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California State Route 33

This past week I drove a section of California State Route 33 from CA 198 north I-5 in Santa Nella.  CA 33 probably has been one of the more common rural routes that I've interacted with since moving to California.  That being the case I actually had a substantial amount of photo stock of CA 33 that I was able to cobble together into a road album from US 101 in Ventura north to I-5 in Santa Nella.

CA 33 is a 290 mile State Highway spanning from Ventura at US 101 north to I-5 near Tracy.  CA 33 is mostly known for running almost the entire length of western San Joaquin Valley although during the1964 California Highway Renumbering had the highway extended over a part of US 399.  When CA 33 was first signed in 1934 from US 399 in Taft north to US 50 near Tracy.  CA 33 was a rare Signed State Highway that was actually signed over portions of County Maintained roadways.  In the case of CA 33 it ran on County Maintained roadways in Fresno County north of CA 198 to Mendota which can be seen on the 1938 State Highway Map. 

From Taft to Mendota CA 33 ran on Legislative Route 138.  The CA 33 portion of LRN 138 from Taft to Coalinga was defined in 1933 according to

By 1940 all State Highway shields on County Maintained roadways seem to have been removed by the Division of Highways.  CA 33 had a large gap in the route from Coalinga to Mendota which can be seen on the 1940 State Highway Map.

By 1950 CA 33 was extended from Taft over US 399 and CA 166 to US 99.  This odd multiplex lasted until the 1964 State Highway Renumbering.

By 1955 CAhighways states that LRN 138 was extended northward to Mendota which connected the gap in CA 33.  This section of LRN 138 and CA 33 can be seen added as a State Highway by comparing the 1955 State Highway Map to the 1956.

CA 33 north of Mendota to US 50 was part of a 1933 extension of LRN 41.   

Both LRN 138 and LRN 41 largely follow the route of the El Camino Viejo in San Joaquin Valley.  The El Camino Viejo was an alternate route to the El Camino Real from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area.  The El Camino Viejo saw most of it's use between 1769 until 1853 when it was replaced in San Joaquin Valley by the Stockton-Los Angeles Road.  The Stockton Los Angeles Road skirted San Joaquin Valley to the east and largely followed the Sierra Foothills along what became the CA 65 corridor.

As state above CA 33 was reassigned over a portion of US 399 from Taft south to Ventura during the 1964 California State Highway Renumbering.  Ironically this section of US 399 was also part of LRN 138 and was adopted in 1933.  The change from US 399 to CA 33 can be seen by comparing the 1963 State Highway Map to the 1964.

Previously I touched on the history of the full-scope of US 399 on my CA 119 blog.

Back in 2016 I drove CA 33 north from Ventura to Taft.  US 399 would have met US 101 along Ventura Avenue at Thompson Boulevard.  I believe the earlier alignment of US 101 would have run on Main Street but the 1935 California Division of Highways Map shows the junction likely at Ventura/Thompson. 

By 1958 US 399 was moved to the Ojai Freeway west of Ventura Avenue.  The change can be seen by comparing the 1957 State Highway Map to the 1958.

In 2016 I was one something of a US 399 kick and took Ventura Avenue which largely is within sight of the Ojai Freeway.

North of Ventura CA 33 passes through the communities of Casitas Springs and Oak View before meeting CA 150 at Baldwin Road in Mira Monte.

CA 33 multiplexes CA 150 in Mira Monte before splitting away at Ojai Avenue.  CA 33 continues north into Los Padres National Forest along the course of the Ventura River to it's source at the confluence of Matilija Creek and the North Fork Matilija Creek near Ojala.  CA 33 passes through a couple tunnels as it begins to ascend into the Transverse Ranges.

CA 33 begins to gain serious elevation following the course of the North Fork Matilija Creek.  The alignment of CA 33 includes some long-switch backs on an incredibly fun roadway.  Near Road Valley Road there are a couple wide vistas of CA 33 wandering the canyons below.

CA 33 gradually ascends to Pine Mountain Pass at 5,160 feet in elevation.

CA 33 begins to lose elevation at Pine Mountain Summit.  Eventually CA 33 leaves Los Padres National Forest where it enters Cuyama Valley and Santa Barbra County near the community of Ventucopa.

CA 33 meets CA 166 in Cuyama Valley.  Northbound CA 33 begins a easterly multiplex of CA 166 towards Taft which is signed as being 14 miles away.

Previously I wrote about the entire alignment of CA 166 which can be found here.

California State Route 166

Directly east of the CA 166 junction CA 33/CA 166 enters Kern County.

CA 33/166 has a somewhat significant junction at Soda Lake Road which continues northward to CA 58 through Carrizo Plain National Monument.  Soda Lake Road largely follows the general path of the San Andreas Fault.

CA 33/166 descends a 7% grade with San Joaquin Valley in sight to the east towards Maricopa.

