During the late 1840s, entrepreneurs started receiving government charters to build plank roads, and by the mid-1850s, enthusiasm for such projects reached its statewide zenith; there were thirty-nine bills for plank road charters in 1852, and in the 1854-55 legislative session, thirty-two charters were granted. Canada had the 1st plank road.
As with any type of construction, the skill and speed of work crews, the accessibility of raw materials, and the weather determined the time needed to build a road. A team of fifteen usually laid 650 feet a day, or about one mile a week, or forty miles a year. One crew of fifteen, however, put down an impressive 1,000 feet a day (more than a third and almost twice as fast as the average crew).
In the 1850s approximately 500 miles of plank road were laid in North Carolina. The longest plank road was the Fayetteville and Western, which stretched 129 miles from Fayetteville to Salem.
►To help pay for this construction, companies placed toll houses along the road. On one road, one rider on horseback paid .5 cent per mile, a team of two horses paid 2 cents per mile, a teamster with three horses, 3 cents, and one with six horses, 4 cents.
Here in Virginia, Googling for plank roads comes up with Plank Road near Fredericksburg, Boydton Plank Road and Jerusalem Plank Road. Jerusalem Plank Road was the name of one of the skirmishes of the civil war in Virginia. You can Google your state.
Below are some plank roads around the country.
Interesting stuff, great post.
I don't think the walkway at Yellowstone qualifies as a road.
They must have deteriorated quickly in many areas? For how long were they typically used? A decade or two?
Very interesting road information Thanks for sharing
Well I might argue the point that Canada had the first plank road in the 1800's when history books state that Washington and Braddock's troops moved thru Pennsylvania and Maryland on wood plank roads in order to move supply wagons. Perhaps they had the first "contracted" plank roads but plank roads were used in very early history. In my old home town of Butler, Pa there was a road named "Old Plank Road" and it was said to have been an original plank road from colonial days.
I'll bet they used plenty of trees for lumber. Must have kept the saw mills going strong.
Good catch Layden! I thought that azure green hot spring looked sort of familiar.
Seems to me the first roads were corduroy type roads like the National Road through the Cumberland gap. Once those logs are buried and covered with dirt or clay, they seem to last forever. I know of corduroy roads both here in Northern WI and Western Ontario that have been around for well over a 100 years and are still in great shape.
My father has a corduroy road going through the swampland in his woods it has been in place for about 10 years now, made of hemlock. Sure was bumpy for a while, but as the dirt found its way into the grooves and packed in the roadway smoothed out nicely. I suppose we will have to wait a while to see if it holds up like the ones Kevin mentioned.
Some of the pictures are of the old California plank road across the sand dunes west of Yuma. Parts of them can still be seen from I-8.
Corduroy roads in swampy ares are still being constructed today, we saw one recently in Arkansas.
As opposed to hued planks,
A corduroy road or log road is a type of road made by placing sand-covered logs perpendicular to the direction of the road over a low or swampy area. The result is an improvement over impassable mud or dirt roads, yet rough in the best of conditions and a hazard to horses due to shifting loose logs.
A neighbor tells me that her parents talked about driving on a log road from Virginia Beach, VA to Elizabeth City, NC paralleling the Great Dismal Swamp canal.
Some statistics on the Great Dismal Swamp Canal,
In 1784, the Dismal Swamp Canal Company was created. Work was started in 1793. The canal was dug completely by hand. Most of the labor was done by slaves hired from nearby landowners. It took approximately 12 years of back-breaking construction under highly unfavorable conditions to complete the 22-mile long waterway, which opened in 1805
The Great Dismal Swamp Canal is part of the east coast Intracoastal Waterway. The Intercostal Waterway is a network of canals, inlets, bays and rivers that runs the length of the Eastern Seaboard from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Florida Keys.
Today, boaters cruise the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in Florida for free. But it was not always that way. It was a privately owned, dredged, and operated canal called the East Coast Canal for a few decades after 1881 to the 1920s. At six points along the waterway, tolls from 3 to 10 cents were assessed based on the type of vessel and, if commercial, by a percentage of freight.
There was plenty of cheap lumber & labor + it was a good way to get up out of the mud.
We've come a long way, baby.
I believe these are in Dallas, TX.