Transportation Structures:
Route Typologies - Part 2

Descriptive Lists

  • Up to "Transportation Structures - Route Typologies Part 1"

    1. Valley Route Master Types / River Road Master Types
    2. A River Road (kbc) or Valley Road / Valley Type Road (kbc) is a roadway or route that runs through the valley of a relatively large natural waterway, using the valley as a means to maintain a fairly level and direct route.

      To meet this designation, the river valley should be large enough, and be differentiated enough from the surrounding terrain, so that the valley has a distinctive advantage as a route - e.g., a mature-stage valley, where the valley is more than about 1/4 mile wide, has distinctive valley walls, and fairly dissected uplands beyond. Streams in valleys this size also tend to be navigable for a canoe, at the minimum.* Two basic variants exist, the Bank Route and Terrace Route. Easier to determine typology than upland routes.

      Most(?) Valley Routes are Bluffside...and by nature, parallel to the waterway and valley. (An exception is the iffy [Transverse Sprint] Route Type.)

      Exemplia Gratia:


      1. Bank Route / Bankside Route Type
      2. Valley Routes Illustration number 0, 1

        The Bank Route Type (kbc) runs on the valley floor / valley flat immediately along the river / stream / waterway, as much as possible abutting the riverbank. It stays as close as possible to the river without running through frequently flooded areas, sloughs, outwash etc. It swerves inland to cross tributaries at ideal locations, where a tributaryıs bed is stable and not too wide. A natural levee along the bank, however slight, is an ideal location. This placement is probably due to two concerns:

        • Routes that originated as trails were probably originally located along a river to maintain ready access to the river transportation, ready access to the major source of water, and visibility across the river for protection in warfare (EC in part). A river would also be a fairly stable route indicator that would assure travelers of the direction they were going.

        • Routes initially created by Euro-Americans (versus adapted from Native American routes) were probably located along the river to have a consistent means of access for farmland in the soil-rich valley terraces and floodplain, as well as to maintain ready public access to the transportation of a navigable river and ready public access to the major source of water. In the pioneer and settlement eras, most valley farms were oriented toward the navigable river to provide private access to the river whether there was a bank-side road there or not.

        Exemplia Gratia:

        • Vanmeter Highbanks ?
        • Phillips House in Camp Sherman (q.v. Peck 1972: 15, 20-21)
        • Original riverside road at end of Greenwood Road, Louisville, Kentucky
        • Probably original route of SR 7 - Rome vicinity & Burlington (q.v. history).
        • East part of Pennyroyal Road, Union Township, Ross County, Ohio


      3. Terrace Route Type
      4. Valley Routes Illustration number 1, 2

        The Terrace Route Type (kbc) runs parallel to the river and the valley's course, but usually at a distance from the river and on the less-frequently flooded terraces. It also usually runs along a terrace bluff, on the upper edge (q.v. Bluff Route or Bluff Edge / Terrace Edge). The typical variation is the Mid-Valley Route.

        1. [Bluffside?] [Mid-Valley] Terrace Route Subtype
        2. Valley Routes Illustration number 2

          The Mid-Valley Terrace Route Subtype (kbc) runs through the valley floor usually at or near the mid point between the waterway and the valley wall. A mid-point position places transportation in a central position in the tillable land, equalizing the distance to the far ends of the fields at the waterway and valley walls. The mid-point may be the ideal position that compromises being as close as possible to the waterway, while avoiding many floods. As such it is usually on the upper edge of a middle or upper valley terrace.

          It may also avoid sloughs, deltas and swampy areas that are close to the valley walls. It may be more direct since the terrain is smoother than the valley wall, and less amorphous than the river bank. A mid-point placement may also be on the tangent in a curve of the valley, i.e. the shortest route from one stream bend to the next.

          Exemplia Gratia:

          • North Fork Road in North Fork valley east of North Fork Terrace subdivision.

          Ideal crossing points or fords on a meandering river may be where the river has a straight stretch running perpendicular across the valley, and the Mid-Valley route road placement compensates for that.

          • Original US 50 in Paint Valley at the Dill Ford and Reeves Crossing.


