End of US highway 287

View a map showing this route.

Photo credits: Chris Elbert; Steven Taylor; me
Additional research: Francis Stanton

Approx. time period North terminus South terminus
1935-1940 South entrance Yellowstone National Park, WY Fort Collins, CO
1940-1965 South entrance Yellowstone National Park, WY Port Arthur, TX
1965-present Choteau, MT Port Arthur, TX

US 287 first appeared in 1935, running from the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park along its present course to Laramie WY. From there it took over what had been US 285 [I] and continued at least to Fort Collins CO, and maybe to Denver... it's hard to be certain, since different maps from this time period conflict. Some seem to indicate that US 287 was in Colorado before US 87, in which case it would've been signed all the way down to Denver. If that's how it happened, then you can view photos of its endpoint on my US 285 [I] page (it would've been the same intersection as the third endpoint of US 285, at Colfax and Park Av). However, I tend to believe that all the route additions, extensions, and maneuvering that took place in Colorado and Wyoming during the mid-1930s were part of a "package deal", and they all happened at the same time. In other words, US 87 was extended into Colorado at the same time US 287 was commissioned. If that's true, then there was no reason for US 287 to exist south of Ft. Collins when it was first commissioned - because US 87 served that purpose. So I believe the official Colorado state highway maps, which indicate that Ft. Collins was the original southern terminus of US 287. There, US 87 followed College Avenue north from downtown, then north and east on modern CO hwy. 1 through Wellington and into Wyoming... generally, that is... except I don't think the southern end of US 287 was exactly at the same intersection where CO 1 meets US 287 today. Rather, based on nearby road alignments, I think it made a more gentle curve to connect with Terry Lake Road (today's CO 1). Part of this curve is still in use today: the short segment of Spaulding Lane that connects to Terry Lake. The map below shows how things are today...

...but this next map shows the historic highway designations, as well as what I believe was the historic alignment of US 87 (highlighted in yellow):

Below we're looking north on College:

me, Oct. 2004

Today that's northbound US 287, which curves to the left. The signal at upper left is the modern intersection with CO 1. But I think originally, when this was northbound US 87, there was a "Y" intersection here. US 87 curved to the right to join Terry Lake Rd, while the curve to the left was the south beginning of US 287.

Below we're looking west on Terry Lake, at the south end of CO 1 (the red car at far left is heading south on College):

me, Oct. 2004

The silver car is on what used to be southbound US 87, but the road used to continue to the left here, along what is now Spaulding. Looking that direction, one can see the former right-of-way that US 87 might have followed to connect with College:

me, Oct. 2004


Perhaps all that is a little too much fuss for a terminus that only lasted for five years at the most: in 1940, the US 287 designation was extended south and east along its present course, through Denver and all the way to its current southern terminus in Port Arthur TX. You can view photos from there on this page.


In 1965, US 287 was extended north from Yellowstone's west entrance, to end in Choteau MT. So technically, US 287 now consists of two segments, because there are no US routes within the boundaries of Yellowstone. But the US highways surrounding Yellowstone are numbered such that the traveller can choose some route through the Park, and then resume with the same highway on the opposite side. The photo below shows the north end of US 287 in Choteau:

Taylor, 2000

That's heading northeast on Division Street; there was no "End" sign. It's a tough intersection to capture on film, because 287 ends right where northbound and southbound US 89 traffic splits into a one-way pair that goes around opposite sides of the courthouse (hidden behind the trees at right). The sign in shadow at far right is shown close-up below:

Elbert, July 2008

Northbound US 89 is actually to the left, but you can't turn that direction. Instead, you have to follow what essentially amounts to a one-way rotary around the courthouse. That building is visible in the shot below, which is looking southeast on Main Avenue (southbound US 89):

Elbert, July 2008

Here US 89 traffic bifurcates - southbound begins to curve to the right onto Division, but then curves back left to go around the right-hand side of the courthouse, and two-way traffic resumes on the opposite side. But if, instead of going around the courthouse, you just stay on Division, then you're on the north beginning of US 287. The shot below illustrates this:

Taylor, 2000

The road curving off to the left is southbound Main, circling the courthouse. To the right is Division and US 287. Not far that direction is the first southbound US 287 sign - it's shown below:

Elbert, July 2008

This last series was taken from the opposite perspective (heading northbound on US 89). Below is where Main separates around the courthouse:

Elbert, July 2008

About halfway around the circle, we encounter these signs...

Elbert, July 2008

...the assembly in the distance is shown close-up below:

Elbert, July 2008

US 89 continues by curving back to the right on Main, while to the left on Division is the north beginning of US 287.