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End of US highway 21

View a map showing this route.

Additional research and/or photo credits: Mark Clifton; David Dawson; H.B. Elkins; Alex Nitzman; Adam Prince; Mike Roberson; Mac Watkins

Approx. time period North terminus South terminus
1926-1935 Cleveland, OH Yemassee, SC
1935-1953 Cleveland, OH Beaufort, SC
1953-1971 Cleveland, OH Hunting Island, SC
1971-1974 (near Pocatalico, WV) Hunting Island, SC
1974-present Wytheville, VA Hunting Island, SC

US 21 was an original 1926 route; at the time its southern terminus was in Yemassee SC:

Watkins, Jan. 2008

That's looking south on US 21 (or "Low Country Highway" in these parts) at its junction with "Hendersonville Highway". Today US 21 joins with US 17A to the right - the two go through Yemassee together and then split apart again on the other side of town. But historically this was mainline US 17, and US 21 ended here. (Incidentally, the official 1951 SC state highway map shows US 15 ending here. But that was the only year, so I doubt it was ever actually signed that way.)

In 1935 the south end of US 21 was extended to Beaufort. Maps from that timeframe show US 21 passing through the city and crossing the river, but ending immediately after that upon landing on Ladies Island (at the time, it was SC hwy. 285 that continued further east along Sea Island Parkway to Hunting Island). The photo below is looking north on US 21 - at far right, you can barely make out the bridge and the city of Beaufort:

Google Maps Street View, 2008

This was right about where US 21 began for almost 20 years. But the old bridge didn't follow the exact alignment of modern US 21. At far left you can see the backside of a stop sign. Just right of that you can see a road disappearing into the trees. I believe that was the original alignment of US 21, but that short segment is the only part of the original alignment that differs noticeably from the current bridge, which was built in 1960. By that time, US 21 no longer ended here...

...because in 1953 the US 21 designation was extended still further south... or more accurately, east onto Hunting Island, via the former SC 285. Mike has carefully analyzed historic SC county maps, and he's found four slightly different locations for the endpoint. For the first couple years, US 21 ended almost immediately after landing upon Hunting Island. By 1957 it had been extended south about a half-mile on Sea Island Pkwy, then east along a road that skirted the north side of the Hunting Island lighthouse, and then south again for a short distance along the shoreline. That was the situation shown on this USGS topo map:

c. 1979

I’ve added circles indicating the four endpoints.  #1 is the junction that marked US 21’s original Hunting Island endpoint.  Within a few years, US 21 had been extended down to #2. By 1970 US 21 had been cut back to #3, such that it ended on Sea Island Pkwy at the turnoff to the lighthouse - that’s where the photo below was taken:

Clifton, Dec. 2012

Directly to the left from there is where the old road to the lighthouse cut towards the beach, so US 21 really did end here for about 20 years. David explains that the "S-07" refers to South Carolina's seventh county alphabetically (Beaufort), and the "406" refers to the designation of the state secondary road ahead. However, that's no longer accurate, because at some point the old lighthouse road was vacated, and a new access road into Hunting Island State Park was built a little ways further ahead. The approximate location of this junction is shown on the map as #4, and by 1986 the US 21 designation had officially been extended down to that modern access road:

Google Maps Street View, 2008

To the left is the new state park entrance, so this junction marks the current south end of US 21. But, as you've seen, the “End” sign is still posted back at the old turnoff to the lighthouse. Today, the road from the lighthouse heading south along the shoreline is no longer extant because of beach erosion.  Although historic US 21 from the lighthouse heading northwest to Sea Island Pkwy (between endpoints #2 and #3) has been vacated and there is no longer vehicular access to it, you can still see the cut through the trees on aerial photos, and I believe the pavement itself still exists in some places. So this segment is probably still walkable and/or bikeable. If you ever have an opportunity to visit the lighthouse, I’d appreciate photos and/or a description of what you’re able to see of the old road. Some of its corridor is visible in the shot below:

Clifton, Dec. 2012

That was taken from the top of the lighthouse; the bare cut through the trees was US 21 from about 1955 to 1968. The road continued off the right side of the photo, into what is now open water. Heading the opposite direction, David reports the first northbound shield was nearly five miles north of the terminus:

Dawson, Dec. 2001

For 45 years the northern terminus of US 21 was in Cleveland OH; you can view photos from there on this page. In 1971 the US 21 designation was removed from all of Ohio and about half of West Virginia. Below is a section of the 1974 official highway map of West Virginia which shows the spot where US 21 ended for a few years:

scan by Elkins

The terminus was at I-77's exit 114. If you exit there today, you'll see the signage shown below:


Today the north beginning of WV 622 is to the left; for a few years that was the north beginning of US 21. As you can see, its historic route is now designated as county route 21. Looking the other direction, the north end of modern WV 622 is a historic north end of US 21:


In 1974, the north end of US 21 was truncated to its current terminus in Wytheville VA. Before describing the current situation, I'll explain how things used to be: A few miles east of Wytheville, at Fort Chiswell, US 52 joined with US 11, and the two highways were co-signed into downtown Wytheville, along Main Street. That's where they met US 21 coming north out of Statesville NC. US 11 continued south and west to Bristol, while US 21 and US 52 were co-signed north on 4th Street, toward Bluefield WV.

Now, US 52 still joins with US 11 at Fort Chiswell - but only because US 11 is the same as I-77/81 at that point. US 11 traffic leaves the interstate at exit 73 to follow its historic route along Main through central Wytheville, but US 52 is directed to remain on I-77/81, bypassing town on the north side. Today, if you want to get to Bluefield fast, you use exit 72 and follow I-77 north. But continuing south and west on I-81, the next interchange (exit 70) is signed for the old route to the north: US 52. That same exit is also signed for the north beginning of US 21. You're actually heading more westbound at that point, and the offramp drops you down to 4th Street, which is the old north-south road between Wytheville and Bluefield. Here's the assembly that greets travellers at the end of that offramp:

Prince, 2000

It's a divided highway - that photo was taken from the median, so you can't see the sign for northbound US 52 (which goes off to the right, behind the camera). Southbound US 52 is directed to the left, because that's how you get back on I-81, going the other direction. Turning that way, you see this assembly:

Nitzman, July 2005

That's southbound US 52 (which continues to the left), as well as the north beginning of US 21, which leads to downtown Wytheville, and then on into North Carolina. But the first marker on the mainline isn't posted until about a mile ahead, where traffic is directed to join with southbound US 11:

Nitzman, July 2005

Heading the opposite direction (north on 4th), the last US 21 reassurance marker looks like this:

Nitzman, July 2005

The I-81 interchange is about a mile in the distance...

Nitzman, July 2005

...and the US 21 designation ends there:

Nitzman, July 2005

Northbound US 52 is straight ahead, and southbound is to the right with (oddly enough) northbound I-81. As I've said, US 21 was once signed ahead with US 52 into Bluefield. That's where the routes split, but US 21 still had a life of its own, serving Beckley, Charleston, and Parkersburg, before crossing the river. In Ohio, 21 continued through Cambridge, New Philadelphia, Massillon, and Akron, before finally ending in downtown Cleveland. I imagine US 21 was decommissioned because of the advent of I-77. The new interstate completely erased some stretches of old 21 - particularly in Ohio - and it closely parallels most other segments. After a quick glance at a few maps, it looks to me like most of old 21 is still drivable - but I bet you'd get lost more than a few times trying to navigate through Appalachia without some good maps.

The photos below show the signage on northbound I-81...

Nitzman, July 2005

...and the signage at the bottom of that offramp:

Nitzman, July 2005

Turning right puts you at the north beginning of US 21.