      5. Break-of-Slope Route Type
      6. Valley Routes Illustration number 3, 4

        The Break-of-Slope Route Type (kbc) runs at the change of slope between the level valley floor and steeper valley walls. Its placement can be seen two ways:

        • It is at the edge of the valley floor, on the valley land that is the highest and most level, and thus usually the best-drained and least flooded;

        • And it is at the foot of the valley wall, on the most level hill land that is readily usable as a roadway, and hilliest tillable land that is the least valuable for agriculture.

        Historically, the value of tillable land generally outweighed a level, easily maintained route, and thus some Break-of-Slope Route roads are more on the slope than the terrace. The results are swerving routes, cuts into toe slopes, fills across tributary valleys and gulleys, outwash cones and meltwater invading the roadway, and short steep rises and dips. Most Valley Roads in small valleys tend to be this type since the tillable land is at even more of a premium than in a larger valley.

        Exemplia Gratia:

        • Original location of SR 16 W of Frazeysburg (ASC SR 16 I & II)
        • Parts of current US 50 in Paint Valley
        • Part of Pennyroyal Road, Union Township, Ross County, Ohio
        • 1820s Parson's Trace in Left Fork of Reedy Creek in Roane County, WV (ASC: Scott Miller Hill Bypass addendum)
        • Most small valley roads in SE Ohio and Appalachia.


      7. [Transverse Sprint] Route Type
      8. Valley Routes Illustration number x

        The Transverse Sprint Route Type runs perpendicular to the valley, within the valley. It is usually a connector between parallel Valley Routes, such as a Bankside Route and a Break-of-Slope Route.

        This category may not belong in the Valley Route Supertype, since it is diametrically different from the other Valley Route types (other than its location in a valley). It is not quite a route element, since examples tend to be longer than a stone's throw...

        Exemplia Gratia:


    3. [Bluff / Highbank] Route [Master?] Type
    4. Valley Routes Illustration number ~5

      The Bluff Edge / Bluffside Route runs atop high upper terraces, usually (in South Central Ohio) on Wisconsinan-age ground moraines along or in major valleys, or Illinoan-age glacial outwash terraces. The route tends to be along the edge of the bluff / highbank, but it need not be there.

      (Is this an Upland Route Type or Valley Route Type? Is it both and neither, transitional, and thus deserves its own Type?)

      Exemplia Gratia:


    5. Portage Route [Master?] Type
    6. Valley Routes Illustration number x

      Route connecting nearby navigable ends of two waterways. This is usually perpendicular to any ridge. Perhaps with less restrictive name, can embrace any path connecting headwaters...

      Is this an Upland Route Type or Valley Route Type? In some cases the portage route is level or rolling (e.g. Miami-Maumee, Cuyahoga-Tuscarawas) but sometimes it is hilly (e.g. Ottowa River-Lake Huron (Canada), Pennsylvania routes). Is it both and neither, transitional, and thus deserves its own Type?

      Exemplia Gratia:


    7. Upland / [Rolling Land] Route Master Types
    8. Runs on upland terrain; i.e., not on level or fairly level valley floors.

      These route types are more reflective of much terrain control over route placement and design/evolution. This was allowed/tolerated because of the technological ability of the culture and/or priority of the route:

      Perhaps two versions of each are necessary, depending on the coarseness / fineness of the terrain:

      1. a small version in composites like Serpentine, e.g. Carpenter's Hill on SR 28; and
      2. a larger version when more distinct, e.g. Cattail Road.


        1. Blunt Grade Route Type
          • Runs directly up/down a steep slope - route is perpendicular to the slope - full-force attack of the slope.

          • Usually acceptable only for short stretches, and used only when no other efficient alternate is available.

          • Usually used for only short distances and short, brief hillsides.

