Preservation, Road Trips

Side-by-side bridges on Narrows Road in Indiana’s Turkey Run State Park

People come to Parke County, Indiana, for two main reasons: to see the many covered bridges there, and to hike over the hills and through the canyons in Turkey Run State Park. Within the park, you can hike to one of the covered bridges.

Narrows Covered Bridge

The Narrows covered bridge was completed in 1882, and is considered the first of J. A. Britton’s many covered bridges in the county.

Narrows Covered Bridge

Like most of Parke County’s covered bridges, it features a Burr arch truss design. Those giant curved members are the Burr arches.

Narrows Covered Bridge

The bridge spans Sugar Creek where it narrows, hence the name of both the bridge and the road. If you’re ever out this way, you can rent a canoe and paddle through Turkey Run on the creek. I did it once with my sons, and except for the fact that my sons weren’t interested in helping paddle, it was fun.

Narrows Covered Bridge

It’s easy to get underneath this wooden bridge, as a rocky path passes beneath it on its north side. If you look hard, you can see those curved Burr arches jutting out and into the rock on the far end of the bridge.

1958 bridge alongside Narrows Covered Bridge

A concrete arch bridge carries Narrows Road today. Bridgehunter.com says that the concrete arch bridge was built in 1958, while the Indiana Covered Bridge Society says that the covered bridge was bypassed in 1966. Perhaps both bridges carried traffic during those eight years.

1958 bridge

1958 is mighty late for a concrete arch bridge to be built in Indiana. It came at the very tail end of the concrete arch era. I’m surprised a common steel beam bridge wasn’t built here then. They became all the rage at about this time and are the main kind of bridge built in the US today.

Narrows Covered Bridge

If you’re interested in seeing this bridge, you can get there from Narrows Road of course, or by hiking Trails 1 or 2 inside Turkey Run. The trails give you these lovely side views of the bridge.

Narrows Covered Bridge

I made these photos in 2011 on a trip to Turkey Run with my sons. We went at least once a year while they were still growing up. I found them while I was culling junk and duplicates from my photo library, and liked them enough to share them now.

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Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in Montezuma, Indiana

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

When I worked for a rock radio station in Terre Haute many years ago, once an hour we read a liner that said, “107-5 ZZQ rocks <insert name of town> with <insert name of band>.” It was supposed to make us sound like a regional station. I knew and had visited many of the towns I named — Farmersburg, Poland, Sullivan, Seelyville, Rosedale, Allendale, Riley, Newport, and good old Toad Hop. I occasionally shouted out to a town I didn’t know, such as Prairieton, Pimento (pronounced Pie-men-to, a caller hastily corrected me), Carbon, Fontanet, and Montezuma. Today was my day to meet Montezuma.

The TIB Guide shows the PP-OO taking some hard corners as it made its way to Montezuma.

US 36 makes a much smoother path through this region today. But given the way the existing side roads fall, I was able to make a guess at the PP-OO’s route, where it’s different from US 36. I drew it in blue on the map below. I didn’t actually drive any of that route, though. You’d think those roads would be obvious as I approached from the west, but I found the curve strangely disorienting.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

As I entered Montezuma, I immediately recognized that US 36 had been rerouted by several feet to the south at some time to replace a bridge. The approach to the old bridge was still there. I find it interesting that the old bridge was lower than the current bridge.

Old US 36 next to current US 36

You can see how the curve into town was made just a little tighter to accommodate the new alignment.

Montezuma, IN

On the other side of US 36 at this cross street was a building proudly proclaiming it was built in 1903. I wouldn’t be surprised if another old brick building did not at one time share its north wall. If so, it might have been demolished to make way for the current US 36 alignment.

Montezuma, IN

Where old US 36 approaches the bridge that is no longer there, the road is concrete, and thus probably dates back to the 1920s or 1930s.

Approach to former US 36 Wabash River bridge

Here’s a 1951 postcard (sourced from Bridgehunter.com) showing both bridges open. The older bridge was built in 1892 and demolished in 1951, and the newer bridge was built in 1949. So these two bridges coexisted for about two years.

Compared to the current bridge, the old bridge looks to be little more than a single lane wide.

US 36 Wabash River bridge

There was no traffic, so I walked out onto the bridge.

