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2018 Mojave Road Trip Part 2; The deadly desert highway (California State Route 127 and Nevada State Route 373)

After leaving Barstow via Old Highway 58 my next destination was in Death Valley.  To access Death Valley from rural San Bernardino County required a trek on north on Interstate 15 to California State Route 127 which becomes Nevada State Route 373 at the state line.


Along I-15 I encountered the road sign oddity that is Zzyzx Road about eight miles south of Baker.   Zzyzx Road is a four mile road that used to go to the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa.   The spa was founded in the 1940s and the owner made up the name "Zzyzx" to claim it was the last word in the English Language.  The spa has been shut down since the 1970s and is now part of a Desert Studies Center for California State University.






The southern terminus of CA 127 in Baker is located at I-15 exit 246.  CA 127 is a 91 mile north/south highway which runs to the Nevada State Line in Inyo County.  CA 127 is called Death Valley Road from I-15 northward.  South of CA 127 the road continues as Kelbaker Road which crosses the Mojave Preserve to Old US Route 66 near Amboy.





Baker is in a low desert valley at an elevation of 942 feet above sea level.  Baker was founded as a rail siding of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad in 1908 which gradually grew into an actually unincorporated town in the ensuing decades.  Apparently there was a for-profit prison in Baker but I don't know exactly where it is.  Baker Boulevard is the old alignment of US Routes 91 and 466 which essentially serves as a "Main" street.  There are some chain gas stations and places to eat in Baker but it is obvious that time in addition to the desert have weathered the community down.  To the north the next community is Shoshone 56 miles away in Inyo County.





57 miles might not seem long but there is literally north of Baker until the Chevron in Shoshone.





The San Bernardino County section of CA 127 is in pretty rough shape and is signed with a 55 MPH speed limit.  CA 127 has some neat guide signs that show all the major highway junctions along the road.  Oddly the guide signs also include distances to US 95 in Nevada where CA 127 becomes NV 373.






Most of the desert north of Baker is BLM managed.  There are some recreation areas along CA 127 like the Salt Creek Hills.





Very faintly in the first picture the Panamint Range which is located over Death Valley can be seen in the far distance to the northwest covered with snow.  I passed only one vehicle on CA 127 and probably encountered less than ten north to the state line.  There tons of vistas of the open desert approaching the BLM managed Dumont Dunes Off-Highway Vehicle Area.







Oddly shields on CA 127 are signed on the southbound lanes and are double sided.





Another doubled sided shield can be observed on the climb to Ibex Pass.





Ibex Pass is 2,072 above sea level and is the boundary for the Inyo County line.  The Inyo County portion of CA 127 is far newer and gradually picks up to a rare 65 MPH for a two-lane California State Highway.







CA 127 descends towards the Amargosa River and junctions Old Spanish Trail Highway.  The Old Spanish Trail Highway appears to be a reference to the 1844 route which would have run through the Mojave Desert in close proximity to CA 127.  Old Spanish Trail Highway continues to Nevada where it becomes Tecopa Road and ends at NV 160.





Another major paved road along CA 127 is Tecopa Hot Springs Road which is located just to the south of Shoshone and traverses southeast back to Old Spanish Trail Highway.





Shoshone is at an elevation of 1,585 feet above sea level and was founded as a rail siding of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad in 1910.  Shoshone has a couple residents left who operate the last gas station and services before Death Valley.  The far eastern extent of CA 178 is junctioned in Shonshone and multiplexed through town.  CA 178 east of Shoshone continues Nevada where it becomes NV 372 which ends at NV 160 in Pahrump.





Death Valley Junction is 26 miles north of Shoshone.  The 65 MPH portion of CA 127 begins north of Shoshone.






After about a mile CA 178 splits west towards Death Valley on Jubliee Pass Road.  CA 178 to the west ends at Badwater Road but was originally envisioned to connect to it's western segment near Trona by crossing the Panamint Range.  Badwater Road is typically closed in the winter due to mountain water run-off flooding the roadway.






I just thought this mountain jutting out of the desert was cool to look at.





CA 127 eventually enters Death Valley Junction which is located at 2,041 feet above sea level.  Death Valley Junction was originally known as Amargosa.  Death Valley Junction was the eastern terminus of the Death Valley Railroad which operated west to the ghost town Ryan on Dante's View Road in the Amargosa Range just to the east of Death Valley.  The Death Valley Railroad was a narrow gauge which connected to the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad, it was primarily used to ship borax from Death Valley.  The Death Valley Railroad operated from 1914 to 1931 when it shuttered due to the closure of the borax mines in Death Valley.  Most of the buildings in Death Valley Junction was built in the 1920s including the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel which was completed in 1925.  Today Death Valley Junction despite being almost entirely abandoned is a primary junction point for traffic from Las Vegas traveling to Death Valley National Park via State Line Road which connects to NV 160.











The eastern terminus of CA 190 junctions CA 127 north of Death Valley Junction.  I did take it down to Death Valley National Park and came back to CA 127, but I'll talk about that in Part 3.





CA 127 continues another 7 miles north to the Nevada State Line where it becomes NV 373.  NV 373 is a 16 mile state highway which terminates at US 95 in Amargosa Valley Junction.  There isn't much to Amargosa Valley Junction but there is a road side stop displaying what is claimed to be the world's largest M-800.  The same stop has various Area 51 displays which I suspect is due to the close proximity to the Nevada Test Site and Nellis Air Force Range.  I thought the new oversized mileage markers on NV 373 were a nice touch, I don't recall them being that large on previous visits to Nevada.  There was also a new Welcome to Nevada highway sign located at the start of NV 373.










CA 127 appears to have been part of the original run of signed state highways back in 1934.  On the 1938 state highway map of California CA 127 is shown signed from US 91/466 in Baker north to the Nevada State Line.  CA 127 doesn't appear to have had any major alignment shifts during the duration of it's existence.  CA 127 was adopted back in 1933 ironically with a matching Legislative Route number of 127.

1938 State Highway Map

CAhighways.org on CA 127

NV 373 was originally signed as NV 29 from US 95 south to the California State Line by the early 1930s (likely 1932).  NV 29 was renumbered to NV 373 during the 1976 Nevada State Highway renumbering.  The original designation of NV 29 can be observed on the 1938 Nevada State Highway map.

1938 Nevada State Highway Map 

In reference to the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad which ran along modern CA 127 and NV 373, it operated from 1904 to 1940.  The Tonopah and Tidewater was originally envisioned to run from San Diego to Tonopah but only made it Ludlow, CA and Beatty, NV.  The 1938 California State Highway Map above shows some additional rail sidings of the Tonopah and Tidewater like Evelyn, Crucero, in addition to Silver Lake.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Why do you call it the "deadly desert highway"? Is that route known for accidents?
Challenger Tom said…
Not really, it is just out in the middle of nowhere and usually has summer temperatures that can exceed 110F. I saved up the "Lone Desert Highway" for CA 136 which I should be creating a blog entry for relatively soon.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing your experiences along CA state road 127. I will be soon driving from LA to Vegas and then on to the east coast. I want to go through DA and take a picture of a sign or two for the sake of posterity. Your post is very helpful -Marc
Anonymous said…
Though a few years old now, your description and photos are very much appreciated. We travel from Arizona to Oregon once or twice a year and are always looking for new and interesting routes that are motorhome friendly. Your photos really give us a sense of what to expect. Might be wishful thinking to hope that the San Bernadino County section of CA127 has been repaved by now. The reality is that it's probably even worse! Can't be nearly as bad as eastbound I-40 in Arizona, between Kingman and Seligman though!

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