Evidence Still Remains of Michigan’s Wooden Highways
Michigan has some major highways in 131, I-94, and I-75, but there was once a time when Michigan was known for its wooden highways. In fact, US-131 used to be a plank road when it was first constructed. Many may be aware of the Old Plank Road Restaurant in Plainwell, MI. Well, if you've ever wondered what the inspiration behind that name was, it's pretty easy to see. In 1851, the Kalamazoo Gazzette actually posted an ad looking for people to help construct the plank turnpike:
Five Hundred Men Wanted!
The undersigned is now ready to give employment to the above number of men on the Kalamazoo Grand Rapids Plank Road, and is also ready to let all contracts for grading and laying the plank (12?) miles from Kalamazoo North, and 19 miles Grand Rapids South, and one bridge over the Kalamazoo River.
There were once over 1,000 miles of these wooden roads at one point before Michigan had laid down railroad tracks, and this was the main way travelers would take to get to the more rural areas of the state. US-131 only stayed a plank road for 16 years upon its completion in 1855. After that, railroads basically took over the state.
Recently a few bloggers shared their journey looking for remnants of these plank roads:
In the middle to the late 1800s, Michigan led the country in the building of plank roads. Poppins and I take a road trip to see what remains. And, there is, surprisingly, some fragmentary evidence of these wooden turnpikes that existed over 100 years ago.