Skip to main content

California State Route 20; from I-80 in Emigrant Gap west to CA 174

Crossing the Sierras westward from Donner Pass found me on Interstate 80.  Given that I had a substantial jog of freeway ahead headed back to the Fresno area I decided to take a detour onto California State Route 20 westward to CA 174 in Grass Valley.


CA 20 is a long somewhat rural east/west State Highway at 212 miles which begins at I-80 in Nevada County and terminates at CA 1 in Mendocino County.  All of CA 20 was part of Legislative Route Number 15 which was dates back as early as the 1909 First State Highway Bond with a 8.7 mile segment from Williams to Colusa.  In 1919 LRN 15 was greatly expanded during the Third State Highway Bond which stretched from Ukiah at modern day US Route 101 east to Emigrant Gap at LRN 37 at the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Road.  In 1934 all of LRN 15 was assigned CA 20 as a Signed Route Number.

CAhighways.org Highway History Chapter 1

CAhighways.org Highway History Chapter 2

The original extent of CA 20 can be viewed on the 1938 State Highway Map.

1938 State Highway Map

LRN 15 was extended to CA 1 in 1953 during Legislative Chapter 1408.

CAhighways.org on CA 20

The unbuilt extension of LRN 15 can be viewed between Willits at US 101 and Fort Bragg on the 1954 State Highway Map.

1954 State Highway Map

Ultimately a new alignment for LRN 15 was not built and CA 20 was applied to existing roadways between US 101 and CA 1 which can be seen on the 1958 State Highway Map.

1958 State Highway Map

My approach to CA 20 westbound to CA 174 was from Interstate 80 exit 161.  Exit 161 is actually located a couple miles east of Emigrant Gap at the location of a former Central Pacific rail siding known as Yuba Pass.  Yuba Pass is named after the nearby Yuba Gap which is was part of the wagon route over the Sierras traversed by the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Road and is now occupied by I-80.



CA 174 is located 31 miles to the west on CA 20 in Grass Valley.


CA 20 briefly dips southward into Placer County and the Emigrant Gap.  Emigrant Gap was part of the traditional crossing of the Sierras west from Donner Pass.  The Emigrant Gap is a notable drop in the terrain at roughly 5,200 feet where wagon parties would need to lower their wagons by rope. The first wagon crossing of the Emigrant Gap was by the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party in 1845 as they descended the Sierras from Donner Pass.




CA 20 dips north across the Bear River from Emigrant Gap which serves the Nevada County line.



CA 20 west to Nevada City at CA 49 is signed as a Scenic Route.


CA 20 is a curvy highway but well graded.  After a series of wide curves there is a vista along CA 20 of the Omega and Alpha Hydraulic Mines.  The Omega and Alpha Mines were named after towns that were formed in the mid-1850s.  The hydraulic mining eventually consumed both Omega and Alpha but the mining pits in addition to tailings are still evidence.  The Omega Mine operated until 1949.





West of the Omega and Alpha Mine overlook is another vista on CA 20 of Washington Ridge.  Below Washington Ridge is the community of Washington on the South Fork Yuba River.  Washington is one of the Traditional California Gold Rush communities having been settled in 1849.  There is a small monument at the overlooking detailing the history of the Nevada and Washington Toll Road which is now occupied by the right-of-way of CA 20.





CA 20 gradually drops to approximately 3,000 feet above sea level westward to CA 49 in Nevada City.










CA 20 multiplexes CA 49 onto a freeway alignment and enters Grass Valley.





CA 20/49 has a junction with CA 174 in Grass Valley.  I pulled off the CA 20/49 freeway to join CA 174.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Hidden California State Route 710 and the Pasadena Gap in the Long Beach Freeway

Infamous and the subject of much controversy the Pasadena Gap in the Long Beach Freeway has long existed as a contentious topic regarding the completion of Interstate 710 and California State Route 710.  While the Pasadena Gap of the Long Beach Freeway effectively has been legislatively blocked the action only came after decades of controversy.  While the Pasadena Gap of the Long Beach Freeway is fairly well known what many don't know is that a small segment was actually constructed south Interstate 210 and the Foothill Freeway.  This disconnected segment of the Long Beach Freeway exists as the unsigned and largely hidden California State Route 710.  On June 29, 2022 the California Transportation Commission relinquished California State Route 710 to the city of Pasadena.  The blog cover above depicts a southward view on the completed Pasadena stub segment of the Long Beach Freeway which ends at California Boulevard.   Part 1; the history of the Pasadena Gap of the Long Beach Freewa

Deer Isle Bridge in Maine

As graceful a bridge that I ever set my eyes upon, the Deer Isle Bridge (officially known as the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge) surprisingly caught my eye as I was driving around coastal Maine one Saturday afternoon. About 35 miles south of Bangor, Maine , the Deer Isle Bridge connects the Blue Hill Peninsula of Downeast Maine with Little Deer Isle over the Eggemoggin Reach on ME 15 between the towns of Sedgwick and Deer Isle . It should be noted that Little Deer Isle is connected to Deer Isle by way of a boulder lined causeway, and there is a storied regatta that takes place on the Eggemoggin Reach each summer. But the Deer Isle Bridge holds many stories, not just for the vacationers who spend part of their summer on Deer Isle or in nearby Stonington , but for the residents throughout the years and the folks who have had a hand bringing this vital link to life.   The Deer Isle Bridge was designed by David Steinman and built by the Phoenix Bridge Company of Phoenixville,

Paper Highways: Proposed US Route 66 Alternate to Las Vegas, Nevada

During February 1956 the State of Nevada in concurrence with the States of California and Arizona submitted a request to the American Association of State Highway Officials to establish US Route 66 Alternate to Las Vegas.  The proposed US Route 66 Alternate would have originated from mainline US Route 66 in Kingman Arizona and followed a multiplex of US Routes 93-466 to Las Vegas, Nevada.  From Las Vegas, Nevada the proposed US Route 66 Alternate would have multiplexed US Routes 91-466 back to mainline US Route 66 in Barstow, California.  The request to establish US Route 66 Alternate was denied during June 1956 due to it being completely multiplexed with other US Routes.  This blog will examine the timeline of the US Route 66 Alternate proposal to Las Vegas, Nevada. The history of the proposed US Route 66 Alternate to Las Vegas, Nevada On February 15, 1956, the Nevada State Highway Engineer in a letter to the American Association of State Highways Officials (AASHO) advising that six c