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US Route 395; Nevada State Line south to California State Route 14 (Adventure on El Camino Sierra)

Since returning to the West Coast in 2016 I have spent a considerable amount of time out on the corridor of US Route 395 in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.  US 395 from the Nevada State Line south to California State Route 14 consists of a section which was once part of  a road known as El Camino Sierra.


The route of US 395 from Sonora Pass south to CA 14 occupies a corridor that was once part of the early Auto Trail known as El Camino Sierra.  El Camino Sierra continued southward on the corridor of CA 14 towards Mojave which was once part of US 6.  Gradually as time progressed El Camino Sierra came to be known as Sierra Highway and continued as far south as Newhall Pass along US 6.  El Camino Sierra and especially the portion now occupied by US 395 is known as scenic highway which accesses some of the most notable features of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

European Explorers may have reached the Mono Basin and Owens Valley of the Eastern Sierra Range as early as 1826 during the Jedediah Smith Expedition of Alta California.  The first confirmed record of a European Explorer crossing through the region was Joseph Walker whom traversed Walker Pass (modern CA 178) north through Owens Valley over the modern Nevada State Line at Montgomery Pass (modern US 6).   By 1849 Gold had been found at Sutter's Mill in Coloma which began the California Gold Rush on the western flank of the Sierra Range.  California was granted U.S. Statehood in 1850 but it wasn't until the discover the Comstock Lode in Utah Territory in 1859 that prospectors became interested in the Eastern Sierra Range.  This road map of California in 1857 shows the path of the 1834 Fremont Expedition traversing from Walker Pass to Montgomery Pass.  Of note; Owens Lake is shown as being located in Tulare County whereas Mono Lake are shown in Fresno County, Mariposa County and Calaveras County.

1857 Road Map of California

By 1860 a new wagon road known as the Los Angeles-Inyo Road was formed to facilitate travel to the Eastern Sierra Range.  By 1861 Mono County was formed around the Mono Basin and new mining claims based largely in the original County Seat of Aurora (which was later found to be in Nevada).   In 1864 Coso County was was formed around the Owens Valley Region but was quickly reformed into Inyo County by 1866.

In 1873 a freighter by the name of Remi Nadeau constructed a route from the mines of Cerro Gordo southward along the eastern shores of Owens Lake to Olancha.  The new roadway which was known as the Bullion Road connected to the already existing Los Angeles-Inyo Road.  The Bullion Road began to be improved by the construction of the First Los Angeles Aqueduct which began in 1908.  Some early photos of the Bullion Road and El Camino Sierra along with more of it's backstory of both can be found on owensvalleyhistory.com. 

owensvalleyhistory.com on the Bullion Road and El Camino Sierra

El Camino Sierra has origins in the formation of the Inyo Good Roads Club which was founded in April of 1910.  El Camino Sierra was formally dedicated in August of 1910 during a tour of the planned route which was attended by then California Governor James Gillett.  More about the formation of El Camino Sierra can be found on theothersideofcalifornia.com.

othersideofcalifornia.com on the History of El Camino Sierra

El Camino Sierra unlike El Camino Real didn't have an actual Spanish analog.  El Camino Sierra was a similar attempt to promote a route as a major automotive highway in California after the formation of the American El Camino Real.  The American El Camino Real began installing bells along the route of what would become US 101 between Los Angeles north to San Francisco.  El Camino Sierra and the American El Camino Real are some of the earliest attempts to sign what would be eventually came to be known as a promoted Auto Trail.

CAhighways.org on El Camino Real

The creation of El Camino Sierra occurred roughly alongside the expansion of Legislative Route Number 23.  LRN 23 was loosely defined first in 1901 as a State Highway running from Long Barn eastward over Sonora Pass to Bridgeport.  The 1909 First State Highway Bond Act (which was approved by voters in 1910) expanded LRN 23 southward to LRN 4 (future US 99) in Saugus and clarified the north terminus as Bridgeport.  LRN 23 would be further expanded northward via the planned route over Monitor Pass to LRN 11 on the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road (future south route of the Lincoln Highway and US 50).   More regarding the history of LRN 23 can be found on CAhighways.org.

CAhighways.org on LRN 23 

Starting in 1913 the Midland Trail began being signed.  The route of the Midland Trail in California originally had several branches that split away from each other on El Camino Sierra after the mainline route entered the state via Westgard Pass (modern CA 168):

-   One route went north to Tioga Pass (modern CA 120) towards San Francisco.
-   A second route went further north to Lake Tahoe and crossed the Sierra Range via Placerville (future US 50) towards San Francisco.
-  A third route went south and went through Tehachapi Pass (future CA 58) into San Joaquin Valley with an ultimate terminus of San Francisco.  This spur of the Midland Trail appears to have been initially planned to be routed over a new highway over Piute Pass (unbuilt CA 168) on a short-cut to Fresno.
-  The fourth route continued down El Camino Sierra towards Los Angeles.  This fourth route ultimately would become what was considered the mainline of the Midland Trail.

The 1917 California State Automobile Association highway map of California is the earliest edition that I can find which displays El Camino Sierra running from Coleville south to Saugus.

