Skip to main content

November Bay Area Trip Park 9; Firebaugh's Ferry

Heading home from San Francisco it seemed somewhat passe to take another boring slog down CA 99 to Fresno. That being the case I decided on something I've been looking which proved to be far more entertaining; hunting down the location of Firebaugh's Ferry.  After getting over Pacheco Pass via CA 152 I took a southward turn on I-5 to Nees Avenue towards Firebaugh.  Firebaugh is a small city located in Fresno County along CA 33 on the western bank of the San Joaquin River.  The area was settled during the California Gold Rush with creation of Firebaugh's Ferry in 1854.


Firebaugh's Ferry was opened by Andrew Firebaugh who was a somewhat notable historical figure during the California Gold Rush.  Firebaugh was also the builder of the first toll road over Pacheco Pass which is followed roughly by modern California State Route 152.  Both Firebaugh's Ferry and the Pacheco Pass Toll Road were part of the Butterfield Overland Mail Route between St. Louis and San Francisco which operated from 1858 to 1861.

The location of Firebaugh's Ferry was located somewhere north of the 13th Street Bridge over the San Joaquin River.  The Ferry Dock was located somewhere between the 1885 Firebaugh Drawbridge and the 13th Street Bridge.


South of the 13th Street Bridge there is a plaque about Firebaugh's Ferry and Andrew Firebaugh located in Firebaugh City Park.




During the 1800s the San Joaquin River would have been infinitely more treacherous than it is today.  The San Joaquin River with in San Joaquin Valley was prone to flooding from water run-off from the Sierras and in some instances the extinct Tulare Lake via Fresno Slough.  The river was known to swell to huge widths with in San Joaquin Valley due to the flatness of the terrain.  Most early roads in Central California like the Stockton-Los Angeles Road generally flanked the foothills of the Sierras or the Diablo Range due to the chances of encountering an a river crossing which couldn't be passed.  Millerton to the east was example of a ferry that utilized higher elevations to make for an easier ferry crossing of the San Joaquin River.  Ever since the Friant Dam was built along San Joaquin River in addition to the Big Creek project flood waters have been largely controlled by impoundments.  Today the San Joaquin River is often low enough to be easily swam across or possibly walked.


Firebaugh's Ferry was replaced by the 1885 Firebaugh Drawbridge which used to be located on 12th Street.  1885 Firebaugh Drawbridge was replaced in 1948 but the ruins of the structure are still present on the west river bank.  Firebaugh as a settlement was large enough to warrant a permanent Post Office by 1865 and was incorporated into a city by 1914.  A map of Fresno County in 1891 shows an apparent bridge over the San Joaquin River in Firebaugh.

1891 Fresno County Map

A clear road over the San Joaquin River in Firebaugh without a ferry is shown on a 1896 map of California.

1896 Map of Central California

Andrew Firebaugh was part of the 1851 battle in the Mariposa War which led to the first European discovery of Yosemite Valley.  Apparently Andrew Firebaugh had some hand in founding Academy the first secondary school along modern CA 168 in eastern Fresno County in 1872.  Given that the Firebaugh was buried on Tollhouse Road I would speculate that he had something to do with the lumber routes that eventually became CA 168 as well.

After visiting the city and trying to track down the ferry location it was a short ride to the east on CA 180 back to Fresno.  Suffice to say the two day weekend trip to the Bay Area was a packed one, usually I try to space things out a little but it was a long overdue road trip.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Where the hell is Hill Valley? (US Route 8 south/US Route 395 east)

Recently I made a visit to Universal Studios near Los Angeles.  While on the back lot tour I came across a piece of infamous movie-borne fictional highway infamy; the location of town square of Hill Valley, California on US Route 8/US Route 395.


The above photo is part of the intro scene to the first Back-to-the-Future movie which was set in 1985. To anyone who follows roadways the signage error of US 8 meeting US 395 in California is an immediately notable error.  For one; US 8 doesn't even exist anywhere near California with present alignment being signed as an east/west highway between Norway, Michigan and Forest Lake, Minnesota.  To make matters worse US 8 is signed as a southbound route and US 395 (a north/south highway) is signed as an eastbound route.  At minimum the cut-out US 8 and US 395 shields somewhat resemble what Caltrans used in the 1980s.

Assuming Hill Valley is located on what would have been US 395 by 1985 what locales would be a viable real world analog?  US 39…

"Governor Hunt Cuts Ribbon on Doomsday" - The drawnout legal battle to build the I-95 Fayetteville Bypass

It is Monday, December 15, 1980.  North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt and many other dignitaries take part in a ribbon cutting ceremony opening a new 17 mile stretch of Interstate 95 in Cumberland County.  The new road bypasses Fayetteville to the east and completes Interstate 95 in North Carolina - closing a significant gap in what many consider the backbone highway of the East Coast.  The new road moved Interstate traffic from an at-grade, four lane US 301 lined with numerous motels and restaurants onto a fully controlled and traffic light-free limited access freeway. 

Meanwhile at a Quality Inn along US 301 in Fayetteville, a billboard read "Governor Hunt Cuts Ribbon on Doomsday."(1)

The ribbon cutting put an end to over a decade long heated battle over the routing of Interstate 95 around Fayetteville.  One that made it all the way to the steps of the United States Supreme Court.



Interstate 95 in North Carolina History:

The 181 mile Interstate 95 has a unique story in Nort…

The Arroyo Seco Parkway and early terminus points of US Route 66 in Los Angeles

This past month I visited the original terminus of US Route 66 on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles and drove the entirety of the Arroyo Seco Parkway to Pasadena.


The Arroyo Seco Parkway is a 8.162 mile section of freeway which traverses from the Four-Level Interchange in downtown Los Angeles north/northeast following the Arroyo Seco to Pasadena.  The Arroyo Seco Parkway is currently designated as part of California State Route 110 but is more widely known as being a classic component of US Route 66.  While US 66 used the entirety of the Arroyo Seco Parkway the freeway also carried US 6, US 99 and CA 11 at different points throughout it's long history.  The Arroyo Seco Parkway is the oldest freeway in the western United States and depending on the definition used it can be considered the oldest in the United States.

Before the Arroyo Seco Parkway travel between Pasadena and Los Angeles on US 66 was routed on surface roads that largely avoided the Arroyo Seco.  Prior to 1933 the Dep…