US 36 Wabash River bridge

When I lived in Terre Haute, we sometimes said the word “mighty” before Wabash with a nudge and a wink. The only thing mighty about the Wabash is that it’s mighty brown.

US 36 Wabash River bridge

Next: Vermillion County, where US 36 and the PP-OO follow different paths.

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Road Trips

The original alignment of US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Parke County, Indiana

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

West of Rockville the map showed two places where a road diverged from US 36 only to return to it. That’s a sure sign of an original alignment.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This looked to me remarkably like the shape of the road at this spot in the 1915 TIB Guide strip map that I saw at the Federal Highway Administration’s Web site where they were tracking the route of the old Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway.

About 3½ miles past Rockville I came upon where this road split from US 36.

US 36 alignments

I turned in, and the road immediately turned to gravel. This westbound photo was taken several feet away from US 36, and you could hear the traffic whizzing by. But doesn’t this photo seem to be miles away from anything? Doesn’t it look like it ought to be pin-drop quiet?

PP-OO in Indiana

I checked my old state maps, which go back to 1936. They aren’t detailed enough to accurately render the shape of US 36 through here, but they do say that US 36 was paved. It’s possible this segment was never US 36, but it was certainly the PP-OO.

After about a quarter mile this road became paved and its name changed from W 25 N to N 350 W. A couple houses appeared. Another quarter mile later, it deposited me back onto US 36. This eastbound photo shows the old road’s ascent to the highway.

PP-OO in Indiana

Another quarter mile or so down US 36 the next segment began. The map suggests to me that this segment used to flow smoothly from the previous one, and that it came in from the gravel driveway on the left in this photo.

PP-OO in Indiana

Off the road goes westbound. The presence of utility poles suggests that rural electrification reached here before US 36’s current alignment did.

PP-OO in Indiana

Soon this old alignment meets Arabia Road. The Phillips covered bridge is a couple hundred feet down this road. It was built by J. A. Britton in 1909.

Phillips Bridge

There wasn’t much along this old PP-OO alignment but soybeans.

PP-OO in Indiana

Shortly I came upon the 1883 Sim Smith Bridge, a Burr arch truss bridge also built by J. A. Britton. I didn’t think much of the “Warning Flooding Possible” sign as it blocked this, the best angle I found of the bridge.

Sim Smith Bridge

Here’s a better look at those curved Burr arch trusses.

Sim Smith Bridge

After crossing the bridge the land deepened into a mild valley overgrown with weeds. US 36 came into view on my right. I could see that the road made an unusual jog to the left up ahead, and when I reached it I felt a mild bump and heard my tires make a different sound, as if I had just changed roads. I pulled right over to have a look. I could see a faint double yellow line on the road.

Mystery US 36 alignment

The road had a shoulder on its north side, and it looked like the road and its shoulder were summarily chopped off beyond a certain point, as this photo shows. The little red, white, and black sign at right says “Danger Flooding Possible.”

Mystery US 36 alignment

The only evidence I found of the road’s former path was a drainage trench. It hugged the road’s shoulder to where the road was cut off, and then it snaked around the ridge.

Mystery US 36 alignment

I drove on, and soon the old road was blocked by these gates. Fortunately, a curve had been built here to connect the road to current US 36.

Mystery US 36 alignment

It looked to me like the road used to go through where these gates are now. This land looks built up like a roadbed.

Mystery US 36 alignment

From this evidence, I conclude that a former US 36 bridge over this creek was built in the flood plain. That became enough of a problem that the state built a new bridge nearby, raising it far above flood levels, and rerouted US 36 onto it. The blue line on this map shows where I think old US 36 used to go.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

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Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway at Indiana’s Billie Creek Village

Let’s return to my 2007 trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway.

It’s not clear to me whether outdoor history museum Billie Creek Village still operates. News of financial difficulties surfaced in the early 2010s, and the site went on the auction block in 2012. But it was open in 2007 when I passed through on my US 36 trip. Not that I stopped.

Billie Creek Village is just east of Rockville, sandwiched between the original and current alignments of US 36. The original alignment was also the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway and the Rockville State Road.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This old alignment begins about a mile west of the dirt and gravel segment I shared in the previous post.

Old US 36

Two cars wide on a good day, this asphalt road soon comes upon a little covered bridge built by J. J. Daniels in 1895, as was the covered bridge over Big Walnut Creek earlier in the trip. Curiously, though the village, this bridge, and the adjoining road (the right turn just before the bridge) are all named Billie Creek, the bridge crosses Williams Creek.

