Skip to main content

US Route 101 and the Last Chance Grade

 
 
The Last Chance Grade of US Route 101 refers to a segment of the highway in Del Norte County, California from Crescent City southward through Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  The Last Chance Grade traditionally has been a slide prone choke point through much of the history of US Route 101 and the Redwood Highway.  




The history of the Last Chance Grade

Prior to a highway being constructed over the Last Chance Slide overland transportation between Crescent City southward to Klamath River was virtually non-existent.  Travelers and freight would arrive in Crescent City where it they would be loaded onto rowboats.  The rowboats would follow the coastline southward and turn inland via the Klamath River to the village of Requa.  Requa and the Klamath River served as the gateway to reach Klamath County (annexed into Humboldt County by 1874).  This corridor between Crescent City and the Klamath River can be seen on the 1873 Bancroft's Road Map of California


The 1884 California Office of the State Engineer Map of Del Norte County also shows no established foot path or road from Crescent City south to the Klamath River.  Notably a foot path is shown existing from Wilson's Creek south to the Klamath River.  


In 1888 the Del Norte County Board of Supervisor's authorized construction of a road from Crescent City south to Requa and the Klamath River.  This road was placed under construction in 1889 and was known as the Crescent City-Requa Road.  The Crescent City-Requa Road would be completed by 1895 and ascended the notable slope of the Last Chance Slide.  Journeys on the Crescent City-Requa Road were made via four horse or six horse teams which took ten to sixteen hours to complete depending on the weather conditions.  Fare for a trip on the Crescent City-Requa Road cost travelers a fee of $5 dollars.  

Much of the Crescent City-Requa Road was constructed by way of use of Coastal Redwood puncheons.  A photo of a derelict segment of the Crescent City-Requa Road can be seen in the March 1934 California Highways & Public Works.  

The history of what would become US Route 101 ("US 101") over the Last Chance Grade 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.  Legislative Route Number 1 ("LRN 1") as originally plotted 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 came be known as the Redwood Highway.  LRN 1 can be seen aligned over the Last Chance Grade via the Crescent City-Requa Road on the 1917 California State Automobile Association Map

The existing Crescent City-Requa Road was upgraded and modernized to State standards by 1920.  Much of the previous Redwood puncheon roadway from Crescent City south to Wilson's Creek was abandoned as it was not suited to automotive traffic.  This 1920 alignment of LRN 1/Redwood Highway now exists as Enderts Beach Road and the California Coastal Trail in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  LRN 1 and the Redwood Highway can be seen aligned over the Last Chance Grade between Crescent City-Requa on the 1920 Clason Highway Map of California.  

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 between Crescent City-Requa can be seen on the 1927 Rand McNally Highway Map of California.  

The March 1934 California Highways & Public Works describes the nearly completed realignment of US 101 and the Redwood Highway south of Crescent City.  Specifically new alignment of US 101/Redwood Highway would eliminate 205 curves south of Crescent City to the Last Chance Slide.  The new alignment of US 101 was cited to have only 34 curves which shortened the distance between Crescent City and the Last Chance Slide from 10.31 miles to 9.52 miles.  The article cites the new alignment of US 101 and the Redwood Highway as having expected completion date by late 1934.  Note; the history of the Crescent City-Requa Road can be found in the March 1934 California Highways and Public Works.





The September 1935 California Highways & Public Works features the formal dedication of the US 101/Redwood realignment south of Crescent City to the Last Chance Slide.  The formal dedication ceremony took place on August 18th, 1935.  



The 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Del Norte County displays the new alignment of US 101 south of Crescent City to the Last Chance Slide alongside the 1920 alignment.  

Since 1935 US 101 and the Redwood Highway have changed minimally.  The climb via the Last Chance Grade still has the signature vista of Crescent City described in the September 1935 California Highways & Public Works and serves as a boundary of the Redwood National Park & State Parks system.  









According to CAhighways.org from July 2012 to February 2013 the Last Chance Grade experienced over 200 slides.  The road deck of US 101 subsequently slid 13 inches horizontally and 10 inches vertically.  In March 2014 Caltrans established the Last Chance Grade Partnership to work with local authorities on the feasibility of realigning US 101 off the Last Chance Grade.  As of 2019 Environmental studies have been continuing to progress regarding potential realignments of US 101.  This image snip from CAhighways.org shows the multiple alignments under study from Postmile DN 19.81 south to DN 13.47.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Kancamagus Highway (NH 112 through the White Mountains of New Hampshire)

The Kancamagus Highway is a portion of NH 112 spanning from Conway to Lincoln through the scenic White Mountains of New Hampshire. Locally known as the "Kanc", the 34.5-mile drive is a recognized National Scenic Byway, offering travelers an abundance of history and spectacular beauty in addition to being considered one of the best fall foliage viewing areas in the world. The road opened up one of the last unconquered wilderness areas in New Hampshire, a region that the 1850 state Gazetteer called "unfit for human habitation." The two lane highway links the valleys of the Merrimack, Pemigewasset and Saco rivers, crossing over Kancamagus Pass at 2,855 feet in elevation, winding through some of the most difficult and gorgeous terrain in the state. A number of scenic vistas are found along the way offering remarkable views of the surrounding White Mountains, Swift River, Lower Falls and Rocky Gorge. You will not find services through much of the drive, until you get to

Ghost Town Tuesday; Transylvania, Louisiana

Back in 2014 I found myself returning home to Florida from Hot Springs National Park.  While passing through East Carroll Parish in Louisiana on US Route 65 I noticed an abandoned school on the side of the highway in a community called Transylvania. Supposedly Transylvania was founded in the early 19th century and was named after the University of the same name in Kentucky.  Supposedly Transylvania has about 700 residents according to the 2000 Census but you wouldn't know it from the total lack of occupied structures.  The earliest map reference I can find showing Transylvania present in East Carroll Parish is from 1878. 1878 Louisiana State Map I really can't find too much substantive information regarding the Transylvania Elementary School but the construction is likely Pre-World War II.  Supposedly the Transylvania Elementary School was abandoned in the late 20th Century and was open to vandals until the property was purchased in 2014. Article Regarding the Transy

I-93 Sign Replacement Project Update

Decided to beat the Memorial Day rush and traveled up I-93 north of Boston Wednesday afternoon to check out the progress of the two sign replacement projects. Based on webcam images, I new some signs had been replaced at the southern and northern end of the Somerville to Exit 38 segment. Turns out signage has been updated northbound for Exit 28 (MA 28/38), the first sign for Exit 31 (MA 16) (I guess taking advantage of MassDOT closing I-93 between Exits 20 and 28 for Big Dig Tunnel maintenance a couple nights a month) and for Exits 34 to 38. A photographic summary starts with the first re-signed exit: This is the second overhead assembly. The signs are mounted on the previously existing overhead supports that go back to the opening of the lower and upper deck portions of I-93 in the early 1970's. I don't know about using the left hand side simply for an auxiliary sign for the exit, but there isn't much room to place it elsewhere. The next interchange that  has had