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

California State Route 58/Old California State Route 178 west of CA 43

This past week I drove California State Route 58 west of CA 43 in Kern County over the Temblor Range and La Panza Range to US Route 101 near Santa Margarita of San Luis Obispo County.


CA 58 west of Bakersfield and CA 99 in general is a mostly two-lane highway that traverses some very remote territory of Central California.  I chose to cover CA 58 west of CA 43 specifically due to the changes in the alignment that are to come when the West Side Parkway connects to the Centennial Corridor project.  The Centennial Corridor will connect CA 58 west of CA 99 to the already completed segment of Freeway on the West Side Parkway.

Westside Parkway and the Centennial Corridor; Future California State Route 58

CA 58 from Barstow west to Bakersfield was carved out of what was US Route 466 during the 1964 State Highway Renumbering.  CA 58 west of Bakersfield to Santa Margarita was carved out of what was part of CA 178.  The change from CA 178 to CA 58 west of Bakersfield to Santa Margarita can be ob…

Chisholm Ferry/Bridge Location and early Legislative Route Number 10

This past month while viewing the site of Chisholm Ferry along the Kings River of Kings County I noticed that route being illustrated resembled an early Californian State Highway.  My suspicions proved correct as the location of Chisholm Ferry was part of the original alignment of Legislative Route Number 10; a precursor to California State Route 198.


The Facebook in question above was posted on the Antique Images from the Collection of Michael J. Semas and can be viewed below:

Michael J. Semas on Chisholm Ferry and Bridge

The location of Chisholm Ferry is located just south of Jackson Avenue/Old CA 198 on the Kings River about 4 miles west of Lemoore near Avenal Cut-Off Road.  This particular section of the Kings River was once the northern most extent of Tulare Lake.

Tulare Lake was once the largest fresh water lake west of the Great Lakes by surface area.  Tulare Lake was first surveyed at an approximately 570 square miles in 1849 and was later surveyed to be 690 square miles in …

California State Route 118

This past month I drove the entirety of California State Route 118 from Ventura County east into Los Angeles County.


CA 118 is a major 47 mile State Highway which begins in the City in Ventura County and traverses east into Los Angeles County by way of Simi Valley and Santa Susana Pass.  From Santa Susana Pass CA 118 continues eastward through San Fernando Valley within the City of Los Angeles and terminates at Interstate 210.  CA 118 contains within it's right-of-way some of the most historic highway corridors in California history.

The precursor route of CA 118 was Legislative Route Number 9 which was first added to the State Highway System during the First State Highway Bond Act of 1909.  The original definition of LRN 9 was from San Bernardino westward to LRN 4 in San Fernando. LRN 9 was extended westward to LRN 2 near Montalvo (modern day Ventura) in 1933.

In a August 1934 Department of Public Works Guide the Signed State Highways were announced.  CA 118 was announced to be a…