Skip to main content

California State Route 20; from I-80 in Emigrant Gap west to CA 174

Crossing the Sierras westward from Donner Pass found me on Interstate 80.  Given that I had a substantial jog of freeway ahead headed back to the Fresno area I decided to take a detour onto California State Route 20 westward to CA 174 in Grass Valley.


CA 20 is a long somewhat rural east/west State Highway at 212 miles which begins at I-80 in Nevada County and terminates at CA 1 in Mendocino County.  All of CA 20 was part of Legislative Route Number 15 which was dates back as early as the 1909 First State Highway Bond with a 8.7 mile segment from Williams to Colusa.  In 1919 LRN 15 was greatly expanded during the Third State Highway Bond which stretched from Ukiah at modern day US Route 101 east to Emigrant Gap at LRN 37 at the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Road.  In 1934 all of LRN 15 was assigned CA 20 as a Signed Route Number.

CAhighways.org Highway History Chapter 1

CAhighways.org Highway History Chapter 2

The original extent of CA 20 can be viewed on the 1938 State Highway Map.

1938 State Highway Map

LRN 15 was extended to CA 1 in 1953 during Legislative Chapter 1408.

CAhighways.org on CA 20

The unbuilt extension of LRN 15 can be viewed between Willits at US 101 and Fort Bragg on the 1954 State Highway Map.

1954 State Highway Map

Ultimately a new alignment for LRN 15 was not built and CA 20 was applied to existing roadways between US 101 and CA 1 which can be seen on the 1958 State Highway Map.

1958 State Highway Map

My approach to CA 20 westbound to CA 174 was from Interstate 80 exit 161.  Exit 161 is actually located a couple miles east of Emigrant Gap at the location of a former Central Pacific rail siding known as Yuba Pass.  Yuba Pass is named after the nearby Yuba Gap which is was part of the wagon route over the Sierras traversed by the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Road and is now occupied by I-80.



CA 174 is located 31 miles to the west on CA 20 in Grass Valley.


CA 20 briefly dips southward into Placer County and the Emigrant Gap.  Emigrant Gap was part of the traditional crossing of the Sierras west from Donner Pass.  The Emigrant Gap is a notable drop in the terrain at roughly 5,200 feet where wagon parties would need to lower their wagons by rope. The first wagon crossing of the Emigrant Gap was by the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party in 1845 as they descended the Sierras from Donner Pass.




CA 20 dips north across the Bear River from Emigrant Gap which serves the Nevada County line.



CA 20 west to Nevada City at CA 49 is signed as a Scenic Route.


CA 20 is a curvy highway but well graded.  After a series of wide curves there is a vista along CA 20 of the Omega and Alpha Hydraulic Mines.  The Omega and Alpha Mines were named after towns that were formed in the mid-1850s.  The hydraulic mining eventually consumed both Omega and Alpha but the mining pits in addition to tailings are still evidence.  The Omega Mine operated until 1949.





West of the Omega and Alpha Mine overlook is another vista on CA 20 of Washington Ridge.  Below Washington Ridge is the community of Washington on the South Fork Yuba River.  Washington is one of the Traditional California Gold Rush communities having been settled in 1849.  There is a small monument at the overlooking detailing the history of the Nevada and Washington Toll Road which is now occupied by the right-of-way of CA 20.





CA 20 gradually drops to approximately 3,000 feet above sea level westward to CA 49 in Nevada City.










CA 20 multiplexes CA 49 onto a freeway alignment and enters Grass Valley.





CA 20/49 has a junction with CA 174 in Grass Valley.  I pulled off the CA 20/49 freeway to join CA 174.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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

Colorado Road (Fresno County)

Colorado Road is a rural highway located in San Joaquin Valley of western Fresno County.  Colorado Road services the city of San Joaquin in addition the unincorporated communities of Helm and Tranquility.  Colorado Road was constructed between 1910 and 1912 as a frontage road of the Hanford & Summit Lake Railway.  The roadway begins at California State Route 145 near Helm and terminates to the west at James Road in Tranquility.   Part 1; the history of Colorado Road Colorado Road was constructed as frontage road connecting the sidings of the Hanford & Summit Lake Railway.  The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway spanned from South Pacific Railroad West Side Line at Ingle junction southeast to the Coalinga Branch at Armona.  The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway broke ground during August 1910 and was complete by April 1912. The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway established numerous new sidings.  From Ingle the sidings of the line were Tranquility, Graham, San Joaquin, Caldwell, H

The Putah Creek Bridge of Monticello (former California State Route 28)

The Putah Creek Bridge was a masonry structure constructed during 1896 by Napa County to serve the community of Monticello.  The Putah Creek Bridge would be annexed into the State Highway System in 1933 when Legislative Route Number 6 was extended from Woodland Junction to Napa.  The Putah Creek Bridge was a component of the original California State Route 28 from 1934-1952.  The span briefly became part of California State Route 128 in 1953 until the highway was relocated as part of the Monticello Dam project in 1955.  Today the Putah Creek Bridge sits at the bottom of the Lake Berryessa reservoir and is accessible to divers.  Pictured as the blog cover is the Putah Creek Bridge as it was featured in the September 1950 California Highways & Public Works.   California State Route 28 can be seen crossing the Putah Creek Bridge near Monticello on the 1943 United States Geological Survey map of Copay.   The history of the Putah Creek Bridge The site of Monticello lies under the waters