End of US highway 18

View a map showing this route.

Photo credits: Tom Grier; Robert Mortell; me
Additional research: Chris Geelhart

Approx. time period East terminus West terminus
1926-1950(?) Milwaukee, WI Mule Creek Jct. WY (old)
1950(?)-1970 Milwaukee, WI Mule Creek Jct. WY (new)
1970-present Milwaukee, WI Orin, WY

The east end of US 18 is somewhat unusual in that it does not end at a junction with another highway. It winds up on Michigan Street in downtown Milwaukee, and the US 18 designation terminates where it intersects Lincoln Memorial Drive along the shore of Lake Michigan. Shown below is the last eastbound sign:

Google Maps Street View, 2010

That's between Jackson and Van Buren streets; US 18 ends about three blocks ahead. Here are a couple shots of the "End" assembly on eastbound Michigan:

me, Aug. 2005 (both)

In 2005 I didn't observe any signage from either direction on Lincoln, so the sign bridge shown below must have been put up between then and 2008:

Google Maps Street View, 2010

That references only the interstates (you can see the I-794 flyover in the distance), even though to the right on Michigan is the beginning of US 18. There is a mention of that on the signal mast in the median ahead...

Google Maps Street View, 2010

...but that's too small and too late to be effective. In the middleground you can see the backside of a sign bridge; the frontside is shown in the photo below:

Google Maps Street View, 2010

Heading north on Lincoln, we're given directions to Michigan, but we're not told that it's US 18 until it's too late to make a lane-change:

Google Maps Street View, 2010

This non-standard endpoint makes a little more sense when viewed in the context of historic US routes in Milwaukee. I think it's always been the intention for US 18 to begin at the municipal pier (which is just across Lincoln from the end of US 18). You see, US 16 used to continue east of Rapid City SD (today's eastern terminus) roughly along modern I-90 all the way to Portage WI. From there, US 16 followed what is now called state highway 16 to a point on the eastern fringes of Milwaukee. There it joined with US 18 and was co-signed with it into the city. Both routes went to the municipal pier - the US 18 designation ended there, but US 16 used to continue via ferry across Lake Michigan to Muskegon MI and from there on to its eastern terminus in Detroit. So, looking at it from the other direction, it was a perfectly logical place to begin a highway designation: right where people drove off the ferry. But today, for traffic heading that direction, no love is given to US 18, which begins straight ahead in the photo below:

Google Maps Street View, 2010

If you continue west on Michigan, you'll soon see the first confirming marker:

Mortell, 1997

However, US 18 hasn't always been routed along the same roads to get to the pier - check out this 1967 map scan:

Note how Michigan didn't go across the railroad then; note also "Alternate US 18".


From its 1926 inception until 1970, the west end of US 18 was at its junction with US 85 in Wyoming. There's never been much of a settlement there, but like many highway intersections in Wyoming, this one has a name: Mule Creek Junction. The interesting thing about this junction is that it has moved. South of Newcastle, the original US 85 ran to the east of modern US 85, and the original Mule Creek Jct. was about six miles east of today's junction. The photo below is looking east on US 18:

Grier, May 2007

Today's Niobrara County Road 9 was originally US 85 - the street signs still attest to that fact:

Grier, May 2007

If you go about a quarter-mile south of that intersection, you reach the now-abandoned roadbed that carried traffic on the original US 18. The photo below was taken from old US 85, looking east along old US 18:

Grier, May 2007

Tom walked along old US 18 for about a half-mile, and found several "artifacts", including an old Plymouth hubcap, an old tire tube, and remnants of a 1920s-era tire. The photo below was taken from the historic Y-junction, looking northwest:

Grier, May 2007

That's old US 85 heading off into the distance, towards Newcastle. At far right are two semis on modern US 18.

Today's US 85 south of Newcastle was opened to traffic around 1950. Because of this, it was necessary to extend US 18 west a few miles, so presumably that's also when the highway was changed to its current alignment. The photo below is from westbound US 18, at the "new" Mule Creek Jct:

me, Mar. 2004

That signage is at what was once the west end of US 18, although you can see the route is now co-signed further west via US 85. Below is the historic west beginning as seen from northbound US 85...

me, Mar. 2004

...and next is a view from the opposite direction:

me, Mar. 2004

After 1970, the designation was extended straight ahead from there along existing US routes down to Lusk, and then over to I-25. The photo below was looking west on US 18/US 20; just over the hillcrest is I-25's interchange 126:

me, Aug. 1999

I thought this sign was posted a bit prematurely, and by the next time I was there it appears the sign had been replaced and also moved closer to the actual terminus:

me, Mar. 2004

In the distance you can see the interchange; below is a closer view:

me, Mar. 2004

US 18 ends there, but US 20 continues west via I-25. (you can see how meticulously Wyoming co-signs its US routes that are concurrent with interstates). Below is the beginning of US 18 as seen from northbound I-25...

me, Mar. 2004

...and below is the first eastbound sign assembly:

me, Mar. 2004