1917 CSAA Map

The first State Highway Map to display LRN 23 was published in 1918.  The 1918 State Highway Map shows much of LRN 23 from Bridgeport south to Saugus as only a proposed road.  The 1918 State Highway Map shows that LRN 23 was likely graded south of the Tioga Pass Road, graded near the Long Valley Reservoir, partially paved/graded between Bishop and Independence, and partially graded/paved between Palmdale south to Saugus.

1918 State Highway Map

El Camino Sierra can be seen as an Auto Trail marked with signs stating "ECS" on this 1920 Clauson Highway Map of California.  The Midland Trail (formally known as the National Roosevelt Midland Trail) is marked as "NRM."

1920 Clauson California Highway Map 

The 1920 State Highway Map shows El Camino Sierra paved between Palmdale south to Saugus.  Further grading is shown extending south from Long Valley Reservoir in Mono County.

1920 State Highway Map

According to owensvalleyhistory LRN 23 was further funded during the 1919 Third State Highway Bond Act.  By 1922 the route of El Camino Sierra/LRN 23 was paved between Lancaster north to Mojave.  This is reflected on the 1922 State Highway Map along with numerous segments showing with paving under construction.

1922 State Highway Map

The 1924 State Highway Map shows El Camino Sierra/LRN 23 paved from Mojave south to Saugus.  A further segment of pavement is shown complete to the north extending outward from Bishop.

1924 State Highway Map 

On the 1924 Rand McNally Map of California only the Midland Trail is shown on El Camino Sierra.  It is likely that Rand McNally was only interested in promoting Auto Trails that had national significance.

1924 Rand McNally Road Map of California

The 1930 State Highway Map shows various segments of pavement north of Mojave completed along El Camino Sierra/LRN 23.

1930 State Highway Map 

In 1931 the southern end of El Camino Sierra/LRN 23 was extended to Newhall Pass when US 99/LRN 4 was moved to a new alignment.  More can be found on the Legend of the Ridge Route blog..

Legend of the Ridge Route

The article on owensvalleyhistory.com states that all of El Camino Sierra/LRN 23 was paved by 1931.  This doesn't appear to be the case as only the highway between Saugus north to Bishop is shown as paved on the 1932 State Highway Map.  Much of the highway is shown as either paved or graded north to Coleville.

1932 State Highway Map

In 1933 El Camino Sierra was extended from Coleville to the Nevada State Line near Topaz Lake via the newly adopted LRN 95.

CAhighways.org on LRN 95

The entirety of El Camino Sierra on LRN 23 and LRN 95 was selected to be signed as part of the first CA 7 in 1934.  CA 7 was announced in the August 1934 Department of Public Works guide below on Page 21 and Page 32.

August 1934 Department of Public Works Publication Announcing the Signed State Highways

The route of the first CA 7 in 1934 was as follows headed northbound from CA 3 in Torrence:

-  LRN 164 to LRN 158 in West Los Angeles.
-  LRN 158 in West Angeles to US 99/LRN 4 in San Fernando.  LRN 158 originally connected Sepulveda Boulevard to San Fernando Boulevard (LRN 4) via Brand Boulevard.
-  LRN 23 in San Fernando along the eastern flank of the Sierras to LRN 95 near Coleville.
-  LRN 95 from Coleville to the Nevada State Line.
-  CA 7 had a route gap through Nevada and resumed north of Reno on LRN 29.  CA 7 followed LRN 29 to CA 36 near Susanville.
-  LRN 73 from CA 36 north to the Oregon State Line.

Interestingly by the time CA 7 was announced the extension of US 395 southward into California had already been approved in June 1934 by the AASHTO.  US 395 would assume CA 7 from the Oregon State Line and much of El Camino Sierra southward to Bradys possibly as early as October 1934 according to CAhighways.org.

CAhighways.org on US 395

In 1935 the California Division of Highways published county level maps of highway maintenance in California.  The maps below show the early alignments of El Camino Sierra along US 395 and CA 7.

Mono County

Inyo County

Kern County

Los Angeles County

The first State Highway Map to show US 395 was published in 1936.

1936 State Highway Map

By 1937 US 6 had been extended into California.  US 6 multiplexed US 395 south of Bishop and assumed the route of CA 7 southward to Newhall Pass near Saugus.  US 6 first appears on the 1938 State Highway Map.  Prior to US 6 being extended into California the route of CA 168 briefly multiplexed first CA 7 and then US 395 in Bishop and followed LRN 96 to the Nevada State Line at Montgomery Pass.

1938 State Highway Map

By 1940 the southern segment of US 6/LRN 23 was realigned out of Soledad Canyon onto Sierra Highway on a more direct route to Newhall Pass.

1940 State Highway Map

The southern segment of US 6/LRN 23 on El Camino Sierra gradually evolved into the modern CA 14/Antelope Valley Freeway, a full history can be found on this blog below.

CA 14/Antelope Valley Freeway

During the 1964 State Highway Renumbering US 6 was truncated back to US 395 in Bishop.  What had been US 6 south of Bradys to Newhall Pass was renumbered as CA 14.  CA 168 was extended south from Bishop on US 395 and east over Westgard Pass to the Nevada State Line.  All hidden Legislative Route designations were dropped during the 1964 State Highway Renumbering.  This was the genesis point of the modern designations of US 395/CA 168/CA 14 on El Camino Sierra, the changes can be observed by comparing the 1963 State Highway Map to the 1964 Edition.

