Highway 77 crosses through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska and finally peters out in
Sioux City, Iowa. Originally a street improved by the 1924 Highway Act, most of the old road
has been bypassed by Interstate 35 in Texas and Oklahoma. In occasional articles I will trace
this great old road, where pockets of the American past can be seen and appreciated. My
journeys will follow a north-south direction, from Davis, Oklahoma all the way to Waco, Texas.
P.S.: I would love to add old memories and any photos you'd like to share. Don't be shy! E-mail
me at email@example.com
Part I: Davis to Marietta, Oklahoma
The Arbuckle Mountain Range in the south central part of the
state provides a dramatic backdrop for this road trip. This portion
of the road parallels I35, and takes you gently from rolling hills to
the Red River bottom lands.
US 77 is a wide, straight highway in Davis. Davis is itself a lovely
town with a restored train depot and several old gas stations -
the kind with living quarters on top - doubling as BBQ restaurants
and antique stores.
Detour: Take OK 7 to the east and find Chickasaw National Recreation Area next to the pretty little
town of Sulphur.
This stretch of road takes you into the heart of the Arbuckles, where Honey Creek spills into at least
three dramatic waterfalls. The biggest one of them all is Turner Falls, which the city of Davis turned
into a park. Make sure to stop at the scenic overlook, which provides a glimpse onto the falls from
atop a ledge. Along the road are tourist camps, amusement parks, and ruins of scenic hotels straight
from 1930s and 1940s. Stone houses hug sharp curves, and souvenir shops beckon travelers to part
with their money. Through the trees, you can spot rusty signs of long forgotten road side camps.
Detour:: Turner Falls Park is a real vacation destination, and it makes no bones about it. As it is not a
state park, the city requires an entrance fee, and the grounds are chock full of small businesses
catering to the traveler,including rent-by-the-night tipis. Honey Creek runs clear throughout the
park and creates two deep swimming holes, one at the base of the falls and one further downstream.
If you feel healthy enough, climb the stone stairs to the Castle ruins. Built in the late 20s and early 30s
by Dr. Ellsworth Collins, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, the native stone castle-like
structure, complete with turrets and towers, served as his ranch headquarters. Now in various states
of decay, the castle hugs the mountain side. A driveway in the second set of ruins leads to the
mountain top, from which you can look down upon the 70 foot water falls.
Driving further south will take you into the little town of Springer and then the large city of Ardmore.
US 77 used to go through downtown, but newer alignments placed it to the west. Along the highway,
you'll see old roadside motels converted to cheap apartments and former gas stations housing
antiques and flower shops. Further out of town, you'll meet up with roads beckoning you to discover
Lake Murray State Resort Park.
Detour: Where US 77 crosses OK 199, take a meandering drive to a ghost town. Follow OK 199 east to
Gene Autry Road, which runs north about five miles outside of Ardmore. Follow the path to Gene
Autry, a little town that used to be called Lou, Dresden, and Berwyn before deciding to honor the
great cowboy hero, who owned a ranch around here. Visit the Gene Autry Historical Museum while
you're at it.
The next town you'll encounter as you journey down US 77 is Marietta. Marietta is revitalizing its
downtown, so make sure to take a peek.
|Old tourist court near Davis.
|Fireplace inscriptions at the castle.
|4-14-1938. On tourist court gas station.
There are two "last stops" you can make before US 77 merges back onto Interstate 35 south of
Marietta. The first one is Thackerville, a farming community (and that's about it). The second one is the
Chickasaw Casino, a monstrous building that boasts Big Ben, the Roman Coliseum, and Moorish
architecture. Right on the prairie, too! It's a surreal world.
|Disused US 77 alignment near
From Davis, head south on US 77. South of town are the ruins of an old tourist court, across the old
77 from a trailer park. The abandoned cabins are faced with fossils, no doubt an added attraction for
the road weary traveler of long ago. Past the tourist court, you'll cross Interstate 35 and begin
climbing into the mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for signs to Arbuckle Wilderness, a drive-by
|US 77: "This Road Built With
Part II: Gainesville to Dallas, Texas
To keep following US 77, you'll have to leave Oklahoma on Interstate 35. US 77 really doesn't
reappear until south of Dallas, but the towns along the route are worth a look, anyway.
Gainesville is the first stop. There are outlet stores, but those are of course boring. Instead, go
shopping downtown. There's even a soda fountain inside a pharmacy there!
Detour: West of Gainesville lie the remains of a World War II-era P.O.W. camp, where German
soldiers were housed. You can see chimneys and a few barracks on County Road 401 (exit
498-A, go west) or on FM 1201 (exit 499 onto US 82 west, then turn right (north) on FM 1201).
|Military camp west of Gainesville
The next town you'll meet as you drive south on Interstate 35/ US 77 is Valley View. Valley View
is a small farm town where the feed mill remains its number one employer.
