 36 at the east end of the map above. I believe that before 1956, US 36 used to go through here, probably by the utility lines that come in from the left of the photo.

Old US 36

To access this segment, I drove a few hundred yards and turned left at a crossroads, shown in the photo below. Old US 36 cuts across where that road curves to the right.

Old US 36

I took this photo from that curve. I was surprised to find a short stretch of old concrete road that turns into a gravel path. Notice the utility lines along the north side of the road – these are the same lines that cut behind the ridge of trees two photos ago.

Old US 36

I walked westbound along old US 36 to the beginning of the CR 312 segment to take this photo.

Old US 36

Shortly, the road ends. It’s not a very auspicious ending – a mound of dirt was piled onto a short bridge. It is now overgrown with weeds.

Old US 36

I climbed the mound to take a photo. Now, I’m going to cheat here, because a photo I took on a recon trip through here a couple months earlier is much better than the one I took this day. You can see how the forgotten road continues a short distance beyond the mound, with Raccoon Lake at the end.

Abandoned US 36

This map gives a clue of the road’s underwater path and shows where the road emerges on the west side of the lake.

Windows Live Local map, 2007

On the west side of the lake, a boat ramp has been built along where old US 36 emerges from the water. I’ve heard tell that in the winter, when the U.S. Army lowers Raccoon Lake by a few feet, you can see more of the old road. Past the guardrail are some chunks of old pavement and then a dropoff to the lake below. This is an eastbound photo.

Old US 36

Down the road from here a bit there’s a gate and a sign warning of the road’s watery end. Eastbound.

Old US 36

Just west of the lake, old US 36, here signed Hollandsburg Boat Ramp Rd., snakes across current US 36 westbound.

Old US 36

This map shows old US 36 as it crosses US 36 and eventually flows back into current US 36. It shows how old US 36 once curved gracefully across where US 36 is now, but was rerouted so it would cross US 36 at safer right angles. The problem with this map is that, west of the creek that appears about 1/4 of the way across the map from the left, most of the road no longer exists.

Windows Live Local map, 2007

Old 36 Rd is old pavement until reaches its intersection with CR 870E, the north-south road roughly in the middle of the map above. West of there, the pavement is covered in what looked and felt to me like oiled gravel. The road is not well cared for here as the grass and brush narrow the road on both sides. Suddenly, the road dead ends at the creek, no Dead End sign in sight. I guess they expect that if you’re driving back here, you must be local and know the bridge is out.

Old US 36

Current US 36 is visible several yards to the south as it spans the creek from on high.

Old US 36

I backtracked to 870E and drove over the creek on US 36. Last time I was through here, I couldn’t find the road leading to the creek from the other side. That’s because it was pretty well hidden. On the map above, a tiny connector road just east of where the map mistakenly shows old US 36 merging into current US 36, provides access to a tiny segment of concrete pavement that seems just to provide access to a couple homes. Here’s its east end.

Old US 36

I turned around and took this photo of the west end of this segment. US 36 is just steps to the left, which is south.

Old US 36

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14 responses to “Raccoon Lake and the submerged US 36 and Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway”

  1. Mike P Avatar
    Mike P

    Fascinating stuff!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I think so too!

  2. TR Avatar

    Zoom in tight on the satellite pic at Google Maps at the point where CR 312 dives into the east side of the lake, and you can see the old pavement going underwater. Pretty cool! https://www.google.com/maps/place/Raccoon+Lake+State+Recreation+Area/@39.7539071,-87.049853,72m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x886d3ac473ee3cb1:0x1b89ec365a661669!8m2!3d39.750447!4d-87.076162

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes! I also hear that the US Army Corps of Engineers lowers the level of Racoon Lake every winter exposing more old road.

  3. analogphotobug Avatar

    I love these Journeys through the Midwest. Makes me want to show my husband where I grew up. He;s a California-type.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’d be a great vacation to get on US 40 and take it all the way to Baltimore. You’d see so much of America.

  4. Kurt Ingham Avatar
    Kurt Ingham

    Really interesting-Thanks!

  5. Kurt Ingham Avatar
    Kurt Ingham

    Your next book should be about your road exploration!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Do you really think people would find that to be interesting? I sometimes wonder. These are usually the least-viewed posts on my blog!

      1. Kurt Ingham Avatar
        Kurt Ingham

        I have no idea what anyone else thinks- but I find them very interesting!

  6. Kodachromeguy Avatar

    It is so interesting to trace some of our old infrastructure. I recognize the original rectangle concrete road panels from old Hwy 36. Here in Mississippi, we still have many roads with this original paving from the 1920s and 1930s. It is an amazingly durable surface but needs careful repair when sections develop potholes. In other words, do the repair with concrete, not just wet tar and gravel cheaply and sloppily shoveled into the hole. Some parts of Route 66 still have these concrete panels.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I love coming upon an old concrete highway! Brick too. I’d say this concrete is from no earlier than the mid 1920s. Before that Indiana tended to lay concrete road with no expansion joints — just a continuous ribbon of concrete. There’s only a little of that kind of road left. Here’s some old US 40 in Indianapolis:


      And in Putnam County, Indiana:


      Old US 52, both in Indianapolis:



  7. Barbara Keller Avatar
    Barbara Keller

    My great grandparents owned property at Midway on 36- between Montezuma & Rockville. A log cabin stood there until torn down in the last few years. Old 36 ran in front of the covered bridges & there property went over there. I have a picture of my grandfather & my mom beside a snack sandwich stand that my gr parents owned. It was called Pikes Peak Inn. I think picture was in 1925!?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      A log cabin? How did I never notice it on my many trips down 36? How awesome that you have that photo from the period!

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