          Exemplia Gratia:

          • Great Indian Warpath at --- Wildlife Refuge in Jackson County - where the trail ran straight down a short, steep slope - very small-scale example, passable only by humans on foot; very difficult for horses.
          • Carpenter's Hill,Ohio SR 28, Twin Township, Ross County - the first attack of the hill (heading westbound)....though the road quickly becomes a Sideling Route. Also the 'roller coaster' ridges before the hill.
          • Andersonville Road, just west of Andersonville,Union Township, Ross County


        2. Soft Grade Route Type
          • The route runs on gentle or relatively gentle hillside.

          • The slope is usually the easiest slope available in the vicinity:

            • In glaciated terrain with sizable hills (usually bedrock), a till slope is usually ideal

            • The crest between gulleys on such a slope is ideal.

        3. Gully Route Type
          • Runs up small, short tributary valley to move between valley floor and upland.

          • Valley usually has an ephemeral stream, thus causing less trouble to using it as pathway - the water does not flow all the time.

          • The route usually enters the gully halfway between the stream and its valley wall / gully wall, or on the edge of the wall like a BOS Route. This is because the stream is at its strongest near its confluence, and because the surrounding terrain, especially where the sloping gully meets the more level valley terrace, is likely to be swampy.

          • Route usually leaves the gully immediately beside or on top of the stream, since the stream is weakest at its head.

          • May be crossover from Valley Types, since these lead from the upland into a valley.

          Exemplia Gratia:

          • Boggs side road at demolished house to cabin (ASC: WV US 33).

          • Road near Cincinnati traveled 2/10/01

          • ~Routes up from US35 to "Great Indian Warpath" atop ridge: connectors from ridge road to Valley Road


        4. Sideling Route Type
          • Route "sidles" up the side of a slope - runs fairly parallel to slope to avoid steep incline. ("Sidle" is a Appalachian term [I think] that means to walk up a hill at an angle to reduce the effort by lengthening the route but reducing the steepness.)

            • Webster: Adverb: Sidelong or sideways; obliquely. Adjective: Having an oblique position; inclined or sloping. 1300-1250 Middle English

          • Route is often curved due to the curve of the hillside and intersecting landforms, though sometimes straight on smooth slopes.


          Two main variants:

          1. Sideling [Grade] Route Subtype
            • Hillside used to change elevation by aligning at an angle, to reduce the effort of climbing by lengthening the route but reducing the steepness.

            Exemplia Gratia:

            • Robinson road to Hill House beyond end of Hatmaker Lane, Twin Township, Ross County, Ohio.

            • Part of Pennyroyal Road, Union Township, Ross County, Ohio
            • Most hilly roads running up or down.

          2. Sideling Level Route Subtype
            • Route runs along hillside only to get from one point to another on a usable route which happens to be on the side of a hill.

            • Hillside is used as effectively as possible, usually on a bench or some BOS.

            • Route is usually not perfectly level, but the intent of the route is not to change elevation, but just to pass through rough terrain.


        5. Ridge Route / Crest Route / Summit Route? Type
          • Route runs on the crest of a hill or ridge.

          • Usually an ancient route, a prehistoric trial, due to ideal trail-making condition on high and dry ridgetop (q.v. Pa trails).

          • Route is usually not perfectly level, but the intent of the route is use a fairly level course through rough terrain, and utilize ideal trail conditions.

          • Narrower ridges force route into more serpentine character - trail is more willing to adjust horizontally than vertically.

          Exemplia Gratia:

          • "Great Indian Warpath" from Jackson to Richmondale vicinity.


          Two main variants:

          1. Watershed Route Subtype
            • Subtype (or same type, but different ...dichotomy!). Route in rolling land on crest, no matter how subtle; e.g. GBS. Perhaps different subtypes based on coarseness of terrain: extremes being GBS vs. Appalachian knife ridges...

            • But may seem to conflict with popular use of Portage Route: connecting nearby navigable ends of two waterways (q.v. Valley Routes). The Portage Route Type, however, is usually perpendicular to any ridge (=watershed). Perhaps a less restrictive name can embrace any path connecting headwaters.

          2. Beach Ridge Route Subtype
            • Sub-subtype: Route on almost flat land on prehistoric beach ridge, no matter how subtle; e.g. GBS, Lake Plains.


        6. Edge Route Type
        7. Exemplia Gratia:

          • parts of eastern Egypt Pike, Ross County


        8. [Serpentine] Route Type
          • Route is an attack of slopes longer than acceptible by the Blunt Grade.

