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US Route 50 over Echo Summit

After traversing Lake Tahoe via Emerald Bay on California State Route 89 I approached the junction with US 50 in South Lake Tahoe.  My final crossing of the Sierras was westbound on US 50 over Echo Summit.



From Lake Tahoe Boulevard US 50 West/CA 89 South multiplex south past Lake Tahoe Airport and pass through an agriculture checkpoint.  CA 89 splits away southbound through Luther Pass while US 50 continues towards Echo Summit.





At the Upper Truckee River the guide sign states that Placerville is 54 miles to the west on US 50.  Originally US 50/CA 89 would have turned left ahead in the photo on Upper Truckee Road.  CA 89 continued south on Upper Truckee Road through Luther Pass while US 50 used Lincoln Highway on the Meyers Grade to cross the crest of the Sierras on Johnson Pass.  I'll detail the alignment shift of US 50 to the modern routing over Echo Summit towards the end of this blog.


US 50 begins to quickly make the climb towards Echo Summit.  About halfway up the climb to Echo Summit US 50 intersects it's old alignment on Lincoln Highway.  The lower portion of the Lincoln Highway is closed while the upper portion is still open to traffic over Johnson Pass.




The abandoned portion of the Lincoln Highway serves as a makeshift vista of Lake Tahoe to the north and Luther Pass below.




The final climb to Echo Summit at 7,382 feet above sea level is pretty tame compared to most passes in the Sierras.  US 50 begins to follow the South Fork American River and picks up the other end of the Johnson Pass route of the Lincoln Highway near the Echo Lake Snow Park.




The westbound drop of US 50 along the South Fork American River is fairly dramatic but often has passing areas for both directions of travel.  There are 6% grades posted for down hill traffic.








Gradually US 50 and the South Fork American River level out.  US 50 is largely a two lane road as it continues the South Fork American River.  I had to stop at the river to cool my brakes down again due to them still overheating from CA 89 at Lake Tahoe.








As US 50 begins to approach Signed County Route E16 it widens out to an expressway that continues in the same configuration to Placerville.  Given all the problems I was having with my brakes I decided to head onto E16 given there would be far less traffic than US 50 or even CA 49.





As mentioned above US 50 used the old alignment of the Johnson Pass Branch of the Lincoln Highway.  US 50 was realigned first over Echo Summit in 1940 followed by the lower portion of the Lincoln Highway on the Meers Grade in 1947.  I was provided with links to the California Highway and Public Works articles showing the alignment changes in US 50 which can be found here.

US 50 realignment over Echo Summit

US 50 realignment off of the Lincoln Highway

The original alignment of US 50 over Johnson pass can be seen on the 1935 California Division of Highways Map of El Dorado County.

1935 El Dorado County Map 

The general route of US 50 from Placerville to the Nevada State Line was adopted from the Placerville Road which was a private toll road in 1895.  The Placerville Road was the first state highway in California, more details can be found at CAhighways.org.

CAhighways on US 50

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