Skip to main content

US Route 101 through Richardson Grove State Park

US Route 101 through southern Humboldt County contains a expressway gap through Richardson Grove State Park.  US Route 101 in Richardson Grove has long been a contentious topic regarding potentially highway development in an environmentally sensitive area. 

US Route 101 ("US 101") bottlenecks to a narrow two lane highway within Richardson Grove State Park.  As noted above Richardson Grove is situated in southern Humboldt County and forms an expressway gap amongst the protected Coastal Redwoods.  This has led to a situation where Richardson Grove has become a road block to large capacity truck freight from reaching Humboldt County. 


Part 1; the history of the Redwood Highway, Legislative Route 1, and US Route 101 through Richardson Grove

According to the Richardson Grove State Park Brochure the first inhabitants of Richardson Grove were the Sinkyone people who thrived along the South Fork Eel River.  The non-native settler of Richardson Grove was Ruben Reed of Kentucky.  Reed's lands were homesteaded in the early 1900s by his widow and brother.  The Reed land was purchased by Henry Devoy who subsequently leased it out for development.  In 1920 Edwin Freeman constructed a store, dining room, and cabins at the present site of the Richardson Grove Visitor Center.  In 1922 the Save the Redwoods League purchased 120 acres of Richardson Grove which in turn was used to found Richardson Grove State Park.  The Save the Redwoods League made their purchase in Richardson Grove out of concern due to highway development.  At the time Legislative Route Number 1 ("LRN 1") and the Redwood Highway had already been established through Richardson Grove.  Over the ensuing decades Richardson Grove State Park would expand to a current size of 2,000 acres.

The history of what would become US Route 101 and the Redwood Highway within Richardson Grove begins with the approval of the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act.  The First State Highway Bond Act was approved by voters during 1910 and was the genesis point of some of the most notable highways in California.  LRN 1 in it's original form was a new State Highway which was designated between San Francisco north to Crescent City.  The route of LRN 1 would be extended to the Oregon State Line during the 1919 Third State Highway Bond Act and was known as the Redwood Highway.  LRN 1 can be seen aligned through what is now Richardson Grove on the 1917 California State Automobile Association Map

In November 1926 the US Route System was created.  US Route 101 from San Francisco north to Crescent City was aligned over the Redwood Highway.  Both US 101 and the Redwood Highway through Richardson Grove (shown as Humboldt State Redwood Park) can be seen on the 1927 Rand McNally Highway Map of California.

Some of the early issues with US 101 are evident even before World War II.  In this photo below (from the July-August 1964 California Highways & Public Works) a Division of Highways employee can be seen measuring the narrow width between Redwoods on US 101 in Richardson Grove.   

US 101 is shown in detail through Richardson Grove (shown as Richardson Toumey Grove) on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Humboldt County.

The May-June 1956 California Highways & Public Works displays a familiar traffic scene to modern times on US 101 in Richardson Grove.  

The 1969 Division of Highways State Map shows a proposed realignment of US 101 around Richardson Grove.  US 101 is shown to have a proposed alignment tracking east of Richardson Grove and the South Fork Eel River over the Mendocino County Line. 

The 1970 Division of Highways State Map shows the Richardson Grove bypass under construction. 

 
 
US 101 through Richardson Grove appears to have been planned to be recycled into California State Route 271 ("CA 271").  According to CAhighways.org CA 271 was given the following somewhat vague definition by Legislative Chapter 1473:
 
“Route 101 near Cummings to Route 101 near the Humboldt-Mendocino county line.”
 
The 1977 Caltrans State Map no longer shows the planned US 101 bypass of Richardson Grove suggesting it was cancelled.  

Over the past decade Caltrans has found itself in a legal battle in the Federal Court System over widening existing US 101 in Richardson Grove.  A summary of the legal battle regarding US 101 in Richardson Grove since 2012 can be found on California Highway's US Route 101 page.  The latest U.S. Court Of Appeals For the Ninth Circuit opinion (dated 12/2/2020) can be found on this link.  The root of the expansion of US 101 in Richardson Grove stems from the fact that industry-standard Surface Transportation Act Assistance ("STAA") trucks are not permitted.  The prohibition of STAA trucks are the only road preventing large freight capacity vehicles from reaching Humboldt County (which is not possible on US 101 from Del Norte County nor from CA 299).  The current Caltrans expansion plans for US 101 in Richardson Grove includes removing several dozen younger growth Coastal Redwoods. 


Part 2; a drive on US Route 101 through Richardson Grove State Park

US 101 southbound begins it's approach to Richardson Grove State Park upon crossing the South Fork Eel River via the Edward C. Wagner Memorial Bridge at approximately Postmile HUM R5.90.

As US 101 south intersects Benbow Drive at Postmile HUM R5.22 it converges to a conventional two-lane highway. 



US 101 south dips to a 40 MPH Speed Limit and trucks are advised of tight curves through the next 3 miles.  


US 101 south narrows to a shoulderless highway upon entering Richardson Grove State Park at approximately Postmile HUM 2.02. 





US 101 continues south through a tunnel-like lined alignment of Coastal Redwoods and emerges from Richardson Grove State Park into Cook's Valley at approximately Postmile HUM 0.47.









US 101 south passes through Cook's Valley and intersects it's former alignment at the Northern Segment of CA 271 at Postmile HUM T0.08.  The "T" Postmile designation at CA 271 serves as a trace reminder regarding the long dead planned US 101 bypass of Richardson Grove State Park. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

New River Gorge National River Area To Become A National Park

Great news for those that enjoy National Parks, West Virginia's New River Gorge Region, or West Virginia tourism.  Included within the Fiscal Year 2021 Omnibus Appropriations Bill signed by President Trump last night (December 27th) is the New River Gorge Park and Preserve Designation Act.   The act will designate the existing New River National River and over 72,000 acres of land within it as a National Park and Preserve. The New River Gorge Bridge will continue to be the centerpiece of the new New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. (Adam Prince, 2007) The river and surrounding land, which was added to the National Park System in 1978, will be our 63rd National Park.   The designation preserves over 7,000 acres as a National Park.  This area will not allow any hunting.  The remaining 65,000 acres of the existing park will be designated as a preserve allowing hunting and fishing. The main attractions to the New River Gorge - whitewater rafting, camping, hiking, mountain bikin

The Great PA 48 Clearance Sale

It's not often that any department of transportation sells land it purchased.  They are usually in the business of acquiring land for right-of-way.  But in 1982, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation did exactly that.  Offering to buyers land it purchased just 15 years earlier for the never-built Route 48 Expressway. Background: The sale was a result of the 1970s cash crunch the PennDOT experienced.  Many projects were cut back, shelved, or eliminated.  The 'New 48', or the North-South Parkway, which was touted for nearly 20 years as a connection from the industrial Mon Valley to the Turnpike and Monroeville was one of the casualties. In the mid-late 1960s, movement to construct the new highway began with targeting a two-mile stretch of highway from the Route 48 intersection at Lincoln Way in White Oak to US 30 in North Versailles.  The plan was then to continue the highway northwards to Monroeville.  Extension south across the Youghiogheny River and to PA 51 would

Legend of the Ridge Route; a history of crossing the mountains between the Los Angeles Basin and San Joaquin Valley from wagon trails to Interstates

Over the past two decades I've crossed the Interstate 5 corridor from Los Angeles north over the Sierra Pelona Mountains and Tehachapi Range to San Joaquin Valley what seems to be an immeasurable number of times.  While Interstate 5 from Castaic Junction to Grapevine via Tejon Pass today is known to most as "The Grapevine" it occupies a corridor which has been traversed by numerous historic highways.  The most notable of these highways is known as the "Ridge Route."  This article is dedicated to the Ridge Route and the various highways that preceded it.  The Ridge Route is a 44 mile section of highway which was completed in 1915.  The Ridge Route originally stretched from Castaic Junction north over Liebre Summit and Tejon Pass to the tiny community of Grapevine.  In spite of a roadway that once utilized nearly 700 curves the Ridge Route is generally considered far ahead of it's time and one of the first modern highways in California constructed for auto