          • Route is usually resolved into a serpentine, sometimes almost switchback-like pathway with segments that alternately run perpendicular and then parallel to the slope. [squiggly line]

          • Route is actually a combination of short Blunt Grade and Sideling Grade routes. Natural terraces are utilized for short Blunt Grade segements, while Sideling Grade segments are applied to the steeper slopes. Gulley Route segments and Soft Grade segments are also incorporated as needed.

          • Do not confuse with true switchbacks (q.v.). [zigzg line]

          Exemplia Gratia:

          • Carpenter's Hill, Ohio SR 28, Twin Township, Ross County - after a brief Blunt Grade, a Sideling Grade curves around the slope and up.

          • Robinson road to Hill House beyond end of Hatmaker Lane, Twin Township, Ross County, Ohio. - after a Transverse Sprint from US 50: a Jog left into a Sideling Grade, Jog right, Blunt Grade, Jog left, Sideling Grade, Jog right, Blunt Grade, Jog right, Sideling Grade, and Jog left onto the hilltop.


        9. Switchback Route Type
          • Route runs up very steep hillsides (or mountainsides).

          • When used for auto roads, and when on very steep slopes or for heavy hauling trucks, it has true switchbacks: at the end of each zig-zag segment, the vehicle must reverse direction without turning - i.e., it drives forward up one segment, backwards up the next, forwards up the next, etc.

          • Instead of serpentine turns and jogs, the route uses a series of switchbacks: the route abrubtly reverses direction, with no choice but for a vehicle to also reverse direction not by turning around, but by going into reverse (and then alternating forward and reverse).

          • Necessary only with auto vehicles (and probably impossible with horse-drawn vehicles).


      3. Flank & Appropriation Route Master Type
      4. Routes that run along other routes or atop (replacing) other route structures...

        (Access roads that run alongside modern suburban roads or superhighways are excluded; they are modern engineered routes the belong elsewhere...)


        1. Canal-Flank Route Type / Canal-Side Route Type
        2. Semi-engineered route - but not because the route itself is engineered. This is a result of canal construction: The canal is designed to conform to the terrain, with some earthmoving. Since the canal assumes superiority in transportation, any nearby roughly parallel road is realigned to be adjacent to the canal right-of-way. This eliminates landlocked parcels, where usable land would be trapped between the two transportation structures.

          Similar to "access road" created with modern highway or arterial street redesigning.

          Exemplia Gratia:

          • SR 104 from Chillicothe north to Andersonville

          • parts of SR 16 east of Frazeysburg

          • Connector road between SR 16 east of Frazeysburg and Dresden, along branch canal


        3. Canal Appropriation~ Type
        4. The abandoned canal prism and towpath are modified and reused as a road, obliterating the canal structure but generally preserving its route.

          This is not the same as realigning the road alongside the canal structure, but it is usually a realignement of a road that had already undergone that readjustment 70-80 years before.

          Exemplia Gratia:

          • SR 16 west from Frazeysburg

          • SR 104 from Chillicothe north to Mace farm / 12-Mile Basin (canal in part appropriated after Camp Sherman abandoned?)

          • Part of SR 104 between Waverly and Jasper

          • US 33 from Carroll into Lancaster

          • other parts of SR 16 east of Frazeysburg

        5. Railroad-Flank Route Type / Railroad-Side Route Type
        6. Same as above, but with a railroad, instead of a canal: Semi-engineered route - but not because the route itself is engineered. This is a result of railroad construction: The railroad is designed to conform to the terrain, with some earthmoving (more than the canal). Since the railroad assumes superiority in transportation, any nearby roughly parallel road is realigned to be adjacent to the railroad right-of-way. This eliminates landlocked parcels, where usable land would be trapped between the two transportation structures.

          Similar to "access road" created with modern highway or arterial street redesigning.

          Exemplia Gratia:

          • US 50 along the SJ&P/DT&I between Dills and Bainbridge


        7. Railroad Appropriation~ Type
        8. The abandoned railroad bed is modified and reused as a road. This is not the same as realigning the road alongside the railroad structure.

