[Floodgap Roadgap presents the Summer of 6]

Floodgap Roadgap's Summer of 6 -- U.S. Highway 6, Part 15: US 6 in Colorado (Denver to Sterling; Adams County, Weld County, Morgan County, Washington County, Logan County)

Go to: Part 14 | Main US 6 page | Part 16

Having left the Rockies behind, we now start to enter the Midwest heartlands and the breadbasket of eastern Colorado. In this segment and part of the next we will ride with or closely parallel Interstate 76, US 6's inheritor in most of this region. I-76 is one of the split Interstates, a historical curiosity from its origin as eastern and western routings of the former spur Interstate 80S, with an eastern section running from I-71 in Akron, OH through Pennsylvania to I-295 in Bellmawr, NJ. (Despite US 6's extensive routing in Penna., we'll only intersect its auxiliary I-476; we will not see I-76 again once we leave Sterling.) The 188-mile western section here is almost entirely within Colorado, running from Arvada at I-70 to the state line and continuing for a brief two miles to the only Nebraska exit, its terminus with I-80 near Big Springs, NE. The other major split Interstates are Interstate 86 (with its segments in Pennsylvania/New York and Idaho), Interstate 88 (with its segments in Illinois and New York) and Interstate 84. We saw I-84 first as I-80N in US Highway 395 Part 22; we'll see it again on the East Coast with this highway much later. That eastern segment of I-84 is particularly noteworthy as it replaced the old alignment of I-86, which moved north to New York. More about that when we get there.

I-76 (as I-80S) had been planned in Colorado as early as 1958, at first from I-25 in Denver to I-80; the western extension to I-70 took nearly two decades and was not completed until 2002. In 1976, AASHTO established its "no suffixes" policy which eventually left Interstate 69 and Interstate 35 as the only Interstates with suffixes (I-69C, I-69W, I-69E, I-35W and I-35E) today and I-80S was renumbered to I-76 in 1976. Although it is popularly believed this western number reflects the Bicentennial, in actuality it hails from 1876, the year Colorado was admitted as a state.

US 6 is corouted exclusively with I-76 except for an unsigned loop in Wiggins until it reaches the outskirts of Brush, from which it becomes the I-76 business route but retains US 6 shields, and appears in the CDOT route log as a segment of Route 006. There are many well-preserved old alignments through the small towns in this region, but lamentably there was just not enough time to capture them on our way through, and none of them are signed.

In this section we meet US 34. US 34 between its western terminus in Greeley, CO and where we meet it in Wiggins, CO actually was US 6, at least from 1931 to 1936. US 6, in those days, continued along US 34 to that point where it terminated at US 85; it had already been extended by 1931 along US 32 (which later became part of US 34) from at least Chicago to Iowa, and US 38 through Omaha to Greeley. An original 1926 highway, US 34 gradually moved west to its present terminus in Granby at US 40 by 1939 as US 6 moved south to what was formerly signed CO 81 and was the original route of the historic Omaha-Lincoln-Denver and Detroit-Lincoln-Denver Highways (more to say about this in Nebraska). US 6 has several meetings with it; Dale Sanderson has a number of alternate views of these junctions. In 1970, the east end was moved out of downtown Chicago to Berwyn, IL where the modern highway terminates for a length of 1,122 miles.

Our intersection with US 34 in Fort Morgan is also the beginning of our co-routing with the famous Overland Trail, which we will discuss in Part 16. Although US 34's crossing through Rocky Mountain National Park at 12,183' is higher than US 6 over Loveland Pass, making it the highest paved through highway in the United States, Loveland Pass is regularly cleared of snow and US 34 isn't which makes the distinction rather academic in the teeth of winter.

Continuing I-76 with EB US 6 and NB US 85, well-signed at least in this portion.
But after the US 85 split at Exit 12 ...
... I-76 is signed alone. We'll put the pedal down for this part.
Distance signage leaving the Denver metro area. Although I-76 has a junction with E-470 as we leave town, there is no access for it from this side.
Exit 22. At this point a more or less consistent frontage road parallels I-76 on both sides. This frontage road is mostly reconstructed and uses very little of the US 6 alignment, which is typically buried.
Weld county line.

