Skip to main content

Round Mountain Road


Round Mountain Road is an approximately 19-mile highway located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains northeast of Bakersfield.  Round Mountain Road begins at China Grade Loop at the Kern River near the site of Gordon's Ferry and terminates at Granite Road.  The Round Mountain Road corridor incorporates parts of the 1850s-era stage route known as the Stockton-Los Angeles Road in the form of Gordon‘s Ferry and Posey Station.  Modern Round Mountain Road emerged following the discovery of the Kern River Oil Field during 1899 and the Round Mountain Oil Field during 1927. 


Part 1; the history of Round Mountain Road and the Stockton-Los Angeles Road

The Stockton-Los Angeles Road came into use after the 1853 Kern River Gold Rush began.  The Stockton-Los Angeles Road was a replacement of the earlier El Camino Viejo.  Unlike the El Camino Viejo the Stockton-Los Angeles Road avoided the dense Tule Marches in San Joaquin Valley.  The Stockton-Los Angles Road stayed close to the Sierra Nevada Mountain foothills near the new claims on the Kern River watershed.  The corridor of Stockton-Los Angeles Road was also part of the 1858-61 alignment of the southern Butterfield Overland Mail Route.  

The formation known as the China Grade was used by the Stockton-Los Angeles Road to descend the Kern River Bluff to Gordon's Ferry at the Kern River.  From Gordon's Ferry the Stockton-Los Angeles Road followed the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to reach Posey Station (also known as Poso Flat) at Poso Creek.  The Stockton-Los Angeles Road can be seen utilizing China Grade and Gordon's Ferry to reach Posey Station on the 1857 Britton & Rey's map of California

The popularity of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road began to decline rapidly as the Central Pacific Railroad through San Joaquin Valley was built through the 1870s.  Farm diversions for irrigation in San Joaquin Valley and the presence of various rail sidings along the Central Pacific Railroad spurred infrastructure development which made development through previous wetlands easier.  

During the 1870s Chinese settlers in the Bakersfield area improved the route of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road down the Kern River Bluff.  These settlers used the Kern River Bluff to search for watercress along the Kern River in the vicinity of location of Goron's Ferry.  In time the route down the Kern River Bluff came to be known as the China Grade in reference to the settlers who improved it.  In 1899 the Kern River Oil Field was discovered north of the Kern River Bluff and the China Grade an important access route to reach it.  

The 1898 Walkup Map of Kern County depicts the waning years of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road between Gordon's Ferry and Posey Station.  The Stockton-Los Angeles Road can be seen crossing the Kern River from the China Grade at Township 29, Range 28.  The Stockton-Los Angeles Road is shown continuing north to the vicinity of Posey Station via Granite Station.  From Granite Station the Stockton-Los Angeles Road is shown continuing north to the Tulare County line by way of the outskirts of Woody.  Much of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road north of the Kern River is displayed as a trail denoting the declining importance of the corridor.  




During the 1910s the China Grade was improved by Kern County and a bridge was installed at Gordon's Ferry to permit east access the Kern River Oilfield and the so-called "Oil City."  Below the China Grade (now part of Alfred Harrell Highway) can be seen snaking down the Kern River Bluff in a 1910-1915 era photo from the Antique Collection of Michael J. Semas Facebook Page.


Round Mountain Road can be seen connecting the Oil City near Gordon's Ferry to Granite Road on the 1917 California Automobile Association Map.  Much of the previous routing of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road between Gordon's Ferry and Posey Station appears to have been repurposed for oil exploitation.  


The original Kern River Bridge at Gordon's Ferry can be seen below in a photo dated to 1918.

The Round Mountain Oil Field was discovered during 1927 which led to a further reemergence of the Round Mountain Road corridor.  Production in the Round Mountain Oil Field peaked during 1938 when 5,453,194 barrels were pumped.  Discoveries of new wells in the Round Mountain Oil Field continued until 1974.  

Round Mountain Road and the 1,612-foot-high peak of Round Mountain can be seen linking Oil City to Poso on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Kern County.  




Part 2; a drive on Round Mountain Road

A plaque pertaining to the history of Gordon's Ferry can be found on China Grade Loop approaching the Kern River and beginning of Round Mountain Road.  Gordon's Ferry was an overhead cable driven ferry which was part of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road and saw use as part of the Butterfield Overland Mail Route from 1858-1861.  



China Grade Loop crosses north over the Kern River and intersects Round Mountain Road.


Round Mountain Road northbound begins with a right-hand turn from China Grade Loop.  Traffic is advised Round Mountain Road is prone to flooding. 


Round Mountain Road initially follows the Kern River eastward and the Oil City to Choctaw Valley as a two-lane roadway.  East of Choctaw Valley Road, Round Mountain Road narrows to a wide single-lane roadway.




























Round Mountain Road turns north from the Kern River and ascends to a bluff overlooking Ming Lake of Hart Memorial Park.  Lake Ming was completed during 1959 when Hart Memorial Park reached it's present size. 






Round Mountain Road ascends to a bluff located at approximately 1,400 feet above sea level and approaches Round Mountain.  





















Round Mountain Road descends through the oil wells of the Round Mountain Oil Field to Poso Creek.  At Poso Creek the grade of Round Mountain Road expands back to two-lanes. 
























Round Mountain Road follows Poso Creek to a terminus at Granite Road (former California State Route 155).









A historic plaque pertaining to Posey Station can be found at the intersection of Round Mountain Road and Granite Road.  Posey Station was one of six stagecoach stations on the Butterfield Overland Mail Route located in Kern County.  Posey Station was located on what is now Round Mountain Road approximately 1.5 miles east of Granite Road along Poso Creek. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Caliente-Bodfish Road

Caliente-Bodish Road is one of the finest driving roads in the southern Sierra Nevada range and has rich history. The approximately thirty-two-mile-long highway connects from Kern River Road in Bodfish south to Bena Road (former US Route 466) via Caliente siding. Caliente-Bodfish Road is a segment of Thomas Baker's stage road which facilitated overland travel to the claims of the Kern River Gold Rush. The Baker Stage Road was constructed during the 1860s-1870s and spanned from the outskirts of Caliente north to the Stockton-Los Angeles Road near Tailholt in Tulare County. The blog cover photo is from the nine-mile segment north of Caliente Creek Road which is known as the "Lion's Trail." Caliente-Bodish Road carries the internal designation of Kern County Road 483. Part 1; the history of Caliente-Bodfish Road Caliente-Bodish Road is a segment of what was Thomas Baker's stage road to Kern River Valley.  The Kern River Gold Rush began in 1853 and spurred devel

The Dummy Lights of New York

  A relic of the early days of motoring, dummy lights were traffic lights  that  were  placed  in the middle of a street intersection. In those early days, traffic shuffled through busy intersections with the help of a police officer who stood on top of a pedestal. As technology improved and electric traffic signals became commonplace, they were also  originally  positioned on a platform at the center of the intersection. Those traffic signals became known as  " dummy lights "  and were common until  traffic lights were moved  onto wires and poles that crossed above the intersection.  In New York State, only a handful of these dummy lights exist. The dummy lights  are found  in the Hudson Valley towns of Beacon and Croton-on-Hudson, plus there is an ongoing tug of war in Canajoharie in the Mohawk Valley, where their dummy light has been knocked down and replaced a few times. The dummy light in Canajoharie is currently out of commission, but popular demand has caused the dummy

Madera County Road 400 and the 1882-1886 Yosemite Stage Road

Madera County Road 400 is an approximately twenty-four-mile roadway following the course of the Fresno River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Road 400 begins at California State Route 145 near Madera and terminates to the north at Road 415 near Coarsegold.  Traditionally Road 400 was known as "River Road" prior to Madera County dropping naming conventions on county highways.  Road 400 was part of the original Yosemite Stage Route by the Washburn Brothers which began in 1882.  The Yosemite Stage Route would be realigned to the west in 1886 along what is now Road 600 to a rail terminus in Raymond.  Parts of Road 400 were realigned in 1974 to make way for the Hensley Lake Reservoir.  Part 1; the history of Madera County Road 400 Road 400 is historically tied to the Wawona Road and Hotel.  The Wawona Hotel is located near the Mariposa Grove in the modern southern extent of Yosemite National Park.   The origins of the Wawona Road are tied to the Wawona Hotel but it does predate th