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Does any of Route 66 still exist?

Route 66, also known as the Mother Road, was one of the first highways in the United States Highway System. Stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 served as a major path for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. At its peak, Route 66 passed through eight states and three time zones. However, with the creation of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, sections of Route 66 began to be replaced or bypasssed by interstate highways. This led many to wonder – does any of Route 66 still exist today?

Brief History of Route 66

Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926 as one of the original U.S. highways. It was one of the few paved roads connecting Chicago to Los Angeles at the time. Route 66 helped facilitate economic growth in small towns along the route that had previously been isolated. It also supported the growing automobile tourism industry.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, Route 66 became an important route for migration west, especially for those seeking work and escape from the Dust Bowl. It was nicknamed “The Mother Road” as thousands traveled west on Route 66 to find new opportunities. The route went through major cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, and Los Angeles. Small towns along the route boomed due to businesses catering to travelers.

Route 66 continued to serve as a popular thoroughfare through World War II in the 1940s when it was used to transport troops and supplies. However, after the war, the rise of the Interstate Highway System led to the decline of Route 66. Interstate highways began replacing and bypassing sections of Route 66 as early as the late 1950s. This reduced traffic and commerce along the route. Route 66 was officially decertified in 1985 after it had been almost entirely bypassed.

Does Any of Route 66 Still Exist Today?

Although Route 66 is no longer an official U.S. Highway, portions of the original route still exist as state roads, local roads, or service drives paralleling interstate highways. According to estimates, only about 13% of the original Route 66 alignment still carries automobile traffic under the Route 66 shield.

Here are some key points about the remaining sections of Route 66:

Longest Stretch in Arizona

The longest remaining driveable stretch of Route 66 is in Arizona between Seligman and Topock, spanning about 158 miles. This section of the Mother Road passes through the beautiful Black Mountains and offers views of the Grand Canyon. Travelers can stop at nostalgic landmarks like Hackberry General Store.

Illinois Sections

In the Route 66 starting point of Illinois, there are short sections of the original route still intact. A driveable portion exists from Joliet to just south of Gardner. Another piece of Route 66 remains on a frontage road parallel to Interstate 55 northeast of Normal. Visitors can also see an old bridge crossing the Des Plaines River in Joliet.

Oklahoma Stretches

Oklahoma has a long section of Route 66 that starts at Miami and runs southwest for about 110 miles until Texas. Along this drive are classic Route 66 stops like the Blue Whale of Catoosa and the Round Barn. There is also a short driveable segment on the west side of Oklahoma City.

California Portion

At the western end of Route 66, the California stretch from Needles to Barstow still exists as Main Street and Interstate 40 Business. Travelers can find old motels and eateries in Amboy and Goffs. In Barstow, the Route 66 Mother Road Museum is located on the original highway alignment.

Other Scattered Segments

Smaller sections of Route 66 still remain drivable elsewhere, including a few miles in Kansas, some county roads in Texas, and a short loop in San Bernardino, California. Various state roads and frontage roads follow parts of the original Route 66 alignment.

Efforts to Preserve and Restore Route 66

Nonprofit groups, private citizens, businesses, and governments are all working to preserve, restore, and revive remnants of Route 66. Some key initiatives include:

– Lobbying to create Route 66 National Historic Trail designation for the remaining alignments. Over 80% now has National Scenic Byway status.

– Getting roads fixed up and realigned to their 1926-1970s route.

– Restoring old bridges, motels, restaurants, and other Route 66 landmarks.

– Creating Route 66 museums, exhibits, and visitor centers to showcase history.

– Promoting Route 66 for tourism and getting businesses to embrace the Mother Road history.

– Adding Route 66 signage and painting the shield on roads.

– Supporting Route 66 associations and groups like the International Route 66 Federation.

How to Experience Route 66 Today

While it’s not possible to completely drive Route 66 anymore, travelers can still experience a lot of the nostalgia and Americana on the remaining stretches. Here are some tips:

– Drive sections in each state along the route. The longest continuous stretches are in Arizona and Oklahoma.

– Stop at restored gas stations, motels, diners, and other Route 66 attractions. Look for vintage neon signs.

– Visit Route 66 museums and learn about the people who traveled west.

– Search for unique Route 66 roadside oddities like giant statues or old bridges.

– Stay a night or two in classic mother road towns like Tucumcari, NM and Springfield, MO.

– Talk to locals who live along Route 66 to hear their stories and tips.

– Look for the Route 66 shield painted on roads or on signs at intersections.

– Browse gift shops with Route 66 souvenirs to commemorate your trip.

