Traveling The Dixie Highway in Michigan

By Roger Reini (roger at rreini dot org)

This is an illustrated description of a southbound trip down the famous Dixie Highway, the eastern branch of which went from Sault Ste. Marie down to Florida.

Sault Ste. Marie to Birch Run

I haven't made that drive yet.

Birch Run to Clarkston

I've driven it but not photographed it yet.

Clarkston to Detroit

Pictures taken February 6, 2005

Dixie Highway and I-75, Clarkston Dixie Highway in Clarkston/Waterford
Intersection of Dixie Highway and M-15, Clarkston Dixie Highway in Waterford Township, MI

As the Dixie Highway passes underneath I-75 in Clarkston, it picks up a number: US 24.  It will continue as US 24 until the intersection with Telegraph Road 8 miles to the southeast.  The road passes through a light-density suburban area.  2 or 3 miles to the southeast is the intersection with M-15, which was the Dixie Highway's Flint Bypass Loop.  Next come several miles of typical suburban strip mall development in Waterford Township, along with occasional glimpses of some lakes.

Dixie Highway and Telegraph, Pontiac Dixie Highway and Telegraph, Pontiac

The intersection with Telegraph Road lies some 3 miles northwest of downtown Pontiac.  If you were to turn right (south) on Telegraph, you would bypass downtown Detroit as you went through the northwestern suburbs, the northwestern part of Detroit, western and downriver Wayne County and Monroe, where you could take M-125 and connect back up with the Dixie Highway.  Or if you continued on US-24, it would eventually become the Dixie Highway in Toledo. Ohio.

Dixie Highway joins Woodward Avenue, Pontiac Pontiac Paint store
Downtown Pontiac Phoenix Center, Pontiac

Past Telegraph, Dixie Highway (now Business US-24) becomes Oakland Avenue as it enters Pontiac.  About a mile down the road, Business 24 veers to the right and becomes Cass Avenue, one-way heading southeast.  It eventually connects with Woodward Avenue and passes on the west side of downtown Pontiac.  Note:  the original Dixie Highway was Saginaw Street downtown.  However, Saginaw is no longer a through street, as it no longer connects with Woodward south of town.  The Phoenix Center (lower right picture above) is built on top of the old highway.

GM plant in Pontiac Woodward and Square Lake, Pontiac

South of downtown, the northbound and southbound sides of Woodward reunite.  It passes by a GM plant at South Boulevard.  At Square Lake Road, Woodward picks up the designation M-1, and it will carry this all the way to downtown Detroit.  It will be a divided highway all the way to 8 Mile.

Turnoff for Old Woodward in Birmingham Downtown Birmingham
downtown Birmingham Birmingham Theater
Old Woodward rejoins Woodward, Birmingham

South of Big Beaver/Quarton, Old Woodward veers off to the right from Woodward, which bypasses downtown Birmingham.  Follow Old Woodward through downtown Birmingham and see the upscale dining and shopping establishments.  This continues for about a mile and a half before Old Woodward rejoins Woodward.

Woodward Avenue, Royal Oak Shrine of the Little Flower, Royal Oak

This portion of Woodward is typical strip-mall suburbia.  It's also the site of the annual Woodward Dream Cruise.  At 12 Mile is the Shrine of the Little Flower, once the home church of Father Charles Coughlin, controversial priest and broadcaster of the 1930's. 

Old Saranay Motel, Royal Oak Vinsetta Garage, Royal Oak
Janet Davis Cleaners, Royal Oak Woodward and I-696, Huntington Woods
Wetmore's Garage, Ferndale

There are a number of older buildings along Woodward in this part of the county.  One of them,  the Vinsetta Garage, almost looks like it could have been there when this was still officially the Dixie Highway.  Woodward passes through Royal Oak, Huntington Woods and fashionable Ferndale before crossing 8 Mile and entering the city of Detroit.

Highland Park, MI Woodward near Orchestra Hall, Detroit
Woodward just north of downtown Detroit Detroit's new football and baseball facilities
Old Kern Block, Detroit

The trip through Detroit and Highland Park is not particularly scenic, although the area around the Model T Plaza shopping center would not have been out of place in the suburbs.  Just south of that, though, was a very rundown shopping area; one of the buildings still had a marquee for Highland Appliance, the appliance and consumer electronics chain that folded over a decade ago.  And I passed a library building in Highland Park that was boarded up.  But there are also signs of new housing in Detroit, which bodes well for the future.  Woodward passes through the New Center and Cultural Center areas before entering downtown.  North downtown is home to the Fox and State theaters, Comerica Park and Ford Field, and the Hockeytown Cafe.  Central downtown is still rather non-descript and lacking in amenities.  Woodward jogs a bit to avoid the new developments in the Campus Martius area (the Compuware building, with a Borders book store and a Hard Rock Cafe).  At Fort Street, the Dixie Highway turns right (note: Fort Street is closed for construction at Woodward at this writing, so take Woodward down to Congress, turn right, and then turn left to get onto Fort).