CA 33 splits away from CA 166 on California Street in Maricopa.  As stated above CA 33 from 1950 to 1964 continued east on CA 166 to US 99.

CA 33 north utilizes California Street through downtown Maricopa.  Exiting Maricopa the route of CA 33 north is signed as being 7 miles away.

The land between Maricopa and Taft is heavily drilled for oil.  On Petroleum Club Road there is a historic sign directing traffic to the Lakeview Gusher #1.

CA 33 enters the outskirt of Taft and goes through a series of passing zones before meeting a junction with CA 119.  CA 33 continues through Taft as West Side Highway whereas CA 119 heads east towards Bakersfield.  Originally CA 33 ended at US 399 at 6th Street when the latter highway ran through Taft as opposed to the modern bypass CA 119 takes to the east.

CA 33 and Westside Highway traverse through downtown Taft.  Taft dates back to the Sunset Railroad and was originally known as "Siding Number 2" before taking it's modern name in 1909.  Taft incorporated in 1910 and has remained a city ever since.  Along Center Street is a very old downtown district, the Fox Theater below is located at 6th Street and Center.

North of Taft the next community on CA 33 is McKittrick 15 miles away.

CA 33 generally follows a northwestern path from Taft in the foothills above San Joaquin Valley.  Really there isn't much practicality in taking CA 33 over I-5 aside from wanting a quiet route, avoiding winter Tule Fog, or to check out some oil infrastructure.

Immediately south of McKittrick CA 33 north enters Derby Acres.

As CA 33 north enters McKittrick it picks up CA 58 east.

CA 33 north/CA 58 east enter downtown McKittrick multiplexed on 2nd Street.  McKittrick dates back to 1910 and is named after a local rancher.  The only notable structure truly left in McKittrick is the McKittrick Hotel.

North of downtown McKittrck CA 58 splits away from CA 33 north.

CA 58 west of Bakersfield was originally part of CA 178.  I wrote about an early alignment of CA 178 west of McKittrick which can seen here.

Old Signed State Highway 178 

The next major way point on CA 33 north of McKittrick is CA 46 at Blackwell's Corner.

CA 33 north begins to descend out of the oil laden foothills into San Joaquin Valley.  The only name community that CA 33 north enters before CA 46 is Missouri Triangle at Lost Hills Road.

A couple miles south of CA 46 the route of CA 33 north encounters the humorously named "Brown Material Road."  Brown Material Road apparently is named for a local oil supply product company which has been present at least since the 1930s.

CA 33 north encounters CA 46 in Blackwell's Corner.  Blackwell's Corner is mostly known for being the last place James Dean was seen alive on US Route 466.

CA 46 was once part of US Route 466, I wrote about the highway previous here.

Legacy US 466 Part 1; California State Route 46

Avenal is signed as being 31 miles north of Blackwell's Corner on CA 33 north.

A couple miles north of Blackwell's Corner CA 33 enters Kings County.  There is very little indication that CA 33 north has entered Kings County aside from the Postmile paddles changing.

Reef Station and CA 41 are located approximately 22 miles north of Blackwell's Corner on CA 33.

Previously I wrote about the former alignments of CA 41 in Kings County which can be found here.

Old California State Route 41 in Kings County

North of Reef Station CA 33 straddles a valley between the Kettleman Hills and the Diablo Range.  CA 269 in Avenal is located about 9 miles north of Reef Station on CA 33.

Previously I wrote about the routing of CA 269 north over the Kettleman Hills which can be found here.

California State Route 269

North of CA 269 the route of CA 33 enters Fresno County.  Coalinga is located 18 miles northwest of Avenal.  CA 33 continues north to Jayne Avenue where it turns west towards Coalinga.  CA 33 enters Coalinga at Warthan Creek where the road becomes Polk Street.

Previously CA 33 used Lost Hills road and Merced Avenue to reach Coalinga.  The alignment to Jayne Avenue first appears on the 1963 State Highway Map, the previous alignment can be seen by comparing to the 1962 edition.

1962 State Highway Map

1963 State Highway Map

CA 33 takes a swing towards CA 198 on 5th Street.  Polk Street can used to reach CA 198 as it is entering the Diablo Range.

Previously I wrote about CA 198 in the Diablo Range which at least in my opinion is one of the best driving routes in California.

Challenger Adventures in the Coast Ranges; California State Route 198 between US 101 to I-5

CA 33 follows 5th Street to CA 198 in front of Coalinga Plaza.

CA 33/198 exit Coalinga and ascend into the Kettleman Hills via Fresno-Coalinga Road, Mendota is signed as 46 miles to the north.  CA 198 splits away towards Harris Ranch and I-5 on Dorris Road while CA 33 continues north Fresno-Coalinga Road.

Mendota is signed as 38 miles north on CA 33 from the CA 198 split.

