U.S. Highway 61

The , .  The bridge crosses the  between Dubuque and .  The bridge is part of the U.S 61 /  route.
The Dubuque-Wisconsin Bridge, Dubuque, Iowa. The bridge crosses the Mississippi River between Dubuque and Grant County, Wisconsin. The bridge is part of the U.S 61 / 151 route.

United States Highway 61 is the official designation for a United States highway that once ran from New Orleans through Memphis and Iowa through Duluth, Minnesota all the way to Thunder Bay, Ontario in Canada. It was an important north-south connection in the days before the interstate highway system. Many southerners, particularly black southerners, travelled north along Highway 61 to go to St. Louis. (It did not run to Chicago, as often presumed by some fledgling blues afficiandos).

Originally 1,714 miles (2,758 km) long, the road has been shortened to 1400 miles (2,253 km) ending in Wyoming, Minnesota. Minnesota State Highway 61 runs to the Canadian border; then the highway continues to Thunder Bay, Ontario as Ontario provincial highway 61.

The road is also known as the Blues Highway, as it runs through the Mississippi delta country which was an important source of blues music. Both Son Thomas ("Highway 61") and Mississippi Fred McDowell ("61 Highway") wrote songs about it, and many Mississippians, such as Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley took the blues to Chicago along the route.

The junction of Highway 61 and Highway 49 was the famous crossroads where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for mastery of the blues.

Blues singer Bessie Smith died in an automobile accident on Highway 61. Ike Turner's "Delta Cats" drove up Highway 61 to Memphis to record "Rocket 88", one of the first rock and roll records. Elvis Presley grew up in housing projects along it and Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in a motel on Highway 61.

Some of these connections led Bob Dylan to commemorate the highway in the title song of his album Highway 61 Revisited.


Recent Activity

Starting in the early 1980's, U.S. Highway 61 between Davenport and Dubuque was rebuilt as a four-lane highway. The first link, a 19-mile stretch between Davenport and De Witt, was finished in 1982; a bypass around De Witt, which multiplexed U.S. Highway 30, was in use starting in November 1975. Subsequent links were completed to Maquoketa (in 1996) and finally to Dubuque in 1999. When the final link was completed, Dubuque finally had a direct four-lane connection to Interstate 80.

In 1983, two multi-lane one-way routes were designated through Davenport starting at the northern city limits. Southbound traffic used the newly constructed Welcome Way until it merges with Harrison Street just north of 35th Street; northbound traffic use Brady Street (which had been a two-way, four-lane street). Other two-way stretches of the highway through Davenport have four (or more) lanes.

A 7.5-mile bypass around Muscatine, Iowa was opened in 1984, but other upgrades on the stretch south of Davenport would not happen for another decade. The changes came as follows:

  • 1996 The completion of a 4-mile, four-lane stretch between Blue Grass and Interstate 280 in Davenport.
  • November 2000 A 14-mile stretch between Blue Grass and the Muscatine bypass was opened.
  • May 2001 A 3-mile bypass around Blue Grass.
  • July 2002 A 7 1/2-mile stretch, from the Muscatine bypass to the southern tip of Muscatine, just north of Letts.

The final stretch completed a continuous multi-laned link between Dickeyville, Wisconsin south to Letts, Iowa. The highway joins with U.S. Highway 151 about five miles south of Dubuque, where the two highways share a route until Dickeyville.

The 61 Drive In, one of the few Drive-in theaters left in the nation, is located along Highway 61. The theater is located about five miles (8 km) south of Maquoketa, Iowa, near Iowa exit 153 (the Delmar/Lost Nation exit).

Northern Section

The northern section in Minnesota was separated when Interstate 35 was constructed, and decommisioned in 1990. The 151 mile (243 km) long section between Duluth and Grand Portage (at the Canadian border) was redesignated as Minnesota State Highway 61. It is the only instance of a Minnesota state highway and a US Highway having the same number. The section from Duluth to Two Harbors is a four-lane highway.

North of the Canadian border, the highway continues as Ontario Provincial Highway 61 for 58 km (36 miles) to its terminus in Thunder Bay at a junction with Highways 11 and 17.

The highway is a scenic highway and is part of the Lake Superior Circle Route that runs through Minnesota, Ontario, Michigan, and Wisconsin.


As of 2004, the highway's northern terminus is in Wyoming, Minnesota at an intersection with Interstate 35. Its southern terminus is in New Orleans, Louisiana at an intersection with US 90.

States Traversed

The highway passes through the following states:

Notable Cities Along the Route

Related Links


I drove all the way from Storyville on a midnight Memphis run
From Bourbon Street to Beale Street straight up Highway 61
"Rose of Memphis, Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark


Template:US Highways


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