Major Sites to See on Remains of Route 66

Many important stops and attractions from the Route 66 heyday still exist on or near the remaining alignments. Here are some top sights to take in:

Site Location Significance
Gemini Giant Wilmington, IL Fiberglass spaceman and rocket ship over 20 feet tall outside a former rocket-themed cafe. Iconic Route 66 roadside giant statues were meant to attract visitors driving by in their cars.
Chain of Rocks Bridge Mitchell, IL One of Route 66’s historic bridges over the Mississippi River dating back to 1929, has a 30 degree angled turn halfway across.
Blue Whale Catoosa, OK Giant concrete and steel blue whale structure built in the early 1970s. An example of roadside attractions used to get Route 66 travelers to stop.
Tucumcari Tonite Sign Tucumcari, NM Vintage Route 66 neon sign from 1959 represents classic signs that lit up the Mother Road. Sign is over 80 feet long.
Wigwam Motel Holbrook, AZ Classic Route 66 motel from 1937 with teepee-shaped cabins made of concrete and steel. Retains retro kitsch appeal.
Amboy Crater Amboy, CA Prominent volcanic cinder cone near Route 66. Site of a famous Roy’s Motel sign and eatery ruins.

Driving the Remaining Route 66

For travelers who want to drive on as much of the Mother Road as possible, here are some tips for navigating and connecting the remaining Route 66 sections:

– Use maps and guides to highlight drivable portions. Check route 66 guides and enthusiasts sites for updated info.

– Combine small stretchs to maximize Route 66 mileage. For example, driving the Illinois remnants can be 130 miles.

– Stick to the old route near cities, but use interstates to connect gaps between towns.

– Search for frontage roads or access roads paralleling newer highways along Route 66 paths.

– Note bridge demolitions and unsafe areas. Some original alignments can only be walked or seen from a distance.

– Confirm if roads are open or closed seasonally before making Route 66 plans.

– Join a guided group tour focusing on Route 66 history and remaining stretches.

– Talk to locals to uncover hidden gems or recently reopened segments.

With some research and planning, it’s possible to drive hundreds of miles on the open parts of Route 66. But also take time to walk around and discover remnants next to closed sections. Every bit of existing Mother Road tells part of the Route 66 story.

Threats to Remaining Route 66 Segments

While progress has been made to preserve Route 66, the remaining places along the route face some threats:

– Development tearing down old motels, diners, and other roadside attractions

– Financial difficulties keeping Route 66 museums and nonprofits going

– Lack of funds to maintain roads in drivable condition or refurbish landmarks

– Closures of historic bridges deemed unsafe

– Signs, neon lighting, and Route 66 markers being taken down

– Shift of focus away from heritage tourism to other industries

– Urban sprawl covering over Route’s remnants

– Lack of laws to protect historic Route 66 properties in some areas

Many advocate for greater legal protections, funding sources, and awareness campaigns before more of Route 66 is lost forever. But with coordinated efforts, proponents are hopeful more can be done to save the Mother Road.

Resurgence of Interest in Route 66

Although Route 66 reached peak popularity between 1930 and 1960, nostalgia and interest in the iconic highway saw resurgence starting in the late 1980s. Some factors behind this revived enthusiasm include:

– Nostalgia as travelers who enjoyed Route 66 as kids and young adults started reminiscing and wanted to share the experience with their own families.

– Route 66 associations formed to advocate for preservation created excitement and awareness.

– High-profile Route 66 90th anniversary celebrations in 2016 reminded the public of its importance.

– New museums, exhibits, and revitalized attractions sparked tourism.

– Social media enabled sharing Route 66 adventures and photos widely.

– Pop culture Route 66 portrayals in movies, TV, music, and more reminded younger generations.

– Publications like Route 66: The Mother Road stoked interest.

– International visitors, especially from Europe and Japan, started seeking out Americana.

The revival has led many small towns to embrace, highlight, and benefit from their Route 66 history. With this renewed momentum, the future looks brighter for saving the Mother Road.


While Route 66 is no longer drivable end-to-end, remnants of the famous road still exist as living monuments to an iconic era of American history. With group efforts to preserve, restore, and promote Route 66, more travelers both domestically and abroad can experience pieces of this transportation transformation. From small towns still embracing their golden years serving road-trippers to stretches lovingly being fixed up for motor touris, Route 66 is an enduring example of America’s wanderlust, mobility, and optimism. Keeping its remaining traces alive pays tribute to the diverse people who made the fabled highway part of the nation’s story.