Once you reach Sanger, take exit 479 for Business 35 and follow it all the way through town (it's
called 5th Street in Sanger). South of Sanger, the road bends. You'll see a small street named
Cowling Drive; turn left (south) onto Cowling, and guess what? You are on an original alignment
of US 77. Follow Cowling Drive south until you once again meet up with Interstate 35. To go
southward, you'll have to follow the service road until in makes a u-turn under the Interstate.
|Valley View is a quintessential farming town.
|Your next stop on your US 77 road trip is Denton. Denton's a university town with a lot of
western history, so it behooves the traveler to take some time and visit the city. If you take exit
471 and go south on Elm Street, you'll be on an older alignment of US 77 that will lead you right
into downtown Denton. Keep following Elm Street to Eagle Drive, then turn left. At Dallas Drive,
turn right to keep following US 77. Dallas Drive will eventually merge onto Interstate 35 E (stay
in the left hand lane).
|Downtown Denton has many fun shops and
lots of restaurants..
interstate splits into two separate roads, where E goes to Dallas and W goes to Fort Worth. The
roads will rejoin south of Dallas/Fort Worth in Hillsboro.
As you drive south of Denton on Interstate 35 E, you'll notice A LOT more cars and buildings and
people. That's because you're coming into the outskirts of Dallas. To drive onto another old
alignment of US 77, take exit 461 and turn right onto Post Oak Drive, right onto Shady Shores
Drive, and then right onto a little street called "Old US 77." Follow it to the northbound
Frontage Road and swing back around Post Oak Drive to return southbound.
Parallel to Old US 77 are the tracks for the A-Train, a new commuter rail that follows the
right-of-way of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway and the Interurban Line that used to link
Denton and Dallas.
Further south you can see US 77 again in Lake Dallas, a town named after the lake that was built
in the 1920s to serve as water storage for Dallas residents (the town's original name was
Garza). In Lake Dallas, US 77 is known as Denton Drive.
Once again on Interstate 35 E, you'll cross Lake Lewisville. You're in my territory, now - I live
Lewisville calls US 77 Mill Street. Take exit 454 B (Justin Road) and go east onto Lake Park
Road, then turn right onto Mill Street. Follow Mill Street all the way to downtown. You'll meet up
with Interstate 35 E south of downtown Lewisville.
Keep on trucking south on the Interstate until you meet up with Harry Hines Boulevard. Go
south on Harry Hines, which used to be THE road to take to get to Dallas. It was also US 77
(replacing an older alignment, which is now the smaller Old Denton Road/ Maple Avenue).
Harry Hines Boulevard is still a bustling place, though some of the area has become a little
down-market. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't visit. The Mecca has some of the best
hamburgers in town; you can buy beer to go with your burger at Keller's Drive-In; and Golden
d'Or Fabrics offers a huge selection of materials. There's also a Sam Moon, Parkland Hospital,
etc. One of Harry Hines' main attractions is sadly gone, however. It once boasted an infamous
traffic circle at the intersection with Northwest Highway. About six years ago, the old Circle
Restaurant and Hotel still stood along Harry Hines, commemorating the landmark. The Circle Inn
has been torn down, too.
|In Lewisville, you'll see the new city hall...
|...and travel on old US 77, the northern end
of which dead-ends into Lake Lewisville.
|I literally wrote the book on
Lewisville. Har har. If you'd like
to know more about my fabulous
city, you can buy the book at
Barnes & Noble (exit 448 B at
the shopping center) or on
|Good burgers on poppy seed buns
|The razed Circle Inn neon on Harry Hines Boulevard.
|This school anchored the tiny town
of Letot before Dallas annexed it.
The school has been demolished.
Highway 77 Road Trip
Harry Hines Boulevard continues south into Dallas. Before downtown Dallas confuses you with its
maze of streets, you can veer right onto Market Center Boulevard and meet up with Interstate 35 E
and continue south to go out of town. Or, you can follow Harry Hines Boulevard to its bitter end, take a
right onto Field Street, another right onto Broom Street, and veer right onto Lamar Street. Lamar will
take you to Interstate 35 E.
South of Dallas, US 77 becomes its own road again - at least for a while. To enjoy US 77, take exit 410 in
Red Oak and follow the signs to US 77 south. You'll soon come into Waxahachie. Waxahachie is a
beautiful town known for its famous "gingerbread architecture" and its equally famous courthouse.
Follow US 77 to Forreston, Italy, and Milford. Along the way, you'll see traces of the old road in the
form of abandoned bridges and gas stations.
US 77 kind of peters out near Hillsboro, so you'll want to rejoin Interstate 35 again when you come
across the intersection.
|The old alignment of US 77 parallels the new road just north of Italy. The
path of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway, now abandoned, can often be
discerned down this road.
Interstate 35 is, of course, a boring drive. One way to relieve the stupor is by taking a stop in West,
which is very proud of its Czech heritage, as evidenced by almost every sign in the town. There are a
lot of beer, sausage, and Kolaches here.
Waco is the last stop on the "US 77 through the Red River Valley" tour. To see old US 77, take Exit
335B to South University Parks Drive. Head south, then turn right onto La Salle Avenue.
La Salle Avenue is Waco's once-major thoroughfare, and evidence of its important past can be seen
from the many commercial and industrial buildings that now line the street. Past 18th Street you'll
encounter two main relics: the Circle Drive-In and, further down, Waco's confusing traffic circle. The
Drive-In movie theater is now a flea market. Along the circle are two vintage restaurants, the Elite Grill
(make sure to go inside this art-deco building for its many photographs of Waco) and the Health Camp
Past Waco, US 77 moves away from Interstate 35 and continues south to Brownsville, which is at the
Mexican border. If you continue traveling on the highway, you'll encounter many remains of Texas'
Spanish colonial past.
|The Circle Drive In (now "Treasure City," a weekend flea market)
commemorates Waco's traffic circle.
|A movie theater in downtown West, a town that Czechs out very well.