          Exemplia Gratia:

          • CH&D Road in Jackson County. Probably Depression-Era public works project.

          • Road in Athens County using Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad abandoned roadbed. Depression-Era public works project (--- - Athens railroad historian).

          • Railroad road in West Virginia near Ironton (explored 1999).


        9. Road-Flank Route Type / Road-Side Route Type
        10. Same as above, but with a road, instead of a canal or railroad: This is a result of (rarely) canal or (more often) railroad construction in level land, where an existing road already conforms to the terrain, or there is not enough terrain to conform to, and the road is going in the right direction.

          In this case, little earthmoving is needed for the more terrain-sensitive canal or railroad, and so the new canal or railroadis aligned to be adjacent to the road right-of-way. This eliminates landlocked parcels, where usable land would be trapped between the two transportation structures. More importantly, it allows interconnection between the two transpoortation structures such as depots or transfer stations.

          It is not always clear which came first though; investigation into histories may be needed to be sure.

          Exemplia Gratia:

          • B&O and DT&I along SR 65 between Ottowa and Cairo (Ohio, north of Lima) (?)


        11. Parallel Railroad Route Type
        12. Same as above, but with two railroads, instead of a canal or railroad and road: This is a result of a later railroad following in the footsteps of an earlier railroad. It occurs in level to hilly terrain, as long as the two railroads have the same short-term destination.

          Exemplia Gratia:

          • B&O and DT&I along SR 65 between Ottowa and Cairo (Ohio, north of Lima) (?)

          • N&W and C&O through the Scioto Valley from Circleville to Reese

          • B&O and CH&D through the North Fork Valley at [Sulphur Lick station] - though not for long; they change elevation soon and run a few hundred feet from each other for a couple miles


      5. Rectangular~ Route Master Type~
      6. Result of federal (and sometimes state) land survey grid - usually one-mile sections, often quartered. Aligned to cardinal directions, specifically magnetic or astronomical north.

        Roads based on land survey usually disregard terrain, though the rougher the terrain, the more the roads must confom to terrain regardless of the land survey.

        Where section lines don't quite match up, different road intersections are often formed; see Route Elements.


        1. Section-Line Route Type
        2. Road aligned to section-line grid.


          1. QuarterSection-Line Route Subtype
          2. Road aligned to grid of quarter-section, those bisecting each section two ways (resulting in quadrants).


      7. Tangential~ Route Master Type~
        • Straight route across level or gently rolling terrain - terrain not significantly rough enough to warrant adjusting the route to compensate for terrain

        • More in effect as higher technology is used to conform terrain to the route - e.g. Settlement or Pioneer route --> Turnpike route.

        • Often found on Valley Terraces and rolling Uplands.

        • Sideling Level Routes are often a result of the Tangential urge.

        • Though essentially, all efficient routes are tangential...

          Exemplia Gratia:

          • SR 207 near SR 104, Ross County

          • Egypt Pike, west of Pleasant Valley Road, Ross County


          1. Tangential Across Route Type
          2. Straight route across level terrain - thus "across" the level land.

            Often found on Valley Terraces.


          3. Tangential Over Route / Overland Route / Cross-Country Route Type
          4. Straight route across gently rolling terrain - thus "over" the hilly land.

            Often found on rolling Uplands.



  • Way up to "Geography"
  • Up to "Transportation"
  • Over to "Transportation Structures: Nomenclature"
  • Over to "Transportation Structures: Evolution/Chronology"
  • Over to Route Typologies, Part 1: Introduction and Outline of Lists

  • You are at Route Typologies, Part 2: Descriptive Lists

  • Over to Transportation Structures: Route Elements and Glossary (Route Typologies, Part 3)

  • Way over to "Barns"
  • Way over to "Architectural Locations"

    "Transp - Route Typol 2.html" v1.6.1 - 10/25/02, 7/19/02
    Intrepid Historical Services - Kevin B. Coleman - Columbus, Ohio, USA
    (Adapted 06/23/02 in part from "Route Types - A Suggested Typology" v 4.1 -
    Second Draft: August 17, 1999 - Original: May 21, 1998