1963 State Highway Map

1964 State Highway Map

The 1967 State Highway Map was the first edition to clearly display four-lane expressway segments.

1967 State Highway Map

The following segments of US 395/El Camino Sierra are shown above as expressway grade in 1967:

-  The descent from Conway Summit.
-  A small segment between Bishop and Lone Pine.
-  A segment near Bartlett.
-  A segment near Little Lake.

The 1969 State Highway Map shows new segments of expressway along US 395/El Camino Sierra
near Sherwin Summit and near Independence.

1969 State Highway Map 

The 1970 State Highway Map shows a new expressway segment of US 395/El Camino Sierra from Mammoth south to Tom's Place as complete.

1970 State Highway Map

The 1975 State Highway Map shows the US 395/El Camino Sierra expressway segment near Little Lake extended to the Kern County Line.

1975 State Highway Map

The 1977 State Highway Map shows US 395/El Camino Sierra with a two-lane expressway segment near Big Pine south to Independence and the Little Lake segment extended north past Coso Junction.

1977 State Highway Map

The 1981 State Highway map shows US 395/El Camino Sierra with new expressway segments south from Tom's Place towards Bishop and new segment south of Bishop.  The Tom's Place segment is shown with a small conventional highway gap between the completed expressway.

1981 State Higghway Map

The 1986 State Highway Map shows US 395/El Camino Sierra with a completed expressway gap near Tom's Place and four lanes entering Bishop.

1986 State Highway Map

The 1988 and 1990 State Highway maps don't show much change in US 395/El Camino Sierra.  The maps jump to the 2005 State Highway Map edition on Davidrumsey.com which shows US 395 as a conventional four lanes beginning south of the north junction with CA 158.  Much of US 395 south of Bishop towards Big Pine is shown as a conventional four-lane highway.  A new segment of four-lane US 395 is shown south of CA 136 to Bartlett along with four lanes south of Olancha to CA 14.

2005 State Highway Map 

In 2010 a new finalized expressway segment from Lone Pine and Independence was completed.  Recently in 2018 the California Transportation Commission approved a new expressway segment of US 395/El Camino Sierra bypassing Olancha and creating a new junction with CA 190.   More on the current status of US 395 can be found on CAhighways.org.

CAhighways.org on US 395

Since my photos are a little older the format of the road trip portion of this blog will be a little different than normal.  I plan to retake my road photos this year of US 395/El Camino between the Nevada State Line south CA 14 in the next two months.  The first draft of this blog will be placing far more emphasis on describing US 395 and whats worthwhile to see around it.  Check back at the end of the summer for updated road photos.

US 395/El Camino Sierra southbound enters Mono County California from the Nevada State Line at Topaz Lake located at Post Mile MNO 120.481.  US 395/El Camino Sierra south has the typical fare agriculture station which are common sights at many major State Line crossings.  Interestingly Topaz Lake is bisected by the State Line and maintenance of the reservoir seems to be shared by California and Nevada.  Topaz Lake is fed by the West Fork Walker River which merges with the East Fork Walker River downstream to form the main course of the Walker River which empties into Walker Lake of the Great Basin Desert.


US 395 south to CA 89 was part of the LRN 95 portion of El Camino Sierra.   At Post Mile MNO 116.972 US 395 intersects the south terminus of CA 89 as it descends from Monitor Pass.  CA 89 over Monitor Pass was the above mentioned segment of LRN 23 that took considerably time to actually build.







More on CA 89 over Monitor Pass can be found on the blog below.

CA 89 over Monitor Pass

US 395/El Camino Sierra begins to follow what was LRN 23 southward along the bank of the West Walker River.  At approximately Post Mile MNO 111.459 enters the community of Coleville.  Coleville dates back to the 1860s during the height of the mining boom in Mono County and is named after Cornelius Cole a Californian Congressman who served from 1867 to 1873.  Coleville is located at approximately 5,141 feet above sea level.

US 395/El Camino south next enters the community of Walker at approximately Post Mile MNO 107.424.  Walker lies at an elevation of 5,403 feet above sea level and much like the West Fork Walker River is named after Joseph R. Walker.

At Post Mile MNO 100.217 the route US 395/El Camino south enters Toll House Canyon towards Sonora Junction.  Sonora Junction is located at Post Mile MNO 93.708 and serves as the junction between US 395 at the eastern terminus of CA 108.  US 395/El Camino Sierra meets CA 108 roughly at the confluence of the West Fork Walker River and Little Walker River.  CA 108 westbound crosses the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains via 9,624 feet above sea level and emerges in Sonora.


The first documented crossing of Sonora Pass was in October of 1841 which apparently slightly north of the modern highway.  The first attempted wagon crossing of Sonora Pass was in 1852, the hazards of the roads of the route were documented by Grizzly Adams later in 1854.  A pack animal route was laid out in 1862 on nearby St. Mary Pass which crossed the Sierras at 10,040 feet above sea level.  By 1863 the present Sonora Pass alignment which CA 108 later adopted was surveyed and a toll road opened in 1865.






More on CA 108 over Sonora Pass can be found below.

CA 108 over Sonora Pass

From Sonora Junction US 395/El Camino Sierra southbound takes an eastward swing via Hot Creek.  At Post Mile MNO 87.895 US 395/El Camino Sierra crosses over the 7,519 foot high Devil's Gate Pass. 

From Devil's Gate Pass US 395/El Camino Sierra south begins to swing southward along Swauger Creek towards Bridgeport.  At approximately Post Mile 77.097 US 395/El Camino south enters the community of Bridgeport which is the Mono County Seat.  Bridgeport lies at an elevation of approximately 6,463 feet above sea level.  Bridgeport was the second County Seat of Mono County after Aurora was found to be within the boundary of the State of Nevada.  Of note the Mono County Courthouse in Bridgeport was constructed in 1880 and still serves it's original purpose.  US 395/El Camino south crosses the East Fork Walker River in Bridgeport and meets CA 182 at Post Mile MNO 76.306.  CA 182 continues northward to the Nevada State Line and becomes NV 338.

South of Bridgeport US 395/El Camino Sierra begins to follow the course of Virginia Creek.  At Post Mile MNO 69.851 US 395/El Camino Sierra meets a junction with CA 270.  CA 270 carries Bodie Road eastward towards the ghost town of Bodie.


CA 270 eastbound on Bodie Road continues for 10 miles where Caltrans maintenance ends the road becomes dirt.  The dirt segment of Bodie Road continues onward to the ghost town of Bodie.




Bodie lies at an elevation of 8,379 feet above sea level and was established as a small mining camp in 1859 after the discovery of gold in the Bodie Hills sub-range of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Large ore deposits were found in 1876 and 1878 which led to a population swell to at least 5,000 people in Bodie by 1879.  The population decline in Bodie started in the 1880s and progressed through the early 20th century.  By 1940 the Census showed only 40 residents left in the town of Bodie.  The Bodie and Benton Railroad was dismantled in 1918 when the population of Bodie might have still exceeded just slightly over 100.  Post Office Service stopped in Bodie in 1942 and there was only three people recorded living in the town by 1943.  The remains of Bodie was turned into a State Park in 1962 when a little under 200 of the claimed original 2,000 buildings were left standings.









Bodie Road continues east of Bodie and follows Bodie Creek towards the Nevada State Line where the road becomes former Old NV 3C.  Bodie Road continues another 3-4 miles east of the State Line to the Aurora ghost town.  As stated above Aurora was once the Mono County seat until it was discovered to actually be located in the State of Nevada by surveyors.


More on CA 270 and Bodie can found on the blog below.

CA 270 to Bodie

South of CA 270 the route of US 395/El Camino Sierra encounters the ruins of Dog Town at Post Mile 69.529.  Dog Town was the site of the first major Gold placer claim in the Eastern Sierra Range which was located in 1857.  Dog Town was located at the confluence of Dog Town Creek and Virginia Creek, some ruins can still be seen today.  Dog Town derived from miner slang for a community which consisted of mostly shacks and huts.  Amusingly over a dozen communities in California were once known as Dog Town.




At Post Mile MNO 63.559 US 395/El Camino Sierra south ascends over the 8,143 foot Conway Summit.  Conway Summit serves as the junction for Virginia Lakes Road which traverses west towards the campgrounds of the Virginia Lakes.  From Conway Summit US 395/El Camino Sierra south begins to descend towards Mono Lake.  At Post Mile MNO 62.524 there is an overlook of Mono Lake which views the rapidly descending US 395.


At the Mono Lake overlook there is a monument for the Monoville ghost town which was located a mile to the northeast.  Monoville was founded on placer claims located in 1859 which led to a formation of town of 500-1,000 people.  By 1862 Post Office service in Monoville shuttered and most of the miners had moved to the County Seat of Aurora.


US 395/El Camino Sierra curves through an expressway segment on a descent to CA 167 at Post Mile MNO 58.24.  CA 167 was intended to be part of a new alignment of CA 120 and continues to the Nevada State Line on Pole Line Road.  Of note CA 167 serves the access point for US 395/El Camino Sierra south into the borders of Inyo National Forest.  West of the junction of US 395 and CA 167 is Lundy Lake Road which ascends to a lake of the same name at 7,858 feet above sea level.  Lundy Lake was the location of the ghost town known as Lundy.  Lundy was a sawmill community that supplied nearby Bodie and had mining claims of it's own as well.  Lundy appears to have to declined in the early 20th Century as Post Office was discontinued in 1914.


More on CA 167 can be found below.

CA 167

US 395/El Camino Sierra south is aligned west of Mono Lake and passes by Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve at Post Mile MNO 53.081.  As US 395/El Camino Sierra enters Lee Vining there is access to the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center.  Mono Lake lies at an elevation of 6,383 feet above sea level and is a large saline lake which was formed about 760,000 years ago due to the endorheic basin it lies in.  The current maximum size of Mono Lake is 13x9.3 miles with an average depth of about 60 feet.  Mono Lake was likely formed during the Long Valley Caldera eruptions 760,000 years ago and may have been as deep as 900 feet during the last Ice Age.  Mono Lake has two large volcanic islands; Negit Island and Paoha Island.








Lee Vining reportedly was the site of a mining claim as early as 1852.  The modern community has origins in the 1920s when it was known as Lakeview.  Apparently the Post Office refused to duplicate the name of Lakeview which was shared with a community in Riverside County which led to the current name of Lee Vining.  Lee Vining is named after Leroy Vining which was founder of the 1852 mining claim.

At Post Mile MNO 50.75 US 395/El Camino Sierra south picks up CA 120 eastbound.



CA 120 westbound ascends Lee Vining Canyon to the 9,943 foot high Tioga Pass.  Tioga Pass is the highest highway mountain pass in California and continues westward as a National Park Service maintained roadway through Yosemite National Park.



The Tioga Pass Road is very old with the eastern section up Lee Vining Canyon to the Tioga Mine being built in 1883.  The connecting section of the Tioga Pass Road from Big Oak Flat Road was built as a wagon trail from 1902 to 1910.  The National Park Service purchased the Tioga Pass Wagon Road in 1915 which was when the era of automotive travel over the road began.  More can be found on the blog below.

The Tioga Pass Road

CA 120 east multiplexes US 395/El Camino Sierra south.  At Post Mile MNO 46.378 CA 120 east/US 395 south meets the north junction of CA 158 the June Lake Loop.


CA 158 is a 16 mile loop route in the rural back country to/from US 395.  Only the 3.5 southern most miles of CA 158 are kept open during the winter while the rest of the route closes for the winter.  From the north terminus there are four lakes on CA 158; Grant, Silver, Gull, and June.  All the lakes on CA 158 are sub-alpine and are fed from creeks emptying out of the eastern Sierras.




More on CA 158 can be found on the blog below.

CA 158; the June Lake Loop

At Post Mile MNO 46.009 CA 120 east splits from US 395/El Camino Sierra south.  CA 120 crosses through a high plateau on the southern flank of Mono Lake which passes through the ghost towns of Mono Mills (which supplied Bodie with lumber) and Benton Hot Springs before reaching US 6.





More on CA 120 between US 395 and US 6 can be found on the blog below.

CA 120; US 6 west to US 395

At Post Mile MNO 40.343 US 395/El Camino Sierra south meets the south terminus of CA 158 at June Lake Junction.  June Lake Junction lies at an elevation of 7,710 feet above sea level.


At Post Mile MNO 36.035 US 395/El Camino Sierra south crosses over the 8,047 foot high Deadman Summit.  Deadman Summit is considered the northern rim of the Long Valley Volcanic Caldera.  Deadman Summit gets it's name from a murder victim found in the location in 1868.

At Post Mile MNO 30.662 US 395/El Camino Sierra south has a junction with Mammoth Scenic Loop.  Interestingly the "Mammoth Scenic Loop" was originally called the "Mammoth Escape Route" which was built after the 1980 Long Valley Earthquake.  The Escape Route was built for an additional way out of Mammoth if there was some sort of disaster on the Long Valley Caldera.  Apparently (total conjecture I've heard in passing) the name was changed because the business owners in Mammoth didn't like being reminded they live atop a massive volcano.

At approximately Post Mile MNO R26.144 US 395/El Camino Sierra south meets CA 203.


CA 203 is a short State Highway which traverses through Mammoth Lakes and ends at the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.  Modern Mammoth was a very much different place than the tourism crowd might see on a trip to the ski resort.  The area known as "Old Mammoth" was the original site of "Mammoth City" which was built for the Mineral Hill Mine which opened in 1878.  Apparently the mine at Mineral Hill was large enough that two smaller mining camps known as Mill City and Pine City also were located near it.  Mammoth City almost died out with far less than 100 people by the early 1900s before rebounding to a population sizable enough to warrant post office service by 1923.  I'm to understand that a gold boom in 1905 near the Devils Post Pile likely played a large role in reviving Mammoth. 




The Mammoth Ski Area serves as access to Minaret Summit and Devil's Postpile National Monument.  Minaret Summit lies at an elevation of 9,,265 feet and overlooks the Minarets which is a series of jagged peaks in the Ritter sub-range of the Sierras.


Across the Madera County Line lies Devil's Post Pile National Monument.

 
The Devil's Post Pile was originally in the boundary of Yosemite National Park but some of the lands were made public during the gold boom.  The Devil's Post Pile rock formations are volcanic in nature given them the appearance of cut logs.  The rock formations were absorbed into Devils Post Pile National Monument in 1911 and really has been the subject of infrastructure related conjecture of all kinds ranging from a reservoir to a Trans-Sierra highway.  More can be found on the failed plans for a Trans-Sierra Highway and CA 203 can be found below.

CA 203; the road that could have been a Trans-Sierra Highway

At Post Mile MNO 21.311 US 395/El Camino Sierra south has a junction with Convict Lake Road at Mammoth-Yosemite Airport.  Convict Lake lies at an elevation of 7,850 feet above sea level and is part of the Sherwin Sub-Range of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Convict Lake get it's name from an 1871 gunfight which occurred on Convict Creek involving a posse chasing escaped prisoners out of Carson City.


At Post Mile MNO 20.367 US 395/El Camino Sierra south has a junction with Benton Crossing Road.  Benton Crossing Road serves as a short cut to CA 120 from the Mammoth Area.  At Post Mile MNO R18.038 US 395/El Camino Sierra has a junction with it's former alignment on Crowley Lake Drive.

At Post Mile MNO R14.623 US 395/El Camino Sierra south has an overlook of Crowley Lake.  Crowley Lake was impounds the Owens River and began filling with water when the Long Valley Dam was completed in 1941.  Crowley Lake is part of the Los Angeles Aqueduct system which is primarily intended to be used for water storage and flood control.


At Post Mile MNO R10.268 US 395/El Camino Sierra south has access to Tom's Place via Rock Creek Road.  Tom's Place lies at an elevation of 7,090 feet above sea level and is on a former alignment of US 395 on Lake Crowley Road.  Tom's Place was a resort that was founded in 1919 and was known as Hans Lof's until Tom Yernby purchased it in 1922.

At Post Mile MNO R3.093 US 395/El Camino Sierra south has an overlook of Owen's Valley and the beginning of the Mojave Desert.  

US 395/El Camino Sierra south passes close by the 6,427 Sherwin Summit and is generally east of it's original alignment on Old Sherwin Grade Road.   At Post Mile MNO R3.093 US 395/El Camino Sierra south has an overlook of Owen's Valley and the beginning of the Mojave Desert.  Near Sherwin Summit the route of US 395/El Camino Sierra exits Inyo National Forest and follows the general course of Lower Rock Creek to the Inyo County Line at approximately Post Mile INY R129.455.  Owens Valley extends 100 miles southward through the Mojave Desert in a gap split by the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west White Mountains/Inyo Mountains to the east.



 
At Post Mile INY R126.14 US 395/El Camino Sierra south meets it's former alignment on Old Sherwin Grade Road by proxy via Pine Creek Road.  Pine Creek Road follows Pine Creek westward past the ghost town of Scheelite towards Pine Creek Pass Recreation Area.  Scheelite was a company town built around the tungsten mines of the Union Carbide Corporation.  Scheelite was heavily damaged in the winter of 1969-1970 which led to the community being largely abandoned.   Pine Creek Pass lies at an elevation of 11,132 feet and can easily be seen at the Owen's Valley Overlook mentioned above.



At Post Mile INY 118.29 US 395/El Camino Sierra south passes through the community of Brockmans Corner before entering the City of Bishop at Post Mile INY 117.3.25.  Bishop is the only incorporated City in Inyo County and is located at an elevation of 4,150 feet above sea level on the floor of Owens Valley.  Bishop is named after settler Samuel Anderson Bishop who established a homestead and ranch in Owens Valley in 1861.  By 1862 a small settlement known as Bishop Creek was settled around the Bishop Ranch which grew into the modern day city.

At approximately Post Mile INY 116.402 US 395/El Camino Sierra south connects to US 6 eastbound via Wye Road.  The actual west terminus of US 6 is located at approximately Post Mile INY 116.214 as US 395/El Camino Sierra south merges onto Main Street in downtown Bishop.  This is where CA 168 originally continued eastbound towards the Nevada State Line from 1934 through 1937.  From 1937 until the 1964 State Highway Renumbering US 6 west would multiplex US 395 south to the split where CA 14 presently begins.



US 6 is one of the longest US Routes at 3,205 miles between Bishop, CA east to Provincetown, MA.  Historically US 6 was the longest US Route at 3,652 miles when it ended in Long Beach.  US 6 is known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway and is mostly known for traveling through some of the most rural corners of the Continental United States.  Traffic leaving US 395 onto US 6 is greeted with a this large sign announcing the eastern terminus on US 6 the Grand Army of the Republic Highway.


Approximately four miles east of Bishop on US 6 is the former siding of the Carson & Colorado Railway known as Laws.  The Carson & Colorado Railway was a narrow gauge line that ran from Mound House, NV near Carson City south to Keeler on the eastern shore of Owens Lake.  When LRN 76 was first created it's path east of Bishop followed the tracks of the Carson & Colorado on unimproved roadways.

The Carson & Colorado Railway was created in 1880 with the intentions of reaching the Colorado River through the Mojave Desert.  The Carson and Colorado Railway never reached further south than Keeler and the line was last used in 1960.  Laws is where a small section of the Carson & Colorado is preserved at Laws Depot.  Apparently the Carson and Colorado Railway was completed to Laws by 1883.  Laws Depot is now preserved as the Laws Railroad Museum.







More on US 6 and Laws Depot can be found on the blog below.

The western end of US 6 and Laws Depot on the Carson & Colorado Railway


At approximately Post Mile 115.400 US 395/El Camino Sierra south on Main Street picks up CA 168 east at Line Street.  CA 168 west ascends into the Sierra Nevada Mountains where it has a gap in the highway at Camp Sabrina.  CA 168 continues on the western side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Huntington Lake and ends at CA 41/CA 180 in Fresno.  CA 168 was envisioned as a Trans-Sierra Highway which would have connected via Piute Pass.  The Piute Pass Highway was conceived as a connecting route of the the Midland Trail before it was picked up as part of LRN 76.  Part of the planned route of the Piute Pass Highway would have incorporated Kaiser Pass Road of the Big Creek Project.  Kaiser Pass Road heading eastbound from the 9,184 foot high Kaiser Pass can be viewed below.


