Recently while visiting the Palm Springs Area in Riverside County, I stopped in Whitewater to see the 1923 Whitewater Bridge.
This blog is part of the larger Gribblenation US Route 99 Page. For more information pertaining to the other various segments of US Route 99 and it's three-digit child routes check out the link the below.
The history of US Routes 99, 60 and 70 in Whitewater
Modernized transportation around Whitewater dates back to the days of the Bradshaw Trail which was a wagon road through the Sonoran Desert east to the Colorado River. During the California Gold Rush the Bradshaw Trail was plotted through the Sonoran Desert by William D. Bradshaw. The Bradshaw Trail was plotted in 1862 through the Sonoran Desert east over the Colorado River to a new mining strike found in La Paz, Arizona. Bradshaw consulted the Cahuilla Tribe who advised him of the best route east of the Salton Sink between the Orocopia Mountains and Chocolate Mountains. The Bradshaw Trail despite it's elongated path essentially was the forerunner of what would become modern I-10 from Palm Springs to the City of Blythe. More information regarding the Bradshaw Trail and where to find it can be found on desertusa.com.
One of the stage stations along the Bradshaw Trail was White River Station which was placed to take advantage of the waters of the White River. White River Station morphed into a rail siding when the Southern Pacific Railroad built a line through Coachella Valley in the 1870s and in time came to be known as Whitewater. Given the close proximity of Whitewater to San Gorgonio Pass the future of the community as a hub transportation in the Sonoran Desert was ensured.
During the 1916 Second State Highway Bond Act Legislative Route 26 was added to the State Highway System as a route from San Bernardino southeast to El Centro. LRN 26 was essentially a forerunner of what would become the earliest alignments of US Route 99. The construction of LRN 26 included the 1923 Whitewater Bridge. The 1924 Division of Highways State Map shows LRN 26 constructed and paved through Whitewater and much of Coachella Valley.
The 1923 Whitewater Bridge was host to several Auto Trails. The 1924 Rand McNally Highway Map of California shows the Southern National Highway and the Atlantic & Pacific Highway crossing the 1923 Whitewater Bridge.
By late 1926 the US Route System was approved which led to US 99 being aligned over LRN 26 and the 1923 Whitewater Bridge. In 1932 US 60 was extended into California which multiplexed US 99/LRN 26 from Mecca over the 1923 Whitewater Bridge. US 99 and US 60 were joined by US 70 in 1934 when it was extended into California. US 99/60/70 can be seen traversing Coachella and the 1923 Whitewater Bridge on the 1935 Goshua Highway Map of California.
State Highway Maintenance over the 1923 Whitewater Bridge can be seen on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Riverside County. Note; the community of Whitewater is clearly shown still as a siding along the Southern Pacific Rails south of LRN 26.
As the 1930s and 1940s progressed traffic increased on US 99/60/70. In the 1950s much of LRN 26 and US 99/60/70 in Coachella Valley was upgraded to an expressway more in line with the present alignment of I-10. The July/August 1954 Department of Public Works Guide discusses the progress of building US 99/60/70 in Coachella Valley to an expressway. On Page 57 the newly completed replacement spans over the Whitewater River are shown.
The 1954 route of US 99/60/70 was aligned more directly in an east/west orientation over the Whitewater Bridge compared to the 1923 Whitewater Bridge. The original alignment of US 99/60/70 compared to modern I-10 can be observed below.
From modern I-10 westbound the freeway grade crosses the Whitewater River south of the 1923 Whitewater Bridge. The original alignment of US 99/60/70 can be accessed from I-10 westbound Exit 114 onto Whitewater Cut-Off Road.
Former US 99/60/70 eastbound enters Whitewater and intersects Whitewater Canyon Road. Whitewater Canyon Road is signed as access to Whitewater Preserve. Presently the Whitewater Preserve is closed due to heavy flood damage on the White Water River this previous winter.
Most of Whitewater along former US 99/60/70 is abandoned and behind security fences.
The original alignment of US 99/60/70 is obvious approaching the 1923 Whitewater Bridge due to the narrow slabs of concrete still used as part of Whitewater Cut-Off Road.
At present moment traffic isn't allowed to cross the 1923 Whitewater Bridge. I'm to understand that there was a drowning death earlier in 2019 which involved someone parking at the 1923 Whitewater Bridge to enter the White Water River. This death apparently led Riverside County to close the 1923 Whitewater Bridge to traffic and post a security guard. The 1923 Whitewater Bridge is a tee beam structure and is 434.1 feet in length, the photo is from the closest vantage point I could get to.
Continuing north on US Route 99 to the communities of San Gorgonio Pass?
Continuing south on US Route 99 to Coachella Valley and Indio?