*Partially Field Checked*
US Route 62 was not one of the routes in the originally planned US highway system, but it came into being within a few years as a major east-west corridor from Kentucky to New Mexico. In the southwest quadrant of Oklahoma, US 62 took over the former duties of several state highways; in the case of this segment, it was original Oklahoma Route 7. The portion of US 62 between Lawton and Altus includes quite a bit of road that was originally laid out as Route 7, and of course several reroutings that have happened in the intervening years. This segment of old highway is particularly rich in truss bridges and includes several stretches of bare original concrete pavement, which makes it quite rewarding to drive. We hope you enjoy this guide to one of the main arteries of southwest Oklahoma.
This segment of old highway route begins at the corner of Fort Sill Blvd and Cache Rd in Lawton, which was the point at which original Route 7 turned west away from Route 8 to head toward the Texas panhandle. As we travel west through the heart of modern Lawton, the highway has been widened to a four lane divided thoroughfare, with not very much old highway character, but it is still signed as US 62 to this day. As the modern highway curves to the north, we can take an off-ramp of sorts to continue along the section line and the old alignment. This segment is four lane undivided highway, and also has been built up such that the "old route" character is almost nonexistent. Luckily, after a few miles, the road narrows to two lanes, and the old Bates standard concrete pavement becomes evident under the many asphalt overlays. The appearance of the characteristic center and edge cracks in the asphalt helps give us some of the "old route" feel we have been craving to this point.
After traveling west on the overlaid original pavement for several miles, we come to the first of the many truss bridges along this segment of old highway alignment as we cross Blue Beaver Creek. This bridge is interesting in that the abutments and lost original bridge were built for Route 7, but by the time the current replacement bridge was built, the road had become US 62. Shortly after the bridge, we come to a classic S-curve which leads us to a trestle-type underpass for the old Frisco railroad line. Before this underpass was built, the highway continued straight along the section line, utilizing a grade level crossing; the scar from the old roadbed is still clearly visible on satellite imagery.
After the old highway resolves back onto the section line, we continue west and pass through the town of Cache, which gives this piece of road its modern name. As we leave town, we cross a rather interesting bridge over West Cache Creek, another of the many truss bridges in this highway segment. After a few miles, the highway makes a banked curve to the southwest, aligning itself with the Frisco tracks; this routing is the original path of US 62, but before the coming of the US route, original Oklahoma Route 7 continued straight along the section line as labeled on the map. The section line Route 7 alignment was never paved while it was highway, but it is paved now if one wishes to explore it. The two routings converge again on the other side of Indiahoma, the next town west of this point. If we follow the US 62 alignment, the first paved alignment, we soon come to a pair of truss bridges over Post Oak Creek, yet another pony truss for the highway as well as a through truss for the old Frisco line. Just west of the bridges, the road surface turns to bare unmolested Bates standard concrete pavement, giving another example of the treasures of this highway segment.
If we continue along the curving US 62 alignment, following the Frisco line, we will pass through the town of Indiahoma, angle away from the rail line, and eventually rejoin the section line and the original path of Route 7 about a mile west of town. After being overlaid with asphalt through Indiahoma, the bare Bates pavement reappears as the road travels west out of town, continuing to offer a wonderful early highway experience. If, on the other hand, we explore the original Route 7 alignment, we would follow along the section line, coming first to a single lane stringer bridge with concrete "fence" style guardrails, passing along the north side of Indiahoma, then continuing west toward the point where the first paved alignment rejoins the original highway alignment. Just before reaching the US 62 alignment, however, one would be forced to detour to reach old US 62, as the original Route 7 bridge has been closed to traffic according to the information we have at our disposal. We are unsure if the original bridge still exists; we plan to confirm its presence at the first opportunity.
The Bates standard pavement continues west for a few miles along the section line, occasionally disappearing under asphalt overlays, before the highway bends north toward Snyder. Before long, we come to yet another truss bridge over Deep Red Creek, then continue on the original pavement toward the modern highway.
As we reach modern US 62, we can clearly see where the original pavement would have continued straight across the modern four-lane, but we are forced to negotiate a reprofiled intersection before we can cross the modern highway and rejoin the old route. This portion of highway still has its US 62 designation, though it has been downgraded from the mainline to a business loop. The road has been recently repaved with asphalt, but the underlying original Bates pavement should soon begin to make its presence known again. Evidence that this is indeed the original paved route can be seen in the culverts and stringer bridges with "fence" style guardrails one crosses as the road travels toward Snyder and continues west. A few miles west of town, we cross several flood plain bridges and another truss bridge, this time over Otter Creek. Shortly thereafter, we bend south toward the modern highway, which is about to rejoin the historic route for the first time since Lawton.
Unfortunately, any evidence of the former curve where the historic route would have resolved back onto the section line has been obliterated by prodigious dirtwork at the intersection, but it is at least an easy merge when US 62 finally comes back onto its original alignment. The original pavement appears to have been completely destroyed when the divided four-lane was constructed, but we are very close to the original alignment. After a few miles, the historic alignment angles off to the south; again, dirtwork for the four-lane has removed much of the evidence of the old curve.
Before long on the old alignment, we come to a through truss overpass bridge over the old Frisco tracks that we have been roughly paralleling for our entire trip. Almost immediately after the overpass, we come across an impressive multiple span bridge over the North Fork of the Red River. Sadly, at the time of this writing, we have been informed that both bridges were recently closed, but we hold out hope that they will be reopened, and so we have included them on this route.
If the bridges remain closed, we can still drive to and view them; the railroad overpass can be accessed from the old highway turnoff point shown, and the river bridge can be reached by turning off modern US 62 at the section line road just east of Headrick, NS2160. This section road can also take us to the old highway through Headrick if necessary; the road between the river bridge and Headrick is paved in bare Bates style pavement, with the pavement near the bridge having a later variant shorter expansion joint spacing, so it is well worth exploration even without being able to cross the bridge.
The old highway remains bare Bates standard pavement as it passes through Headrick and curves north toward the modern highway. When modern US 62 rejoins its historic route, the original curve and pavement appear to have been completely obliterated again; from this point, the historic alignment follows the section line along with the modern alignment toward Altus. The construction of the modern divided highway may have removed all evidence of the original infrastructure, but we are still on the original alignment of US 62 (and Route 7) as we continue west.
After we pass the Air Force base and enter Altus proper, the highway changes to undivided four-lane road and we begin to encounter the sorts of businesses one expects to find along a modern highway. Before long, we reach the junction with US 283 and our chosen endpoint for this highway segment.
US Route 62 between Lawton and Altus is a particularly enjoyable segment of old highway for many reasons; the abundance of truss bridges, the amount of original pavement remaining, and the relative lack of interference from modern highways are all attractive qualities. One fact which makes this piece of road more special is how much of it was actually part of original Route 7 before US 62 came along; fully 80% of the route described above was part of the state's original Great Diagonal before the US Highway system was even conceived. This is also quite an easy old alignment to follow and the pavement is in overall quite good shape, making for a very relaxing excursion. Happy exploring!
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