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End of US highway 385

View a map showing this route.

Photo credits: Michael Summa; me

Approx. time period North terminus South terminus
1958-present Deadwood, SD Big Bend National Park, TX

385 is another highway that is somewhat special to me. For one thing, it's a sibling to my favorite highway of all, US 285; plus I guess I just have an affinity for any road that serves Colorado. If you're a fan of the High Plains - that is, if you're into subtlety - this road goes through some nice country. The south end of US 385 is where it enters Big Bend National Park (you can view photos from there on this page).

I used to look at maps of the Black Hills, and wonder: where exactly is the north end of US 385?

SD DoT, 1997

Does the highway end right where it intersects US 85, or is it co-signed with 85 into Deadwood, or perhaps all the way up to I-90? Important questions. In 1997 I had a chance to find out firsthand. See where the map above shows a town called "Pluma"? That's where the photo below was taken:

me, Aug. 1997

Other maps still show a "Pluma" at this junction too, but the area has now been annexed into the Deadwood city limits. The green sign in the background says Lead is 1 mile south (to the left) and Deadwood is 1 mile north. Below is how that signage looked about 20 years earlier:

Summa, 1979

Note that they were using a 2-digit blank for the 385 marker back then - that same marker may still be in use (more on that below). By 2004, this assembly (or at least most of the plates on it) had been replaced:

me, Mar. 2004

The assembly also appears to be posted a little closer to US 85 now, and the city of Deadwood has erected a gateway monument there. (The tagline says "Welcome to Deadwood - Resting Place of Wild Bill Hickok". That's reason enough for me to visit - how about you?) Below is the first southbound sign:

me, Mar. 2004

Here is the north beginning of US 385 as seen from southbound US 85:

me, Mar. 2004

The green sign in the distance says "1 Mile to Lead - Home of Homestake Gold Mine". I've heard the Homestake is closed now, which leads one to wonder whether there will continue to be such a thing as "Black Hills Gold". The sign is mounted on what appears to be an old mining cart trestle. The other side of the sign is visible in the shot below, which is from northbound US 85:

me, Mar. 2004

The sign assembly is shown close-up below:

me, Mar. 2004

Looks like they might have reused that old 385 shield here (the one shown in the 1979 photo above).

I have a really nice 1959 Gousha road atlas; from it I gather that US 385 was just being signed about then. Their Texas map makes no mention of the road; the whole thing is shown as TX hwy. 51. Likewise, the road is shown only as state hwy. 51 on their Colorado map. The segment between Cheyenne Wells and Granada is shown as an "improved gravel" road, and the segment south of Boise City OK is not shown at all. The Kansas map (which shows eastern Colorado) also shows the Cheyenne Wells-Granada segment as gravel. However, both it and the Nebraska map have US 385 shields along the side of the route (instead of actually being centered on the roadline), as if they were last-minute additions. For the most part, the Oklahoma map shows the 385 markers in the right place, but the roadline itself hasn't been upgraded to the US highway style. In that atlas, only the South Dakota map has its 385 markers (both in SD and NE) properly placed.

The 1959 Colorado State Highway Map was the first edition that labeled US 385. However, its route from Cheyenne Wells to Lamar was via Kit Carson and Eads. Today's route through Sheridan Lake and Granada wasn't shown as such until the 1964 edition.

I also have an interesting tourist pamphlet promoting the "International Parks Highway" - which was US 85 out of Canada to the Black Hills, then US 385 to Mexico: "The only National Highway with so many National Parks!" I wish there was a date on it somewhere - Matt Salek noticed the ZIP code at the bottom, and therefore suggests a date of 1963 or later. On the map inside, interstates 90, 80, 70, and 10 are shown - but so is US 66, as well as US 10 in North Dakota and Montana. Why it was still stocked in a visitor center rack 30 years later, I have no idea! Below is a scan of the front page - notice the state highway numbers that are being removed: