Historic U.S. 61: Old Alignment at Rock Creek
Old Alignment at Rock Creek
Located In: Rock Creek, Pine County.
Length: 1.15 miles (total surviving), .90 miles (drivable).
Also Marked As:
1934-Present (E/W portion only)
Over a mile of the original paved highway between the Twin Cities and Duluth survives at the town of Rock Creek in southern Pine County. The historic highway features a couple of old bridges, plus two short stretches of intact 1920's era concrete pavement.
The first paved highway at Rock Creek was completed in the mid 1920's. Work was completed in 1925 north of the creek (just north of current County Road 2 at the site of bridge 4141, see map above) and in 1927 to the south. The original pavement was 18 feet of concrete.
The stretch through Rock Creek featured an unusual number of bridges: four in just over mile. Three of these crossed the various channels of Rock Creek, while one was a railroad overpass. The bridges from north to south:
- Bridge 4143, a cellular concrete slab, constructed in 1920 and widened in 1925 (surviving, closed to traffic).
- Bridge 4142, a concrete slab, constructed in 1920 and widened in 1925 (replaced in 2006 by a culvert).
- Bridge 6334, the railroad overpass, constructed in 1919 (still in use).
- Bridge 4141, a concrete beam-slab bridge constructed in 1927 (recently removed).
The original highway at Rock Creek was replaced in 1954 during the modernization of U.S. 61 between Rush City and Pine City. A heavy realignment was required to eliminate the two very sharp curves that had served to shift the highway a half mile in the east/west direction and carry it beneath a railroad overpass.
The various stretches of the old highway met various fates after being bypassed.
Neither of the sharp curves at either side of the old rail overpass remain open. The west curve was closed and removed just after it was bypassed. The east curve remained in use, but was eventually abandoned. It survives in an overgrown state at the current intersection of 570th Street and Highway 70 with its original concrete pavement intact.
The east/west portion of the highway was taken over by State Highway 70 in 1954 (Highway 70 had been concurrent with U.S. 61 on this stretch since 1934). Because this stretch remained under state jurisdiction, it has received the most modernization, and has been rebuilt and repaved.
The portion north of Highway 70 remained open as a connection between Highway 70 and current County Road 61 towards Pine City. It was repaved and rebuilt in 1964, but has since been closed and abandoned. Large mounds of dirt have been piled on the road to prevent its use. The original bridge, no. 4143, still survives but is in poor condition.
The portion south of Highway 70 constitutes the longest surviving piece of the old alignment. Now marked as 570th Street, it is still in use as a local access road. The portion north of County Road 2 was formerly marked as Pine County Road 107 until bridge 4141 over Rock Creek was recently removed. Most of 570th Street has been repaved with a light seal coat. A short section south of County Road 2 still has its original concrete pavement exposed.
Photos - taken in October, 2009.
The south end of 570th Street, looking south from County Road 2. Note the exposed concrete pavement, poured in 1927. Highway 361 (second generation U.S. 61) is on the right.
Looking north across County Road 2 towards the site of the former crossing of Rock Creek via bridge no. 4141.
Looking north across Rock Creek at the site of bridge 4141.
570th Street, looking back to the south from just south of Highway 70.
The overgrown original concrete pavement on the old curve between 570th Street and Highway 70, looking northwest.
Looking west down Highway 70 at the site of the old east junction. Note the old rail overpass bridge ahead.
Another view of the rail overpass, looking back to the east.
Looking back to the west on Highway 70 towards the junction with Highway 361 (old 61).
Looking back to the east on old 61/ current Highway 70 from the junction with Highway 361. The rail overpass is just visible.
Looking west on Highway 70, just past the junction with Highway 361. The old curve to the north towards Pine City, now gone, was on the right side of the photo.
Looking south on the old connection between County Road 61 and Highway 70. The pavement here probably dates to about 1964 when this section was rebuilt.
Looking north on old 61 towards bridge 4143 over Rock Creek (just ahead). Also note the wood-and-cable guard rail on the right.
Another view of the bridge, looking back to the south. Note the large mound of dirt on the road ahead.
A view of bridge 4143 from County Road 61 (old 61), looking west.
Looking south on the old highway at its north end (note the sign indicating the junction with Highway 70 on the left).