Road Trips

US 50 in Martin County, Indiana

On three Saturdays in the summer of 2010, I drove as many old alignments of US 50 as I could find in Indiana, from Ohio to Illinois. I wrote about that trip on my old Roads site, but now I’m bringing that material to this blog.

I visited Shoals twice as I explored US 50 this summer – at the end of the second leg  and at the beginning of the third leg. My old maps and road guides plot a very different path for US 50 than it follows today – the blue route on this map. Old US 50 actually continued south on what is now Spout Springs Road until it reached what is now State Road 550. It then followed SR 550 for several miles before returning to US 50’s current path.

(I have since learned that I missed a segment of Old US 50 that lies just a bit east of here. This map excerpt, courtesy Richard Simpson, shows it. You’ll find it labeled Red School Road today.)

Entering Shoals, we first spied Bo-Mac’s ice cream stand.

Shoals, Indiana

It sure was a busy day at Bo-Mac’s!

Shoals, Indiana

When we reached downtown Shoals, we found we had stumbled upon the town’s annual Catfish Festival. Main St. was full of vendors and people having fun.

Catfish Festival

I purposed to follow the old and new alignments of US 50 between Shoals and Loogootee (pronounced lo GOAD ee). I actually started in Loogootee and headed east on current US 50 to Shoals, and then followed old US 50 back to Loogootee.

This wasn’t my first time on this patch of road. I had a great time zooming through this twisty stretch during a 2006 road trip and wanted to drive it again. Here’s a photo I took from there in 2006.

US 150 near Shoals IN

I photographed the road from about the same place this time, too.

Scenes from US 50

For Hoosiers who grew up where the glaciers flattened everything, pretty much the northern half to two-thirds of the state, straight roads cut through level farmland. But roadbuilders of old had to go over or around southern Indana’s hills. It had to be much harder work than their northern Indiana counterparts experienced, but it sure led to fun drives like this stretch of US 50. It also led to some great views, such as this one at a little pulloff called Overlook Park.

View from US 50 in Martin County, Indiana

I had more trouble finding Jug Rock, a natural rock formation in Shoals not far from the bridge over the east fork of the White River. It’s all sandstone and is the largest “table rock” formation east of the Mississippi. It stands feet from the road, but downhill a bit and in a thick woods so it’s hard to see. It’s also not well marked. I missed the itty bitty sign and tiny pulloff three times and almost gave up looking for it!

Jug Rock

US 50 was busy this Saturday. As I waited for traffic to pass so I could get back into my car, I snapped this shot that shows the road’s character here.

Scenes from US 50

Then I returned to Shoals to follow US 50’s old alignment, which didn’t cross the White River but instead headed south out of town. US 50 changed quite a bit from Shoals west to about Montgomery from 1927, when it was first signed in Indiana, to about 1932. Here’s an excerpt from a 1927 Indiana State Highway Commission map, which shows US 50’s north-south orientation through Shoals and its path along what is now SR 550 to Loogootee, plus a more southerly alignment leading away from Loogootee.

This excerpt from the 1932 Indiana State Highway Commission map shows US 50 on its modern east-west alignment through Shoals and into Loogootee, and a straighter path out of Loogootee that goes through Montgomery rather than bypassing it.

From the intersection of US 50 and Old US 50 (Main St.) in Shoals, here’s the old Main St. alignment facing north (eastbound).

Shoals, Indiana

From the same spot, here’s the old alignment facing south (westbound). Main Street Ts into Spout Springs Road on the south side of town, and Old US 50 follows that road.

Shoals, Indiana

Shortly the road crosses Beaver Creek via this 1962 bridge.

Bridge on Spout Springs Road

This large rock formation is just south of the bridge.

Rock formation on Spout Springs Road

It is covered in faded graffiti.

Rock formation on Spout Springs Road

This is a typical scene along Spout Springs Road.

Spout Springs Road

Soon the road Ts into State Road 550; US 50 once made the right turn here to head west toward Loogootee.

State Road 550

It’s a little twisty but otherwise is a typical rural Indiana highway.

State Road 550

Soon SR 550 reaches Loogootee. As you can see, current US 50 comes in directly from the east.

When I made this trip, I erroneously thought old US 50 followed what is now US 231 south and then headed west on County Road 100 S. Richard Simpson’s excellent maps of US 50’s original routing shows this path. Courtesy Richard Simpson.

I have to think that since this road ceased to be US 50 in the early 1930s, that this is the width of that highway in those days. Its narrowness boggles my mind.

Old US 50

Next: US 50 in Daviess County.

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