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Saturday, February 16, 2013

An old stretch of the Cummings Highway at Jonas Bluff

An old stretch of the Cummings Highway at Jonas Bluff

It used to be that if you lived west of Chattanooga, it was a challenge to get to the city. In the earliest days of automobile travel, local judge and advocate for improving the highways Will Cummings wanted to create a route for the people to get through the area. The base of Lookout Mountain extends all the way down to the Tennessee River, so making a road was a difficult task, but the railroads had already done it. By some point in the late 1910's or early 20's, the highway along the bluff was completed, and highways were ready to connect Chattanooga to Nashville, Memphis, Huntsville and Birmingham.

This stretch of highway is still scenic to this day, although more people take the interstate through the area, the old road may be even more scenic as it is higher from the water. Also, if you look closely, there a copper-turned-green marker dedicated to Will Cummings embedded in the rock. I've driven right by this marker a dozen times and not noticed it - and if you've ever driven through here, I bet you did, too!

This was quite an old highway by modern standards. At some point, the highway had to be widened to 2 lanes in either direction. Originally, the highway hugged the edge of bluff. At this spot, the mountain is a little bit concave and that made for three curves in a very short stretch. When the roadway was improved, this small little spot was bypassed altogether. For anyone out there who is a roadgeek like me, this small preservation gives us a glimpse to what the roads were like nine decades ago! The newer segment still dates to 1935 and is known as the Bridge at Cummings Highway Ravine.

This is going to be a case of "do as I say and not as I do" because I would actually recommend you not stop here. I actually stopped here so I could get a photo of the standard historical marker over on the left off in the distance. There's a gate preventing people from driving here, but the highway dept. must have some utility purpose here as there's a little storage structure just off the edge of the photo to the right. Between the gate and rapidly moving traffic was barely enough space for my car, so there's a danger element to it. And backing out - you'd have to make sure nobody's coming for as far as you can see!

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