Weld County, Colorado

Weld county is one of Colorado's original 17 counties in 1861, though it was later sectioned off into multiple surrounding counties including Morgan, Logan and Phillips county, all of which we will pass through. The name hails from territorial secretary and attorney Lewis Ledyard Weld, a casualty of the Civil War on the Union side. Weld county has the most confirmed tornado sightings in the USA (fortunately none during our brief time within it), and it became notorious in 1955 when Denver resident John Gilbert Graham placed a dynamite bomb in his mother's airline luggage with a time fuse, detonating United Airlines Flight 629 over the county and killing all 44 on board. He was duly tried, convicted and executed in 1957. The seat is Greeley, reached by US 85, and the modern county has 285,174 residents [2015]. We will see very little of it from I-76.

Exit 31 to CO 52. We will meet this highway, a major 111-mile regional arterial in eastern Colorado, again near the end of this part.
CO 52 accesses the town of Hudson, where the old routing of US 6 appears as Hudson Dr. This is not continuous with the frontage road on the south end of town; the frontage road moves from the north-west side of the freeway to the south-east. This road then leaves Hudson north. The other side's frontage road trails off around exit 34. It is doubtful either accurately represents the exact old roadbed.
Exit 39 to Keenesburg.
This exit accesses old US 6 in downtown, which is continuous with the reconstructed frontage road south of the Interstate from Hudson. The old alignment of US 6 appears as County Road 398 (it is unclear if this has any signage), and continues parallel with I-76 through Roggen to merge with the Interstate in a one-way entry around Mile 50.
Distance signage (16 miles to the next independent US 6 alignment).
EB I-76/EB US 6 (unsigned).
Morgan county line.
Morgan County, Colorado

Morgan county was formed in 1889 from a segment of Weld county, named for Fort Morgan, established in 1865 as Camp Wardwell (of uncertain derivation) as an outpost along the Overland Trail to protect the emigrants and mining districts; the fort was soon renamed in 1866 by General John Pope after one of his aides, Col. Christopher A. Morgan, who had died earlier that year. Fort Morgan closed in 1868 and fell into disrepair, but the modern city was platted near it in 1884 and incorporated in 1887, taking its name from the fort and giving it to the new county shortly thereafter. The modern county has 28,360 residents [2015].

Advance signage for the unsigned US 6 alignment in Wiggins.
Separation at Exit 64.

US 6

This begins unsigned segment 006I at Mile 343.519.

Exiting the Interstate. This segment connects to the most recent frontage road alignment by crossing here.
Mile 344, not at all continuous with the Interstate (which was Mile 64).
Entering Wiggins.
Originally established as a railroad depot town (then named Corona, again of unclear provenance), most of the town was renamed around 1900 for John C. Frémont's scout and guide Oliver P. Wiggins, who was also an associate of Kit Carson. Allegedly, however, the renaming did not extend to the section of town north of the railroad tracks which is actually the portion of town we are entering, even though Corona Avenue (which is not US 6) proceeds through the business district south and east of us. Although established in 1882, it was not incorporated until 1974. The modern town has 893 residents [2010].
The grain elevators and agricultural center along unsigned US 6. Most of what is now considered the town is south of us; it does not appear that US 6 ever entered it on its previous alignment.
Distance signage leaving town.
Well, somebody knows what this road is.
Junction I-76, and, just to the north, US 34, as well as the western junction with CO 52 which we left back in Hudson. Although only one leg of it is signed here, CO 52 will hitchhike with us along with US 34 into Ft Morgan. This is also the southern terminus of CO 39, proceeding to CO 144 near Jackson Lake State Park.
This is the end of segment 006I at Mile 346.697. We continue on I-76 EB with US 34 and CO 52.

I-76/US 6/US 34/CO 52

Resuming at Mile 67.
US 34 branches off with BL 76 and CO 52 at Exit 75; CO 52 comes off in the middle of town, crossing I-76 at Exit 80. We do not enter Ft Morgan due to the time and the unfavourable weather.
I-76 and US 6 inherit the Overland Trail roughly from this point. We'll talk more about it in the next Part.
Distance signage leaving Ft Morgan.
Exit 90, with "TO US 34" signage (still on BL 76 south of the Interstate).
Advance signage for US 6/US 34 at Exit 92.
Briefly we are on US 34, technically (as spur segment 034E, coming off 034B along BL 76). BL 76 comes up north with us, and once we cross the freeway by turning left we begin US 6's last leg along old US 38, segment 006J at Mile 371.69.

