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California State Route 59/Signed County Route J59

Saturday morning I had some free time and decided to finish up a couple nearby routes.  I made my way up from Fresno to California State Route 152 in Madera County to the south terminus of CA 59.






CA 59 is a 34 mile north/south state highway almost entirely in Merced County.  Only the very southern tip of CA 59 is located within Madara County at CA 152.  I was traveling northbound in a heavy Tule Fog.


El Nido is the first community on northbound CA 59 only 4 miles from CA 152.  El Nido apparently was founded in the 1910s/1920s and unlike many San Joaquin Valley locales it appears to be more than a name on a map.  I did notice there was a general store, school, and even a Fire Deparment.


The Merced Wildlife Refuge can be reached from CA 59 by traveling west on the amusingly named Sandy Mush Road.  This particular area of San Joaquin Valley tends to still resemble an inland wetland as it is within close proximity to the San Joaquin River and it's distributarys.


South of the city limits of Merced I did find a business sporting a US Route 59 shield by mistake instead of a California Spade.


 CA 59 enters the city of Merced at Childs Avenue.


CA 59 is signed on Martin Luther King Jr Way entering downtown Merced northbound.  CA 59 a multiplex of the CA 99/CA 140 freeway for a block west. 




CA 59 northbound exits multiplexed with CA 140 westbound onto 14th Street.  CA 59 northbound turns north on V Street while CA 140 westbound turns left.





CA 59 northbound crosses a series of rail tracks and quickly turns west onto 16th Street which is also the CA 99 Business Loop.  The signage placement on this section of CA 59 is placed high up with the traffic light.



16th Street was an old alignment of US 99.  I'm not sure if CA 59 was ever completely on 16th Street all the way to Martin Luther King Jr. but I do know that it's unsigned precursor Legislative Route Number 123.  There is a nice little bridge that CA 59/CA 99 BL uses before CA 59 splits north on Snelling Highway.





CA 59 crosses another series of rails and junctions Signed County Route J7 at Santa Fe Drive.


CA 59 northbound exits Merced and begins to approach the watershed of the Merced River. The only major junction before the Merced River is Oakdale Road.





CA 59 crosses the Merced River only a couple miles southwest from Snelling.  The Merced River is a 145 mile long river which flows westward out of the Sierras to the San Joaquin River.  The Merced River is obviously most well known as the river that cuts through Yosemite Valley.  The Yosemite Valley Railroad used to travel the same region, but that can be read up in more detail on the CA 140 blog.


North of the Merced River CA 59 intersects Turlock Road which is CR J17.  CR J17 is signed in the field but for some reason isn't from CA 59.


Snelling Road takes traffic south back to Merced.  In previous trips I've found Snelling Road to be a better route from Merced to Snelling than CA 59.


East of Snelling Road it is only one mile to Snelling.  I'm not certain if CA 59 ends at the sign for Snelling, the state highway maps are generally unclear on the topic and I didn't see any state mileage markers.



Snelling has been occupied since 1851 and was the Merced County seat from 1857 to 1872.  Snelling was on the 1853 alignment of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road which was developed during the Kern River Gold Rush and the location of a ferry crossing of the Merced River.  Snelling declined in importance after the county seat moved but the village lingered on mostly due to the once nearby Yosemite Valley Railroad.  Today Snelling is mainly an alternate route to Yosemite National Park from San Joaquin Valley. 





The original 1857 Merced County Courthouse is located on CA 59 in Snelling.




CA 59 appears to snake through Snelling and may be multiplexed with CR J16 on Merced Falls Road.  The "end" truck route shield tends to indicate to me that CA 59 terminates at the junction of Merced Falls and La Grange Road.



The odd terminus of CA 59 has a logical location when you consider that CA 65 was intended to meet the north terminus near Snelling.  The extension of CA 65 was never built which leaves the terminus of CA 59 hanging in the middle of nowhere to this day.  However, "Route 59" continues northward for another 26 miles to CA 108/120 via Signed County Route J59 via La Grange Road.


After a couple miles of vistas looking at the Sierras CR J59 enters Stanislaus County.



I'm fairly certain CR J59 used to follow Old La Grange Road on the right at one point.  There is a small reservoir that cuts off access to La Grange via Old La Grange Road, I'm not sure when it was built.


North of Old La Grange Road CR J59 passes by Dawson Lake.  There is a small historical marker near Dawson Lake for the Tuolumne Gold Dredge which operated from 1938 to 1951.




CR J59 intersects CA 132 just west of La Grange.  The Tuolumne River can be seen ahead on CR J59 north of CA 132.


Within La Grange a second section of Old La Grange Road is north of CA 132.  The abandoned section of roadway leads up to the Old La Grange Bridge which was completed in 1914.  The Old La Grange Bridge was restored from 1987 to 1989 which is when I speculate that La Grange Road was realigned to the west.  The Tuolumne River can easily be accessed and the Old La Grange Road is pedestrian accessible.









La Grange dates back to 1852 and is one of the many classic California Gold Rush towns.  La Grange had a large French population and was the Stanislaus County seat from 1856 to 1862 when it was moved to Knight's Ferry.  Much like the bulk of the Gold Rush towns on CA 49 there are plenty of mining period buildings still standing.


Continuing north on modern CR J59 over the Tuolumne River.


North of the Tuolumne River CR J59 enters the hills of Tuolumne County.  The road is good north to CA 108/120 and has plenty of high speed curves.  J59 usually is usually on my planned routes to Lake Tahoe and Carson City due to the low traffic and ease of the drive.




CR J59 crosses a series of railroad tracks and drops down a hill where it terminates at CA 108/120.





According to CAhighways.org CA 59 was first created in 1961 from the previous unsigned LRN 123.  LRN 123 was adopted in 1933 and largely has remained the same since inception.  CR J59 appears to have been created from CA 59 in Snelling north to La Grange in 1961 then extended to CA 108/120 in 1974.  I haven't seen anything in my map research that shows anything difference than described by CAhighways.org, so that being the case I put the links for CA 59 and J59 below.

CAhighways on CA 59

CAhighways on CR J59

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