CA 168 over the Piute Pass Highway appears to have been blocked by the expansion of General Grant National Park into Kings Canyon National Park.  More information about CA 168 and the unbuilt Piute Pass Highway can be found on the blog below.

Tale of CA 168 West and failed Piute Pass Highway

US 395 south/CA 168 east multiplex on El Camino Sierra south of Bishop.  At approximately Post Mile INY 100.832 CA 168 east splits from US 395 south upon entering Big Pine.  Big Pine is a very early community of Owens Valley with Post Office Service opening in 1870.  At Post Mile INY 100.321 US 395/El Camino Sierra south meets Crocker Avenue in Big Pine.  Crocker Avenue becomes Glacier Lodge Road west of Big Pine and ascends to the Glacier Lodge.  Glacier Lodge was established in 1917 and is located at approximately 8,000 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada Mountains along Big Pine Creek.

At approximately Post Mile INY 99.826 US 395/El Camino Sierra south briefly enters the Big Pine Reservation which is home to Mono and Timbisha tribal members.  As US 395/El Camino Sierra continues southward there are numerous older alignments to the west of the modern highway.  At approximately Post Mile INY 77.296 US 395/El Camino Sierra south briefly enters the Fort Independence Indian Community of Paiute Indians.

At approximately Post Mile INY 76.053 US 395/El Camino Sierra south enters Independence which is the Inyo County seat.  Independence is located at approximately 3,930 feet above sea level and was originally settled in 1861 as a trade post owned by Charles Putnam.  Independence became the host locale of Camp Independence by 1862 which was eventually reorganized into Fort Independence by 1865.  Independence became the Inyo County Seat in 1866 and managed to remain so despite Fort Independence closing in 1877.

Of note Inyo County was a successor County to the failed Coso County.  Coso County as noted above was organized in 1864 and consisted of much of the land presently occupied by Inyo County.  The Coso County Seat was located in Bend City which is now a ghost town located east of Independence over the Owens River.

At Post Mile INY 73.411 US 395/El Camino Sierra south meets Market Street in downtown Independence.  Market Street westward becomes Onion Valley Road which ascends to 9,163 feet above sea level approximately 13 miles west of Independence.  Onion Valley Road is one of the consistently steepest roadways in California is often noted for the challenge it presents to cyclists.  Interestingly Onion Valley Road would have likely been used to connect CA 180 from Cedar Grove over the Sierra Nevada Mountains via Kearsarge Pass to Owens Valley.  Kearsarge Pass is located at 11,709 feet above sea level and was named after the Kearsarge Mine which was once located in Onion Valley.  The Kearsarge Mine was a silver claim struck in 1864 and first actively mined a in 1865.  The Kearsarge Mine was mostly wiped out in 1866 due to an avalanche but mining continued until the end of the 1880s.

CA 180 being expanded to a Trans-Sierra Highway appears to have been blocked much like CA 168 by the expansion of General Grant National Park into Kings Canyon National Park.  More information about CA 180 in Kings Canyon can be found below.

CA 180; Fresno to Cedar Grove (Kings Canyon Highway)

US 395/El Camino Sierra south of Independence meets the entrance to Manzanar National Historic Site along Manzanar-Reward Road at Post Mile INY 67.987.  Manzanar National Historic Site preserves the ruins of the World War II interment camp known as the Manzanar War Relocation Center which housed peak population of 11,070 Japanese-American Citizens.


Manzanar was founded in 1910 off of sub-divided ranching land.  Manzanar as a community peaked out in the early 1920s and appears to never had more than more than thirty homes.  After the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 there as a large push in California and the United States to exclude American Citizens of Japanese Descent into interment camps.  Executive Order 9066 was authorized in February of 1942 and allowed the Army to build exclusion zones.  Owens Valley Reception Center opened in March of 1942 which was quickly renamed to Manzanar War Relocation Center by June.  Manzanar War Relocation Center was closed in November of 1945.  Apparently citizens leaving the camps were only given $25 dollars for their involuntary confinement.

Much of the facility of Manzanar War Relocation Center is preserved in modern times.












At approximately Post Mile INY R61.527L US 395/El Camino Sierra south enters Lone Pine.  Lone Pine was first inhabited by European Settlers when a cabin was constructed in the winter of 1861-1862.  Post Office service in Lone Pine opened in 1870 and the community as been the head of many expeditions to nearby Mount Whitney.  In 1872 most of Lone Pine was destroyed by an earthquake but the community was quickly rebuilt to continue the mining supply lines to nearby Cerro Gordo, Kearsarge, Keeler, Swansea and Darwin.  Lone Pine was solidified in importance when it was connected to the Carson & Colorado Railway.