CA 33 continues north through the Kettleman Hills where it meets it's former alignment on Coalinga-Mendota Road.

Suffice to say Coalinga-Mendota Road has seen far better days.

A quick look southbound on CA 33 from the end of Coalinga-Mendota Road reveals a somewhat scenic view of a road through the rolling Kettleman Hills.

CA 33 used to follow Coalinga-Mendota Road north to Derrick Avenue.  When I-5 was completed the CA 33 was shifted east onto it from CA 145 to Derrick Avenue.  The change in CA 33 can be observed by comparing the 1970 State Highway Map to the 1975.

1970 State Highway Map

1975 State Highway Map 

In the winter of 2019 I drove Coalinga-Mendota Road from modern CA 33 north to Derrick Avenue.  North of modern CA 33 there is a highly scenic view of the road ahead descending the Kettleman Hills to San Joaquin Valley.

Coalinga-Mendota Road quickly descends out of the Kettleman Hills onto an overpass of I-5.

Coalinga-Mendota Road runs northward east of I-5 within view of the freeway.  The roadway is curvy but surprisingly well maintained for how remote it is.

Coalinga-Mendota Road offers one hell of a scenic view I-5 and the Diablo Range during rain storms.

Coalinga-Mendota Road ascends over I-5 again to the western flank of the freeway.

Coalinga-Mendota Road continues northward along the western side of I-5 before meeting it again along with CA 33 at Derrick Avenue.

Returning to modern CA 33 it descends sharply out of the Kettleman Hills to a junction with I-5 and CA 145.  As described above CA 33 joins I-5 whereas CA 145 continues on Coalinga-Fresno Road.

Previously I wrote about CA 145 which continues to CA 41, that blog article can be found here.

California State Route 145

CA 33 is signed fairly well on I-5, the multiplex ends as stated above at Derrick Avenue.

North of I-5 Three Rocks is signed 5 miles to the north and Mendota is signed as 24 miles away.

Three Rocks is located at CA 33 and Clarkson Avenue.  The community doesn't appear on any early era State Highway maps and given it is a single neighborhood I believe it has origins as a farming company town.  Alongside CA 33 there is only a couple abandoned commercial structures in Three Rocks.

Mendota is signed as 17 miles to the north on CA 33 from Clarkson Avenue in Three Rocks.

Between Three Rocks and Mendota CA 33 crosses the San Luis Canal.

On the outskirts of Mendota CA 33 meets Panoche Road which was likely signed as CA 180 west to CA 25 before 1940.

At Belmont Avenue CA 33 meets Signed County Route J1 at the City Limits of Mendota.  CR J1 is unsigned from CA 33 but continues west over the Diablo Range to CA 25.  Mendota dates back to the early 1890s as a rail siding of the Southern Pacific Railroad but is more well known for an unemployment rate that reached 45% in 2011.

Previously I wrote about CR J1 and the history of the ultimately failed western extension of CA 180.  The blog article on both subjects can be found here.

Signed County Route J1

CA 33 continues north through downtown Mendota and meets the western terminus of CA 180 at Oller Street.

I've written several blog articles on CA 180 east to Kings Canyon National Park which can be found below.

California State Route 180 from CA 99 west to CA 33

Old CA 180 and CA 41 surface alignments in Fresno

California State Route 180 east of Fresno to Cedar Grove

There is a nice button-copy CA 33 BGS just before a rail crossing in the northern extent of Mendota.


Traffic north of Mendota on CA 33 is directed towards Firebaugh which is signed as 8 miles away.

CA 33 reaches the City of Firebaugh near the Outside Canal.

Interestingly the original route of CA 33 actually was routed around the Outside Canal on Washoe Avenue to Nees Avenue.  CA 33 would have entered Firebaugh via 12th Street and traversed the downtown area on O Street and 8th Street.  The original alignment of CA 33 in Firebaugh can be seen below on the 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Fresno County.

1935 Fresno County Highway Map

Topographical scans on historicaerials show the original alignment of CA 33 being replaced sometime between 1941 and 1947.  Today CA 33 continues directly north over the Outside Canal and the Main Canal into downtown Firebaugh.

13th Street takes traffic east over the San Joaquin River into Madera County.

Firebaugh is one of the oldest cities in Fresno County and was the location of Firebaugh's Ferry which carried traffic across the San Joaquin River.  Previously I wrote a blog article on Firebaugh's Ferry which can be found here.

Firebaugh's Ferry

CA 33 runs on N Street through downtown Firebaugh.  At 12th Street traffic is ironically directed on the original alignment of CA 33 towards I-5.

Dos Palos is signed as 14 miles to the north of Firebaugh on CA 33.

CA 33 enters Merced County just south of Dos Palos.

CA 33 runs on Elgin Avenue through Dos Palos.

Los Banos is signed as 16 miles to the north of Dos Palos on CA 33.

