Skip to main content

Throwback Thursday; Catalina Highway

Back in 2012 I took a drive up the Catalina Highway through the Santa Catalina Range to Summerhaven near the 9,159 foot summit of Mount Lemmon.






The Catalina Highway is a 27 mile scenic route which starts at Tanque Verde Road in northeast Tucson and ends at Summerhaven within Coronado National Forest.  The Catalina Highway was constructed from 1933 to 1950 and is designated as Arizona Forest Route 39.  The original Catalina Highway was considered somewhat dangerous with narrow roadways and steep cliff-faces that were a hazard to traffic.  The Catalina Highway improved to the modern configuration from 1988 to 2007.

I started out fairly early in the morning ascending the Catalina Highway.  The lower elevations of the highway have typical plant life seen in the Sonoran Desert.





The Catalina Highway ascends rapidly but never had what I would consider a steep grade.  The Catalina Highway has wide shoulders which makes the road very popular with cyclists.  The increase in elevation yields a change of plant life resembling that of the nearby Chihuahuan Desert.












There are various pull-outs on the Catalina Highway offering wide vistas of the Sonoran Desert below.  As the terrain ascends the plant life becomes similar to what is typically seen on the Colorado Plateau with Ponderosa Pines making an appearance.






The grade of the Catalina Highway snakes through the Santa Catalina.  I don't recall how steep the road was but I would speculate it didn't exceed 10% at any point.






The vista near the top of the Catalina Highway offer wide views of the Sonoran Desert the roadway ascending the Santa Catalinas below.









Above the 7,000 foot line views shift towards the San Pedro River Watershed.







At about 8,000 the Catalina Highway begins to approach Summerhaven and Mount Lemmon.









Summerhaven apparently has about 40 full-time residents.  The community largely consists of people seeking temperatures 30F degrees cooler than the Sonoran Desert below in Tucson.  There are heavy burn scars from the 2003 Aspen Fire which apparently burned approximately 250 homes.








Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Paper Highways: The Unbuilt New Orleans Bypass (Proposed I-410)

  There are many examples around the United States of proposed freeway corridors in urban areas that never saw the light of day for one reason or another. They all fall somewhere in between the little-known and the infamous and from the mundane to the spectacular. One of the more obscure and interesting examples of such a project is the short-lived idea to construct a southern beltway for the New Orleans metropolitan area in the 1960s and 70s. Greater New Orleans and its surrounding area grew rapidly in the years after World War II, as suburban sprawl encroached on the historically rural downriver parishes around the city. In response to the development of the region’s Westbank and the emergence of communities in St. Charles and St. John the Baptist Parishes as viable suburban communities during this period, regional planners began to consider concepts for new infrastructure projects to serve this growing population.  The idea for a circular freeway around the southern perimeter of t

Hernando de Soto Bridge (Memphis, TN)

The newest of the bridges that span the lower Mississippi River at Memphis, the Hernando de Soto Bridge was completed in 1973 and carries Interstate 40 between downtown Memphis and West Memphis, AR. The bridge’s signature M-shaped superstructure makes it an instantly recognizable landmark in the city and one of the most visually unique bridges on the Mississippi River. As early as 1953, Memphis city planners recommended the construction of a second highway bridge across the Mississippi River to connect the city with West Memphis, AR. The Memphis & Arkansas Bridge had been completed only four years earlier a couple miles downriver from downtown, however it was expected that long-term growth in the metro area would warrant the construction of an additional bridge, the fourth crossing of the Mississippi River to be built at Memphis, in the not-too-distant future. Unlike the previous three Mississippi River bridges to be built the city, the location chosen for this bridge was about two

Memphis & Arkansas Bridge (Memphis, TN)

  Like the expansion of the railroads the previous century, the modernization of the country’s highway infrastructure in the early and mid 20th Century required the construction of new landmark bridges along the lower Mississippi River (and nation-wide for that matter) that would facilitate the expected growth in overall traffic demand in ensuing decades. While this new movement had been anticipated to some extent in the Memphis area with the design of the Harahan Bridge, neither it nor its neighbor the older Frisco Bridge were capable of accommodating the sharp rise in the popularity and demand of the automobile as a mode of cross-river transportation during the Great Depression. As was the case 30 years prior, the solution in the 1940s was to construct a new bridge in the same general location as its predecessors, only this time the bridge would be the first built exclusively for vehicle traffic. This bridge, the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge, was completed in 1949 and was the third