Oregon Route 39 and California State Route 139 form a 166.9 mile corridor which connects US Route 97 in Klamath Falls, Oregon south to California State Route 36 in Susanville, California. The combined corridor of Oregon Route 39 and California State Route 139 traverse remote regions such the lower Klamath Basin and Californian Cascade Range. Depicted above is Susanville-Adin Highway as featured in the September/October 1956 California Highways & Public Works after it was rebuilt as part of Federal Aid Secondary Joint Highway District #14. Susanville-Adin Highway would become the southern segment of California State Route 139 during the 1960s. Depicted below is the combined corridor of Oregon Route 39 and California State Route 139 as seen on the 2005 Caltrans State Highway Map.
Part 1; the history of Oregon Route 39 and California State Route 139
What is now Oregon Route 39 ("OR 39") was added to the State Highway System as one of the original Oregon State Highways as part of Dalles-California Highway #4 on November 27th, 1917. The original definition of Dalles-California Highway #4 can be seen on History of the State Highway System document published by the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Dalles-California Highway #4 can be seen on the 1925 Rand McNally Map of Washington and Oregon south of Klamath Falls to the California State Line near Malin. Dalles-California Highway #4 appears to have never carried an Auto Trail designation south of Klamath Falls to the California State Line.
Oregon Route 39 ("OR 39") was part of original run of Oregon Routes designated in 1932. The original definition of OR 39 had it begin at OR 66 six miles east of Klamath Falls at Lakeview Junction. OR 39 followed the Dalles-California Highway #4 through Merrill and Malin from OR 66 to the California State Line. The original definition of OR 39 can seen on the 1934 Oregon State Highway Department Oregon Route descriptions.
OR 39 can be seen following Dalles-California Highway #4 from OR 66 east of Klamath Falls to the California State Line near Malin on the 1935 Gousha Highway Map of Oregon. OR 39 can be seen connecting to what is now Old Alturas Highway in Modoc County, California.
On May 18th, 1937 Hatfield Highway #426 was added to the Oregon State Highway System as new highway originating near Merrill and terminating at the California State Line.
What became California State Route 139 ("CA 139") was brought into the State Highway System as part of Legislative Route Number 210 ("LRN 210") as part of 1939 Legislative Chapter 338. The original definition of LRN 210 carried the following stipulation:
"near Canby to the Oregon State Line near Merrill" "to the state highway system, provided that the United States Government, through its agencies the Bureau of Public Roads and Forest Service construct or reconstruct with highway funds or any other funds made available by congress for highway purposes within the state of California."
LRN 210 and 1939 Legislative Chapter 338 is referenced in the October 1939 California Highways & Public Works. LRN 210 is described as a new highway under construction by the Federal Government in Modoc National Forest between Canby (US Route 299) north through Modoc County to the Oregon State Line near Merrill. This new highway was to be assumed by the California Division of Highways upon completion.
Klamath Falls-Malin Highway #50 was spun off from Dalles-California Highway #4 in 1939 south of Klamath Falls to the California State Line near Malin.
OR 39 appears realigned from Merrill to the California State Line via Hatfield Highway #426 on the 1939 Rand McNally Map of Oregon.
1943 California Legislative Chapter 964 repealed the 1939 stipulations of LRN 210 leaving only the route definition. This action was taken upon the completion of the new highway through Modoc National Forest which subsequently was turned over to the California Division of Highways. CA 139 appears for the first time on the 1944 Division of Highways Map aligned over LRN 210 from the Oregon State Line through Modoc National Forest to US Route 299 near Canby. The numbering of CA 139 seems to have been chosen to provide route continuity with OR 39. CA 39 was not available for use given it was among the original Sign State Routes defined in the August 1934 California Highways & Public Works. The completion of the new highway through Modoc National Forest by the Bureau of Public Roads likely was a priority during World War II due to the internment camp located at Tulelake.
On June 2nd, 1960 Klamath Falls-Malin Highway #50 was extended west to US Route 97/Dalles-California Highway #4 north of Klamath Falls. US Route 97 was shifted onto a bypass route of Klamath Falls which led to an extension of Klamath Falls-Main Highway #50 via; 7th Street, Main Street, Esplanade Avenue and Kit Carson Way (now Crater Lake Parkway). The original alignment of US Route 97 was retained as a signed Business Route in downtown Klamath Falls.
On August 18th, 1981 the spur of Klamath Falls-Malin Highway #50 (shown as Esplanade Spur) was abandoned from the Oregon State Highway System. It is not fully clear if the Esplanade Spur was actually relinquished to the City of Klamath Falls.
Returning to CA 139 traffic departing south from Tulelake is notified there are no services for 72 miles. CA 139 south of Tulelake is largely signed with 65 MPH speed limits. Canby is signed as 51 miles south of Tulelake whereas Susanville is signed 140 miles via CA 139.
CA 139 southbound enters the community of Newell at approximately Postmile MD 44.84. Newell is another siding community of the Union Pacific Railroad and is located near the southern extent of the Klamath Basin.