Detroit to Monroe

Pictures taken January 17, 2005

Fort and Cass, Detroit Fort Street Presbyterian Church, Detroit
The Dixie Highway follows Fort Street out of downtown Detroit.  This is not a particular scenic part of town, although it does have the grand Fort Street Presbyterian Church, visible in the right-hand photo.  The large concrete beam in the top part of the left-hand picture is the track for the People Mover, a shuttle train that travels in a loop around downtown Detroit.

Windsor, Ontario from Fort Street Ambassador Bridge ahead
The left-hand picture was taken near Fort Street and Rosa Parks Boulevard, not far from the main post office.  Here, you can see the Detroit River and the shoreline of Windsor, Ontario.  The main highlight along this stretch is the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor.  Fort Street passes underneath the bridge.  You can see part of the bridge in the right-hand picture.  To the right is an old facility used by Greyhound Bus Lines.

Fort and Clark streets, Detroit Clark and Jefferson - old Boblo dock
After traveling 2 miles on Fort, turn left onto Clark Street to follow the original Dixie Highway route.  If you continued on Fort, you would be following a later routing of US 25.  Here, we'll be following the original route.  At the foot of Clark Street is one of the former Boblo Island docks.

Jefferson Avenue in Detroit Historic Fort Wayne, Detroit
Now Clark Street immediately ends, and you turn right onto West Jefferson, which we'll be following for several miles.  This stretch of Jefferson is heavily industrialized.  One highlight along the way is historic Fort Wayne.

Drawbridge over Rouge River, Detroit Jefferson Avenue, Ecorse
Downtown Wyandotte, Michigan Totem Pole, Wyandotte
Continuing on Jefferson, you pass through the Downriver communities of River Rouge, Ecorse, Wyandotte (Jefferson is called Biddle in Wyandotte), Riverview, Trenton and Gibraltar.  The upper-left picture shows the drawbridge over the Rouge River; on the other side of the bridge is the city of River Rouge.  The upper-right picture shows Jefferson as it goes through Ecorse.  The bottom two pictures show Wyandotte, which has a nice riverside park where you can watch the freighters and other vessels sail up and down the Detroit River.  There's even a totem pole at the corner of Jefferson/Biddle and Eureka.

South of Wyandotte, you'll encounter two bridges leading to Grosse Ile.  The northern one is a privately-owned toll bridge, while the southern one is a county-owned free bridge.

Curve onto Huron River Drive Rockwood, Michigan
The road becomes progressively more rural as you leave the Downriver communities.  At the intersection of Jefferson and Huron River Drive (just south of Lake Erie Metropark), turn right onto Huron River Drive (not to be confused with South Huron River Drive, which is a few miles farther south) and travel to the town of Rockwood.  Turn left onto Old Fort Road, which becomes Dixie Highway south of town.

old Mail Pouch barn near Monroe Fermi2 near Monroe
Dixie Highway and US Turnpike

The upper-left picture shows an old barn between Rockwood and Monroe.  Still visible is the painted sign for Mail Pouch chewing tobacco.  Many such signs have been restored around the country, but not this one.  The upper-right picture, taken south of the barn on Dixie, shows a more-modern artifact of civilization: steam rising from the cooling towers of the Fermi II nuclear power plant.

Follow this road until you encounter a road crossing diagonally (shown in the bottom picture above).  This is US Turnpike to the left (the continuation of Jefferson) and Dixie Highway to the right.  Turn right, staying on Dixie Highway.

Along this stretch of highway, you'll pass by the Fermi II plant.  You'll also pass by several small lakeside communities as you drive into Monroe.

Dixie Highway near I-75, Monroe Dixie west of I-75, Monroe
Bridges near Dixie Highway, Monroe Dixie and Elm, Monroe
As you near Monroe and cross I-75, you will see the typical businesses of freeway intersections: gas stations, truck stops, motels/hotels, and restaurants.  X miles west of I-75, there is a Veteran's Memorial Park, which has two helicopters on exhibit.  Passing underneath the John Dingell railroad bridge (named for the longtime Congressman who represented the area -- and still represents it as of 2005), you bear left and head towards Elm Street, on the north side of the Raisin River.  Turn right on Elm and proceed for one mile to M-125.  Along the way, you'll notice an apartment/condo complex on Kaye Lani Street.  This has been named for former Miss America Kaye Lani Raye Rafko, who was from Monroe.

Monroe to Toledo

Pictures taken January 8, 2005

Custer statue in Monroe Old Standard station, Monroe
Turn left onto M-125, a.k.a. South Monroe Street, and cross over the Raisin River into downtown Monroe.  As you turn, you'll see a large statue of General Custer astride his horse (Custer was from Monroe).  Later, on your left will be an old Standard service station.

Dixie Highway in Erie Township, Michigan South end of Dixie Highway, Michigan
Continue to follow M-125 (Dixie) out of Monroe and to the southwest.  The road passes uneventfully through farmland as it heads towards the Ohio state line.  During the wintertime, you can see snowmobile tracks in the snow on the farmers' fields.

Route information taken from "Dixie Highway East",

On to Ohio (coming soon)

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2005 R. W. Reini