Abandoned Highways

October 14, 2016 at 1:36 am | Posted in Abandoned Highways | Leave a comment

I’ve always had a fascination with abandoned infrastructure, and this was always one of the most popular pages on the old North Star Highways site, so I’m obviously not alone. Here are some abandoned highways I’ve discovered in my travels.

Original Concrete Roadways

The first two pictures are from various sections of US 52 between Rochester and the Twin Cities. US 52 has always been an important road. It was paved early on, abeit with extremely narrow lanes (9 foot) by todays standards,  and then some of these original sections were bypassed when the expressway was built. These sections were left to provide local access. In the top photo, you used to be able to drive farther, but the snow fence has since gone up, as nothing is beyond. Also note the modern highway in both photos, epecially viable in the second.

The third photo shows pavement being laid down. The Minnesota Historical Society doesn’t seem to know where it was taken, but it could well be US 52 because this is definately the southern or central part of the state

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Minnesota Historical Society


Old MN 56, Lake Louise State Park

Many early state highways were routed on existing section line roads before more direct routes (often paralleling railroad tracks) were built. This is a section of MN 56 near LeRoy. Many years after the highway was routed off this road, the surrounding area was incorperated into Lake Louise State Park

Today the old road serves primarly as a hiking trail. The grading is still very visable, as are remnents of asphalt, which probably date from after it became a local road. A short section of the road, including an iron bridge, was recycled into an entrance road for the park

Part of the road now serves as the Shooting Star State Trail


Abandoned Bloomington Ferry Bridge Approach Road

In the 1990’s the Bloomington Ferry Bridge was replaced by a freeway, but before that could happen the existing approach road had to be reconstructed to keep it out of the way of the new interchange with MN 13 in order to maintain traffic. The result is an abandoned highway still in pristine condition. The original signs were originally left in place, but most of them have since been stolen

The whole area is in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Closer to the river, the old road was removed except for a narrow strip used as a bike trail, but farther away in this photo it was left as-is. It’s closed off by a lockable gate, still used by wildlife refuge employees, and it has been opened to allow hunters to access the area at least once.

As for the old bridge itself, it was originally going to be maintained as a bicycle crossing, but projected mainenance costs were too high, and so it was demolished and replaced with a new bicycle bridge

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Abandoned Lookout Park Wayside

Lookout Park was an old highway wayside on what was then US 169 and US 212 in what is now Eden Prairie. Built in 1938, it is now owned by the Metro Airports Commission. Unfortunately it is in a state of disrepair. Note the crumbling stonework where a plaque used to be. The park made the Minnesota Preservation Alliances list of the 10 most endangered properties of 2001.

Right now no one seems to know what to do with it. It’s historic, so you can’t just sell it to a developer. The Metro Airports Commission certainly has no use for it. It’s no longer on a trunk highway, it’s too remote for a local neighborhood park and too small for a more regionally oriented park.


Abandoned US 61

In an almost perpetual project, Mn/DOT has been reconstructing the famous MN 61, turning a scenic and dangerous road into a dull and safe one. The new alignment is generally more inland than the old, up to a block father. In  the process, some of the old road has been left for local access, but most has been simply removed.

There is a long term plan for a bicycle trail along the North Shore Drive, and much of the routing will be over the abandoned stretches of the highway. Although some history will be lost, more will be preserved as this provides a place to move a 130 year old bridge presently near Silverdale. The bridge, probably the oldest on the trunk highway system, will be moved under a seperate 1.5 million dollar contract once the new bridge is complete

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Old US 61 near Silver Bay, In the Background you can see work beginning on the Gitchi-Gummi Bicycle Trail

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Section of the North Shore Drive by Silver Creek Cliff, probably from the ’40s to ’50s. This section epitomized what was right and wrong with the old road, in that it was spectacularly scenic, but also became dangerous with higher traffic and increased speeds in later years. When it came time to rebuild the road away from the lake, there was no place to go but into the rocks, and so they blasted the Silver Creek Cliff Tunnel, which is spectacular in it’s own way.


Point Douglas-Superior Military Road

The Point Douglas (near Prescott Wisconsin)- Superior Military Road was authorized in the July 18, 1850 Minnesota Roads Act, and completed by 1856. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Portions survive as a trail (it was used as a logging road in later years) in Wild River State Park, and as “Military Road” in the western Twin Cities area.

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Abandoned Wayside

Minnesota highways pass through many scenic areas of the state, and in the early years the Department of Highways would build parking areas along side of the road for travelers to pull off and enjoy their surroundings. Unfortunately many of them have been closed do to budget tightening, safety problems associated with exploding traffic volumes, and being engulfed by the metro area.

This Wayside is on US 8 by Interstate State Park. Besides the nightmarish traffic levels on the road, possibly another factor in the closing is that the DNR didn’t like people being able to park for free and then walk into the park

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Minnesota Historical Society


Abandoned MN 243

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A section of Abandoned MN 43

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