The original California State Route 194 was a short lived post-1964 Sign State Route designation located in Sierra County near Downieville. The original California State Route 194 was defined as being aligned from "Route 49 near Downieville to Eureka Mine Road near Saddleback Mountain." The original California State Route 194 was deleted in 1965 via Legislative Chapter 1372. What became the original California State Route 194 was brought into the State Highway System in 1907 and would become Legislative Route Number 36. Below Legislative Route Number 36 can be seen aligned north from Downieville to Saddleback Mountain on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Sierra County. The cover photo of this blog depicts an eastward view from the terminus of what was California State Route 194 on Saddleback Road at California State Route 49/Cannon Point looking towards Downieville.
The history of the original California State Route 194
Gold on the North Fork Yuba River was discovered by Francis Anderson on September 14, 1849. During the Fall of 1849 William Downie led an expedition to what is now the confluence of the Downie River and North Fork Yuba River. Downie's party was successful in finding gold and set up a mining community which was originally known as "The Forks." The Forks would soon come to be renamed "Downieville" in honor of William Downie.
Downieville would soon grow into the largest community in the area of the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains around the Eureka Mines District. By 1851 Downieville would reach a population of approximately 5,000 which made it one of the largest communities in California during the early California Gold Rush. When Sierra County was created in 1852 the community of Downieville was selected as the County Seat. During 1853 Downieville would be one of several communities which would vie to replace Vallejo as the State Capitol. Downieville would ultimately lose its bid to become the California State Capitol to Benicia. Downieville can be seen on the 1857 Britton & Rey's Map of California on a stage road branching from the Henness Pass Highway north of Forest City.
Between 1848 and 1860 approximately 16,000 thousand people would settle in what would become Sierra County around the claims of the Eureka Mining District. Downieville can be seen at the end of a stage road on the 1873 Bancroft's Map of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Northwest of Downieville Eureka North Mine can be seen.
From the overlook of Downieville on California State Route 49 a plaque containing a copy of 1874 United States Geological Survey map of Sierra County can be found. Said map of Sierra County displays a road departing north of Downieville. The road branches northwest of Downieville with one path heading to the Eureka North Mine and the other ascending to Saddleback Mountain to a community known as Deadwood.
The roads to the Eureka North Mine and Saddleback Mountain can both be seen departing Downieville on the 1882 Bancroft's Map of California and Nevada. The Eureka Mining District was extensively worked via placer claims from the 1850s to the 1880s. The Eureka Mining District contained numerous communities which became ghost towns such as Eureka, Craig's Flat, Morristown and Monte Cristo. According to thediggins.com the largest community in the Eureka Mining District was Eureka. According to thediggins.com the Eureka Mining District was sporadically worked through the 1930s via hydraulic mining.
The Sierra State Highway was defined by 1907 Legislative Chapter 116. The definition was of the Sierra State Highway was defined as follows:
"An act to make an appropriation for the location, survey, and construction of a state highway from a point known as the Mt. Pleasant Ranch on the road between Quincy and Marysville thence in a SE-ly direction by a place called Eureka to Downieville, Sierra Cty."
By 1915 the Department of Highways internally designated the existing State Highways after the issuance of the first two State Highway Bond Acts. The Sierra State Highway came to be internally known as Legislative Route Number 36 "LRN 36."
The January 1915 California Highway Bulletin described a surveying trip by the California Highway Commission on the projected path of LRN 36 between Downieville and Quincy. The California Highway Commission is noted to have ordered surveys to connect Downieville other counties and centers of population on September 22, 1914.
LRN 36 appears on the 1918 California Highway Commission Map as a special appropriations road. LRN 36 is displayed with the simplified definition of "Downieville to Mount Pleasant." Notably Mount Pleasant and Mount Pleasant Ranch appear in some publications as once active claims in the Eureka Mining District.
The 1920 California Highway Commission Map displays LRN 36 as being a special appropriations road which was now state maintained. LRN 36 is shown to be aligned between Downieville to the vicinity of the Eureka Mine via the Eureka Mine Road.
LRN 36 is described in the January/February 1929 California Highways & Public Works. LRN 36 is described as an unimproved local road taken over by the State between Downieville and Mount Pleasant in 1907. LRN 36 is described as being 6 miles long and as having a traffic count of 9 vehicles a day.
The 1935 Division of Highways Map of Sierra County displays LRN 36 in detail. LRN 36 is displayed as beginning at California State Route 49/LRN 25 at Cannon Point and following the Eureka Mine Road to Saddleback Mountain. The Eureka Mine Road is displayed on modern maps as Saddleback Road.
The 1936-37 Division of Highways Map displays LRN 36 as "Downieville to Mount Pleasant Ranch."
The 1938 Division of Highways Map displays LRN 36 as "Mount Pleasant Ranch to Downieville via Eureka."
The 1955 Division of Highways Map displays LRN 36 as being simplified to a definition of "Mount Pleasant Ranch to Downieville."
During the 1964 State Highway Renumbering the Legislative Route Numbers were dropped in favor of field signage. Legislative Route Numbers which lacked a Sign State Route were subsequently assigned on. What had been LRN 36 was renumbered as the first iteration of California State Route 194. The original definition of California State Route 194 was "Downieville to Eureka Mine Road near Saddleback Mountain." California State Route 194 first appears on the 1964 Division of Highways Map. The circular “194” on the 1964 Division of Highways Map conveyed California State Route 194 did not have on-route reassurance shields.
California State Route 194 was deleted by way of 1965 Legislative Chapter 1372. No specific insight as to why California State Route 194 was decommissioned is sited in the California Highways & Public Works publication is noted.
The September/October 1965 California Highways & Public Works provides an indirect reference for the rationale behind the removal of California State Route 194. 1965 Legislative Chapter 1372 also deleted California State Route 188 and removed Fallen Leaf Lake Road from the State Highway System. The deletion of California State Route 188 is announced in the September/October 1965 California Highways & Public Works. California State Route 188 was described a 4.7-mile State Highway which was unimproved single lane highway which was lightly traveled. The description of California State Route 188 is as a single-lane unimproved road is notably similar to California State Route 194.
As noted in the intro the cover photo of this blog depicts an eastward view from the terminus of what was California State Route 194 on Saddleback Road at California State Route 49/Cannon Point looking towards Downieville.
Below is a series of views from California State Route 49 southbound facing the beginning of Saddleback Road (courtesy Josh Schmid). Signage indicates Saddleback Road to be unimproved and rated for a maximum carrying capacity of 7,000 pounds.