Skip to main content

California State Route 89 through Luther Pass


This pasts weekend I took California State Route 89 over the 12 mile routing from CA 88 in Alpine County over the 7,740 foot Lurther Pass to US 50 in El Dorado County.

CA 89 through Luther Pass was first proposed as a State Highway in 1909 on a bond measure that was approved in 1910.  Eventually the State Highway through Luther Pass was assigned to Legislative Route Number 23.  More information can be found here regarding the actual legislative acts on CAhighways.org.

CAhighways.org Early Highway History

CAhighways.org on CA 89

LRN 23 can be observed south of Lake Tahoe on the 1918 State Highway Map over Luther Pass as a special appropriations road.

1918 State Highway Map

The original alignment of LRN 23 and CA 89 through Luther Pass was on Upper Truckee Road.  The original alignment through Luther Pass used part of the modern CA 89 alignment but was on the west bank of the Upper Truckee River as opposed to the east bank.  This alignment can be seen clearly on the 1935 California Division of Highways Maps of Alpine and El Dorado Counties.

1935 Alpine County Highway Map

1935 El Dorado County Highway Map 

I prepared the below graphical illustration showing the original alignment of CA 89 through Luther Pass.  The map also includes the original alignments of US 50 over the south route of the Lincoln Highway over Johnson Pass and the original south terminus of CA 89 at CA 8/89 which was located at Picketts Junction.


CA 89 wasn't signed south of CA 88 until 1957 which can be observed by comparing the 1956 and 1957 State Highway Maps.

1956 State Highway Map

1957 State Highway Map

By 1960 CA 89 was shifted east of the Upper Truckee River.

1960 State Highway Map 

By 1961 the modern route CA 89 takes over Luther Pass to CA 88 was complete.

1961 State Highway Map

From the West Fork Carson River at CA 88 the routing CA 89 northbound over Luther Pass has an ominous appearance but is actually a fairly tame grade.


Heading northbound on CA 89 the El Dorado County Line is quickly encountered at Luther Pass.




Most of Upper Truckee Road is still maintained but the grade south of Luther Pass to CA 88 has been abandoned.  The abandoned portion of Upper Truckee Road is easily found at Luther Pass and is generally known as a local hiking trail.


As noted above in the Luther Pass photo the downhill grade on CA 89 is 6% downhill for the next 6 northbound miles.  Upper Truckee Road is encountered again twice on the downhill descent.




As CA 89 is descending from Luther Pass US Route 50 can be seen above descending Echo Summit.


CA 89 soon enters Meyers where it meets US 50.  CA 89 multiplexes US 50 to South Lake Tahoe before splitting away towards the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The history of US Route 80 and Interstate 8 in California

The historic corridor of US Route 80 and Interstate 8 through the borderlands of southern California share a largely mutual history.  Both highways originated in the city of San Diego and departed the state at the Colorado River into Yuma, Arizona.  Both highways share numerous famous geographical components such as the Mountain Springs Grade and Algodones Sand Dunes.  This article serves as a comprehensive history of the combined US Route 80/Interstate 8 corridor in California from the tolled stage route era of the nineteenth century to the development of the modern freeway.   The blog cover photo features US Route 80 along the Mountains Springs Grade through In-Ko-Pah Gorge during late 1920s.  This photo is part of the Caltrans McCurry Collection. Part 1; the history of US Route 80 and Interstate 8 in California US Route 80 and Interstate 8 in California share a largely mutual history.  The backstory of both highways is tied heavily to the corridors of the Old Spanish Trail, Legisl

The Central Freeway of San Francisco (US Route 101)

The Central Freeway is a 1.2-mile elevated limited access corridor in the city of San Francisco.  As presently configured the Central Freeway connects from the end of the Bayshore Freeway to Market Street.  The Central Freeway carries the mainline of northbound US Route 101 from the Bayshore Freeway to Mission Street. The Central Freeway has origins with the establishment of Legislative Route Number 223 and is heavily tied to the history of the once proposed Panhandle Freeway.  The Central Freeway between the Bayshore Freeway and Mission Street was completed during 1955.  The corridor was extended to a one-way couplet located at Turk Street and Golden Gate Avenue in 1959 which served to connect US Route 101 to Van Ness Avenue.  The Central Freeway was damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and has since been truncated to Market Street.   The Central Freeway as pictured on the blog cover was featured in the May/June 1959 California Highways & Public Works.  The scan below is fro

The Midway Palm and Pine of US Route 99

Along modern day California State Route 99 south of Avenue 11 just outside the City limits of Madera one can find the Midway Palm and Pine in the center median of the freeway.  The Midway Palm and Pine denotes the halfway point between the Mexican Border and Oregon State Line on what was US Route 99.  The Midway Palm is intended to represent Southern California whereas the Midway Pine is intended to represent Northern California.  Pictured above the Midway Palm and Pine can be seen from the northbound lanes of the California State Route 99 Freeway.   This blog is part of the larger Gribblenation US Route 99 Page.  For more information pertaining to the other various segments of US Route 99 and it's three-digit child routes check out the link the below. Gribblenation US Route 99 Page The history of the Midway Palm and Pine The true timeframe for when the Midway Palm and Pine (originally a Deadora Cedar Tree) were planted is unknown.  In fact, the origin of the Midway Palm and Pine w