US 6/BL 76

BL 76 may get top billing on reassurance sign assemblies, but the banner is a white US route one, so I'm just going to put US 6 first. So there.
This is rural road and pretty much US 6 (and, previously, US 38) as it was, back in the day. The US 38 history has relevance in the next Part.
Entering Hillrose.
Named after Rose Hill Emerson, the daughter of an early settler in the region, the town was incorporated in 1919 and has a population of 264 [2010].
"Downtown" Hillrose.
Mile 377 and distance signage leaving town.
Along the fields.
Washington county line.
Washington County, Colorado

Washington county gets its name from President George Washington, and was designated in 1887. Our routing in it is brief and undistinguished. With its county seat in Akron, it has a population of 4,864 [2015].

BL 76/US 6.
An old 1942 crossing, still in use and in good shape.
Logan county line, along another old bridge. (I told you this routing was brief.)
Logan County, Colorado

Logan county derives its name from General John Alexander Logan, whose name also graces Logan counties in Kansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Illinois, as well as Logan Circle in Washington, D.C. and Logan Square in Chicago, in the state in which he served as Senator and remains as only one of three people mentioned in the Illinois state song (along with Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant). Born in Illinois in 1826, he served in the Mexican-American War and as a general on the Union side in the Civil War, becoming Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (appropriate as we are, of course, on the GAR Highway). His military service was bookended by his prolific history in politics, in the state legislature prior to the Civil War, and then after as a congressman, U.S. senator and unsuccessful Vice Presidental candidate (with James G. Blaine, former Republican senator from Maine) in 1884, whose ticket went down to Democratic New York Governor Grover Cleveland. Struck down by sudden illness in 1886 upon his return to the Capitol, he is best remembered for his prominent calls to designate Memorial Day as a national holiday. The Atlanta Cyclorama, which he himself commissioned, commemorates his heroism in the Battle of Atlanta and he enjoyed high public approval and a great personal following during his lifetime. Upon his death he lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda, and his son (John Alexander Logan, Jr.) went on to win the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions in the Philippine-American War. Established in 1887 out of a section of Weld county with its county seat in Sterling (which we will reach), the modern county has a population of 22,036 [2015].

Passing by the remnants of Fort Wicked just past the county line.
Fort Wicked grudgingly got its name from Indian raiders who were impressed by settler Holon Godfrey's ferocious defense in 1865. Godfrey and his wife Matilda established a store and rest stop in 1862 in the region, which gained new significance when the Overland Trail and stagecoach rerouted near it in 1864. Now a full-fledged station, the prosperous small holding became of interest to the nearby Cheyenne and Sioux, who commenced a local uprising that year and planned to loot it in January of 1865. Godfrey was prepared: a six foot adobe wall with gun ports surrounded the ranch house and store, and a lookout tower dominated the terrain. The Indians attacked on January 14 in force and set fire to the surrounding grass, but the adobe was impervious and Godfrey was able to keep his wood sheds from burning by constantly dousing them with water; meanwhile, Matilda and the wives of the ranch hands kept the settlers' rifles loaded with freshly cast pellets from lead bars they melted down on the spot. By the time the cavalry finally received his distress message and arrived three days later, Godfrey and his small team of ranch hands had killed almost all of the 130 Indian attackers. The remaining Indian band, amazed by his fortitude, called the fort "Old Wicked" which Godfrey adopted as a badge of honour. His success as a local farmer and rancher continued thereafter and he remained a local hero until his death; sadly, the mighty adobe wall was later demolished and little of the old fort presently persists. The Akron News-Reporter has a later photograph of the old fort from an undated period.
Entering Merino.
Named for the breed of sheep that grazed there (particularly prized for its wool in Australia), this small town was incorporated in 1910 and has a population of 284 [2010].
Passing through Merino.
Distance signage leaving town.
Mile 395. (I couldn't resist.)
Entering Atwood, with a junction with CO 63.
Atwood was named by Unitarian settler Victor Wilson, moving west from Abilene, Kansas in 1885, for his Boston Unitarian minister Rev. John S. Atwood. (This Atwood is unrelated to the Reverend John Atwood commemorated by Henry F. Darby; though the painting hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Darby's Reverend Atwood was Baptist, and they lived in New Boston, NH.) The small unincorporated community has 133 residents [2010].

CO 63 proceeds nearly directly due north and south. From its terminus here, it crosses I-76 south of us, crosses US 34 in Akron, and then terminates at US 36 in Anton.

Finally, US 6 gets top billing!
Distance signage leaving town.
Mile 402.
Entering Sterling.
Continue to Part 16
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