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California State Route 18; the Rim of the World Highway to California State Route 138

While visiting the San Bernardino area this past week I drove California State Route 18 up the Rim of the World Highway in the San Bernardino Mountains to California State Route 138.

CA 18 is one of the original 1934 Signed State Highways and perhaps has the oddest alignment which forms an almost 270 degree semi-circle.  The present route of CA 18 begins in San Bernardino and ends to the northwest in the Mojave Desert in Los Angeles County at CA 138.  CA 18 between Sierra Way in San Bernardino close to the vicinity of CA 330 is known as the Rim of the World Highway.  The "Rim of the World" name refers to the fact that CA 18 runs along the ridge line of the San Bernardino Mountains which offers almost countless scenic vistas.  In my personal opinion CA 18 between CA 210 and CA 138 is the most unique, scenic and engaging at-grade expressway in the California State Highway system.

The genesis of what became CA 18 between San Bernardino and Victorville was part of Legislative Route Number 43.  LRN 43 was first adopted into the State Highway System in 1917 according to between the end of the San Bernardino County maintained pavement in Waterman Canyon easterly towards Bear Valley.  At the time the Rim of the World Highway was known as the equally appropriately named Crest Drive. on LRN 43

The initial path of LRN 43 on Crest Drive can be seen as a "Special Appropriations Road" on the 1918 State Highway Map.

1918 State Highway Map

Waterman Canyon has been a source of transportation since the California Gold Rush.  Crest Drive/Rim of the World Highway was initially constructed in 1852 as a logging road by Mormon settlers in what is now modern day San Bernardino County.  The building of Crest Drive is eluded to in this City of San Bernardino article regarding Arrowhead Springs.

City of San Bernardino on Arrowhead Springs

Transportation up Crest Drive became suddenly increasingly important following the discovery of Gold in Holcomb Valley located near modern day Bear Lake.  A large town known as Belleville developed around the Holcomb Valley mining claims.  Growth in Belleville was so rapid that it almost took the San Bernardino County seat from San Bernardino.  Although the Gold Rush in Holcomb Valley last about a decade mining continued in the area until the 1910s.  By the turn of the 20th Century the crest of the San Bernardino Mountains had become an increasingly popular locale for recreation.  It appears that one of the primary drivers in adding Crest Drive to the State Highway system was likely to eliminate the toll facility that can be seen present on the 1908 USGS Map of San Bernardino below.

1908 USGS Map of San Bernardino

A 1919 Third State Highway Bond Act measure extended LRN 43 over Bear Valley Dam, this is reflected on the 1920 State Highway Map.  Previously LRN 43 had been routed north of Bear Lake (which would become part of CA 38).

1920 State Highway Map

According to LRN 43 was extended south from Waterman Canyon to Newport Beach in 1931 and to Victorville by 1933. These two changes are reflective on the 1934 State Highway Map.

1934 State Highway Map

By 1934 CA 18 was added to LRN 43 between US 70/99 at Colton Avenue in San Bernardino north to US 66 in Victorville via D Street.  CA 18 first can be seen on the 1938 State Highway Map.

1938 State Highway Map

The south terminus of CA 18 in San Bernardino under went numerous changes into the 1950s/1960s which developed into the unsigned CA 259 freeway.  More information on the south terminus of CA 18 can be found below.

California State Route 259; TO I-215/CA 210

As I-15 was developed CA 18 would eventually be extended on former US 66/91 in Victorville to meet it.  According to CA 18 was extended west to CA 138 over what had been designated as LRN 268.  This extension of LRN 268 can be seen on the 1969 State Highway Map.

1969 State Highway Map 

The 1969 State Highway Map is also notable in that it shows part of CA 18 from San Bernardino to Crestline partially built up to four-lane expressway standards.  The 1970 map shows the same alignment built up to four-lane expressway standards.

1970 State Highway Map

My approach to CA 18 and the Rim of the World Highway was via CA 259 north to CA 210 east.  From CA 210 east I took the Waterman Avenue exit for CA 18.

CA 18 heads directly northbound on Waterman Avenue towards Waterman Canyon.  Truck traffic is given several length advisory warnings.

CA 18 traffic heading north towards Waterman Canyon is advised there is a historic marker of the "Arrowhead."  The Arrowhead refers to a rock formation located in the San Bernardino mountains.

At Sierra Way the route of CA 18 on Waterman Avenue becomes Rim of the World Highway.

Traffic on CA 18 heading north on the Rim of the World Highway is advised there is 14 miles of climbing ahead.

CA 18 on Rim of the World Highway enters San Bernardino National Forest.

CA 18 meets the original Waterman Canyon Route alignment at Old Waterman Canyon Road.  It appears this segment of road was ultimately replaced when LRN 43 was extended south into San Bernardino and Newport Beach.

The climb through Waterman Canyon on CA 18/Rim of the World Highway is fast and steady.

The four-lane expressway winds through the terrain and has several traffic pullouts which double as vistas.  This particular vista looks below to Old Waterman Canyon Road.

CA 18/Rim of the World Highway has a second junction with Old Waterman Canyon Road.  Just prior to the junction CA 18 crosses over 3,000 feet above sea level. 

CA 18/Rim of the World Highway continues to twist through the San Bernardino Mountains to an elevation of 4,000 feet above sea level.

The vista at 4,000 feet offers a wide view of San Bernardino Valley and the Rim of the World Highway ascending the San Bernardino Mountains.  I-215 can even be seen to the west in the second picture below.

CA 18/Rim of the World Highway continues as a four-lane expressway to CA 138 before dropping to two-lanes.  I turned off of CA 18 onto CA 138 head westward towards Cajon Pass.


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