The Little-Known Story of Iowa’s “The Great White Way”
More than a century ago, Iowa roads were awful. When rain or snow fell, travel became nearly impossible. As more and more automobiles hit the road, Iowans needed a better way. An idea changed everything, for both towns and people on the roads. This is the story of "The Great White Way".
Back in 1910, the Good Roads Convention met in Des Moines and decided Iowa needed a road that would cross the entire state from the Missouri River at Council Bluffs to the Mississippi River in Davenport.
After that convention, poles along a road that followed a railroad between Council Bluffs and Des Moines were painted with a six-foot white stripe. The road was deemed White Pole Road. The idea being that anyone traveling it would see the white poles and realize they were still on the correct road.
In 1912, the road that promised to be a "straighter, leveler, and shorter route across the state with a town every five to six miles along the way" had been extended all the way across the state. The next year, the Great White Way Association paid $5 to the state and the road officially became known as The Great White Way.
Nearly 20 years later, parts of the road were named U.S. 6. Today, the highway makes its way across the state from Council Bluffs to Des Moines, going as far north as Iowa and Johnson Counties, before going through Iowa City, and on to Davenport. At one time, U.S. 6 connected Long Beach, California, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and was the longest west-east continuous road in the United States.
In the 1960s, some of the historic road would become part of I-80 and in 2002, more than 500 poles along a 26-mile stretch between Adair and Dexter, Iowa were again painted white. Nearly a century later, White Pole Road, an important part of Iowa history, was born again.
See the Must-Drive Roads in Every State