Old US 36

Here’s a view of the trusses inside the bridge. The curved members are Burr arches, a common truss style among Indiana wooden covered bridges.

Old US 36

From an earlier visit, here’s an eastbound photo of the bridge.

Billie Creek Covered Bridge

Let’s look westbound again. On the map, notice how High Street follows roughly the same line as Old US 36. High Street goes right into downtown Rockville. Could High Street have been part of the Rockville State Road? In the photo below, High Street is the left turn; Old US 36 continues ahead.

Old US 36

Slightly more than two miles in, this segment ends at US 36. This is a mighty tight squeeze for two vehicles.

Old US 36

For completeness’s sake, from an earlier visit here’s a view of this end of the alignment from current US 36.

US 36 at Billie Creek

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Road Trips

Gravel alignment of US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in Parke County, Indiana

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

While driving US 36 a few months ago, my kids in the back seat as we came home from a Spring Break trip, I saw an Old 36 Rd sign I hadn’t seen on earlier trips. I turned in — and immediately went sharply downhill on a gravel road that ended quickly in a couple dirt driveways. It was pretty tight back there and it took considerable care to turn around and get out! My kids were so busy playing their Nintendo DSes that they never noticed the bumpy detour.

When I came home, I looked it up online, and decided I must have tried to take this segment of road:

Imagery ©2020 IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2020 Google.

I entered what the map shows as the short dead-end road at far right. I made the above map screen shot in 2020; in 2007, online maps showed this segment connecting with the rest of the road. But it didn’t, and it hadn’t in a very long time.

This old alignment is about 1¼ miles west of tiny Bellmore, which is about a mile west of the end of the Raccoon Lake alignment.

Here’s a photo of the entrance to this segment. If you squint, you can see the Old 36 Rd sign. Notice how the road drops off immediately.

Old US 36

I took a picture down this narrow gravel road. This used to be US 36?

Old US 36

The satellite map showed 500 E as a crossroad along this alleged alignment, so I drove to it and headed north until I encountered what was, even there, signed Old 36 Rd. I drove east to see if I could make the connection. The road was barely one car wide. Soon I came upon this scene warning that a bridge ahead was out. Not pictured is the “Private Property Keep Out” sign nailed to a nearby tree that kept me from exploring farther.

Old US 36

I had quite a time turning my little car around in here, fearing that I’d put one end of my car off the side of the road and get stuck. If you decide to explore this segment and drive something larger than my Toyota Matrix, or don’t have four-wheel-drive, I recommend parking back at the crossroads and walking back here. Here’s what the road looked like leading away from here. Back here, the road was more dirt than gravel.

Old US 36

I drove back the way I came, crossing 500E. The road widened a little bit and became more gravel than dirt. Somebody was keeping the grass cut back here.

Old US 36

As I drove this segment, I thought it so incredible that this could have been US 36 that I doubted it. But my research shows that, indeed, this was the highway. My 1928 Indiana State Highway Commission map shows that US 36 was paved from Indianapolis to Danville, but was gravel west of there. That map even calls out Bellmore just above the broken line that represents gravel US 36. My 1937 Rand McNally (Standard Oil) Indiana highway map shows US 36 as a first-class paved road from Indianapolis to Illinois. So sometime within those nine years, the state paved US 36. If this is truly old US 36, then the state chose to build a straighter alignment nearby and decommission this stretch.

Can you imagine seeing an old cutout US 36 shield along the road above? It seems absurd! Yet I’m certain that it seemed perfectly natural to drivers 75 years ago.

Old 36 Rd ended 1.7 miles from the Bridge Out sign. The reason I had never seen an Old 36 Rd sign to match the one at the other end of this segment is because Old 36 Rd ends at another county road, which connects to US 36. See the map below. There’s no evidence that the old road continued past this county road; rather, it looks like that county road could once have been old US 36. Maybe the north-south road used to end at old US 36, but at some point became important enough to be paved, and was extended to US 36 by co-opting that last bit of old US 36.

Old US 36

Looking south from this intersection, US 36 is about a tenth of a mile away. If you want to find this segment, look for that little brown shack, which you can easily see from US 36.

Old US 36

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Road Trips

Raccoon Lake and the submerged US 36 and Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway

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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