After 4 miles CA 33 meets the CA 152 expressway and begins to multiplex it westward towards Los Banos.

Previously I wrote a blog article about CA 152 which can be found here.

California State Route 152

CA 33/152 enters Los Banos as Pacheco Boulevard and meets CA 165 at Mercey Springs Road.

Previously I wrote a blog article about CA 165 which can be found here.

California State Route 165

Originally CA 33 split from CA 152 in downtown Los Banos just ahead in the photo at H Street towards Volta.

The original alignment of CA 33 through Volta is pretty interesting and has multiple railroad crossings.  My previous blog article on the first CA 207 and the Volta alignment of CA 33 can be found here.

California State Route 2017 I & II

I-5 is 5 miles west of Los Banos on CA 33/152.

CA 33/152 continue westward.  CA 33 splits off of CA 152 at Santa Nella Boulevard.

CA 33 continues 3 miles north over the original CA 207 alignment and O'Neill Forebay to Santa Nella.  In Santa Nella CA 33 meets it's former alignment at Henry Miller Avenue.

Santa Nella was part of Rancho de Centinela which was established in 1810.  Rancho de Centinela was located at the junction of the route over Pacheco Pass and the El Camino Viejo.  By the 20th Century "Rancho de Centienla" had been bastardized into the English "Santa Nella" which became the recognized name of the community in the 1980s.

CA 33 crosses over I-5 in Santa Nella north of Henry Miller Avenue.

North of I-5 the route of CA 33 continues directly north to Gustine for approximately 10 miles meeting CA 140 Sullivan Road.

CA 33 north and CA 140 east multiplex into downtown Gustine on South Avenue before splitting away on Railroad Avenue. Gustine dates back to the first decade of the 20th Century as a rail siding of the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Post Office service opened in Gustine in 1907 and the community incorporated in 1915.

Newman is signed as being 4 miles north of Gustine on CA 33 northbound.  Tracy isn't actually on CA 33 but is signed as being 43 miles away.

CA 33 junctions Canal School Road between Newman and Gustine which provides access to the China Island Wildlife Area.

CA 33 north crosses the Stanislaus County Line entering the City of Newman.  Newman dates back to 1888 and largely has an agricultural economy.  CA 33 north traverses Newman on N Street.

Patternson is listed as being 13 miles away on CA 33 northbound in Newman.

North of the Newman City Limits CA 33 junctions Signed County Route J18 at Stuhr Road.

Previously I wrote about J18 and it's former status as the original alignment of CA 140.

Signed County Route J18 and the pre-1937 alignment of CA 140

From Stuhr Road Crow's Landing is listed as being five miles away on CA 33 northbound.

Crow's Landing was originally a Ferry Crossing of the San Joaquin River and was located 4 miles to the east on Crow's Landing Road.  The community moved to the Southern Pacific line in 1887 which now on the CA 33 alignment.  The community today sports various rail siding oriented buildings and has a very industrial feel.

Patterson is listed as six miles to the north of Crow's Landing on CA 33.

CA 33 north traverses Patterson on 2nd Street and meets Signed County Route J17 at Las Palmas Avenue.  Patterson originally was part of a large ranch purchased by John Patterson in 1866.  The Patterson Ranch was subdivided in 1909 and became a city in 1919.

CA 33 north of Patterson follows the railroad for approximately 7 miles to Westley, jumping from one side of the tracks to the other multiple times.

CA 33 meets Signed County Route J16 at Howard Road/Grayson Road in Westley.  Westley is a fairly recent rail siding apparently having been created some time in the 1940s.

Vernalis is listed as seven miles away from Westley on CA 33 northbound.

CA 33 crosses over the railroad tracks one final time before entering San Joaquin County and Vernalis.  Vernalis apparently dates back to a community from 1851 known as San Joaquin which was located on the San Joaquin River approximately 3 miles east of the present position.  The community was moved to the Southern Pacific rails in 1888 and changed it's name to Vernalis.

CA 33 northbound meets CA 132 at an underpass in Vernalis.

CA 33 continues another 5 miles northward reaching it's terminus at I-5.

CA 33/LRN 41 originally extended northward to US 48 just east of Tracy.  CA 33 met US 48 along what is now the junction of the I-205 Business Loop and Bird Road and can be seen on the 1934 State Highway Map.

1934 State Highway Map

In 1935 US 50 was extended to San Francisco over what was US 48.  This in turn made the north terminus of CA 33 located at US 50 just east of Tracy which can be observed on the 1936-37 State Highway Map.

1936-37 State Highway Map

US 50 was truncated back to Sacramento in 1972 according to USends.  In turn the alignment of CA 33 was also truncated to the present location at I-5 which can be seen by comparing the 1970 and 1975 State Highway Maps.

1970 State Highway Map

1975 State Highway Map


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