At Post Mile INY 57.67 US 395/El Camino Sierra south meets Whitney Portal Road.  Whitney Portal Road is an approximately 13 mile roadway which ascends west from Lone Pine along Lone Pine Creek to Whitney Portal at 8,374 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Whitney Portal is the head of the Mount Whitney Trail which ascends to the peak of Mount Whitney the highest point in the Continental United States at 14,505 feet above sea level.

Of note; Whitney Port Road west of US 395 to Tuttle Creek Road was once part of CA 190.  CA 190 was envisioned in 1934 as using part of the planned route of the Lone Pine-Porterville High Sierra Road.  CA 190 would ascended west of Lone Pine to Horse Shoe Meadows where it would have crossed the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Mulky Pass located approximately 11,300 feet above sea level.  CA 190 would have crossed the Kern River Fault and met the western segment of CA 190 where it would have continued west to Porterville.  The planned route of CA 190 was rerouted by 1960 and was again realigned over the approximately 8,200 foot high Hawiee Pass by 1966.  Although CA 190 was never completed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains it remains as a planned highway, more can be found on the blog below.

CA 190; the Trans-Sierra Highway that could have been

The Lone Pine-Porterville High Sierra Road was originally conceived in 1923.  Part of the original route of the Lone Pine-Porterville High Sierra Road was built in the western Sierra Range as Tulare County Route J37 on Balch Park Road.  More on Tulare County Route J37 can be found on the blog below.

Signed County Route J37; the last Tulare County Route and Lone Pine-Porterville High Sierra Road

At approximately Post Mile INY 55.826 US 395/El Camino Sierra south meets CA 136.  CA 136 was the original alignment of CA 190 and still remains somewhat co-signed likely to route traffic from Lone Pine towards Death Valley National Park.



The most beautiful (in my opinion) terminus in the State Highway system is located at where CA 136 meets US 395.  Mount Whitney can be observed between the US 395/CA 136 shields and the Stop sign in the photo below.


CA 136 is 16 mile generally east/west highway which traverses the eastern shore of Owens Lake (whereas US 395 is aligned along the western shore).  The ghost towns of Swansea, Keeler and Cerro Gordo are all accessible from CA 136 eastbound.  Keeler in particular is notable given that it is still partially inhabited.  Keeler was founded originally as "Hawley" in 1872 when the pier for the Cerro Gordo Mines at Swansea a couple miles north was lifted out of Owens Lake by the Lone Pine Earthquake.  I'm not sure when the name of the town was changed to Keeler but the Carson & Colorado Railway did reach it by 1883.  Keeler remained the southern terminus of the Carson and Colorado until it was shuttered in 1960.  Apparently the tracks were removed later but the former rail depot has remained standing in Keeler as a derelict ever since.






The junction of CA 136/CA 190 is a great place to stop and get a panoramic of the Owens Lake bed with the Sierras as a backdrop.  Owens Lake is fed by the Owens River and was thought to be as large as 200 square miles about 11,000 to 12,000 years ago.  The water level of Owens Lake was typically anywhere from 25 to 50 feet in depth and was last full before the First Los Angeles Aqueduct project started to divert water in 1913.


More on CA 136, Keeler and Owens lake can be found on the blog below.

CA 136

US 395/El Camino Sierra south of CA 136 passes by Diaz Lake which was created during the 1872 Lone Pine Earthquake.  US 395 follows the western shore of Owens Lake passing through Bartlett and Cartago before meeting CA 190 in Olancha at approximately Post Mile INY 34.672.

At approximately Post Mile INY 25.018 US 395/El Camino Sierra south passes through the community of Haiwee.  Haiwee dates back to 1864 when it was stage stop, the original community was located in what is now the Haiwee Reservoir.

At Post Mile INY R20.879 US 395/El Camino Sierra south passes through the community of Dunmovin which has been noted for it's strange name.  At Post Mile INY R17.864 US 395/El Camino Sierra south passes through the former community of Coso Junction.  At Post Mile INY R13.166 US 395/El Camino Sierra south passes through the former siding of Coso.  Finally at Post Mile INY R9.959 US 395/El Camino Sierra south passes through the former community of Little Lake.

At Post Mile INY R3.021 US 395/El Camino Sierra south meets Inyo County Route J41 at Nine Mile Canyon Road.  Nine Mile Canyon Road ascends westward into the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Kennedy Meadows located at approximately 6,214 feet above sea level on the Kern Plateau.  Nine Mile Canyon Road becomes Sherman Pass Road of Sequoia National Forest which crosses the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Kern River Fault.  Sherman Pass lies an elevation of approximately 9,200 feet above sea level and Sherman Pass Road is the newest Trans-Sierra Highway having been constructed in the 1970s.



More on Sherman Pass Road and Inyo County Route J41 can be found on the blog below.

Sherman Pass Road and Inyo County Route J41

At Post Mile INY R0.782 US 395/El Camino Sierra south passes through Pearsonville which carries the claim of the hub-cap capital of the world.






South of Pearsonville US 395/El Camino Sierra south enters Kern County at approximately Post Mile KER R36.822.  At Post Mile KER R30.189 US 395/El Camino South passes through Bradys where it meets the north terminus of CA 14.  El Camino Sierra south splits away onto CA 14 (former CA 7 and US 6) whereas US 395 continues southward towards I-15 in Hesperia.


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