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Old US Route 60/70 through Hell (Chuckwall Valley Road and Ragsdale Road)

Back in 2016 I explored some of the derelict roadways of the Sonoran Desert of Riverside County which were part of US Route 60/70; Chuckwalla Valley Road and Ragsdale Road.


US 60 and US 70 were not part of the original run of US Routes in California.  According to USends.com US 60 was extended into California by 1932.  US 60 doesn't appear on the California State Highway Map until the 1934 edition.

USends.com on US 60 endpoints

1934 State Highway Map

Conversely US 70 was extended into California by 1934, it first appears on the 1936 State Highway Map.

USends.com on US 70 endpoints

1936 State Highway Map

When US 60 and US 70 were extended into California they both utilized what was Legislative Route Number 64 from the Arizona State Line west to Coachella Valley.  LRN 64 was part of the 1919 Third State Highway Bond Act routes.  The original definition of LRN 64 routed between Mecca in Blythe and wasn't extended to the Arizona State Line until 1931 according to CAhighways.org.

CAhighways.org on LRN 64

LRN 64 appears on the 1920 State Highway Map as one of the 1919 Legislative additions.

1920 State Highway Map

By 1926 some parts of LRN 64 had been graded in the vicinity of Desert Center but the rest remained ungraded.

1926 State Highway Map

Further improvements to LRN 64 appear in the vicinity of Blythe on the 1928 State Highway Map.

1928 State Highway Map

LRN 64 was completed to State Highway standards between Blythe and Desert Center by 1930.

1930 State Highway Map

On the 1932 State Highway Map LRN 64 is shown completed between Mecca and the Arizona State Line.  Originally LRN 64 descended into Coachella Valley via Box Canyon Road which still appears to have been ungraded in 1932.

1932 State Highway Map

According to CAhighways.org the first bridge over the Colorado River in Bylthe was opened in 1870.  A new County Maintained toll bridge opened in 1928 which was purchased in 1931 by the State during the expansion of LRN 64.

CAhighways.org on I-10

The 1934 State Highway Map above shows a fully graded LRN 64 carrying US Route 60.  The 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Riverside County shows the entire routing of LRN 64 in far more detail.  LRN 64/US 60/US 70 originally diverged significantly from I-10 using alignments on Chuckwalla Valley Road and Box Canyon Road.

1935 Riverside County Highway Map

By late 1935 the modern grade used by I-10 descending westward from Chiriaco Summit into Coachella Valley in proximity to Coachella was completed.  US 60/US 70 were moved to the new grade, this can be seen on the 1936 State Highway Map above.

By 1940 US 95 was routed into California via what was CA 195.  After US 95 was extended to California a second CA 195 was created along LRN 64 on Box Canyon Road.  LRN 64 was actually a split route carrying US 60/70 on the north segment and CA 195 on Box Canyon Road.  This can be seen on the 1940 State Highway Map.

1940 State Highway Map 

By 1964 the California State Highway renumbering occurred and US 70 was truncated out of California.

1964 State Highway Map

By the 1966 State Highway Map edition the planned bypass of Chuckwalla Valley Road appears.

1966 State Highway Map

By the 1967 State Highway Map I-10 appears co-signed with US 60 from Coachella was to Chiriaco Summit.

1967 State Highway Map 

By 1969 I-10 bypassed Chuckwalla Valley and was nearly completed through the Sonoran Desert.  The US 60 designation was removed from California and CA 60 appears west of I-10 from Beaumont.

1969 State Highway Map

I-10 was completed to Blythe by 1970.

1970 State Highway Map

I-10 was completed through Blythe east to the Arizona State Line sometime between 1970 and 1975.  The completed I-10 in the Sonoran Desert appears on the 1975 State Highway Map.

1975 State Highway Map

Despite not truly being maintained since the late 1960s Chuckwalla Valley Road has until recently remained open as an alternate between Exit 217 west to Exit 201.  However when I visited Chuckwalla Valley Road in late 2016 I found that it was already closed with no clear explanation as to why.  I suspect the road was washed out much like Tex Wash was near Desert Center but I'm not certain if Chuckwalla Valley Road ever reopened.




Interestingly Chuckwalla Valley Road and US 60/US 70 once served as the roadway to "Hell".  Hell was a small roadside community located near what is I-10 Exit 201.  Hell was really nothing more than a service station built in 1954.  Hell was abandoned in the early 1960s when it became clear that it was part of eminent domain for the upcoming build of I-10.  Hell apparently was demolished by the Division of Highways in 1964.

West of Chuckwalla Valley Road the former routing of US 60/70 in Desert Center was on Ragsdale Road just north of I-10.  Ragsdale Road is intact from present day CA 177 (I-10 Exit 192) west to Eagle Mountain Road (I-10 Exit 189).  I pulled off I-10 at Exit 189 and headed east on Ragsdale Road towards CA 177.


Surprisingly the Old US 60/70 Tex Wash Bridge on Ragsdale Road withstood eroding away in 2015 after the eastbound lanes of I-10 were washed out.  The abandoned gas station east of Tex Wash gave Ragsdale Road a somewhat creepy vibe despite the high speed traffic zooming by on I-10 west.











I traveled on Ragsdale Road east into Desert Center to CA 177.  Ragsdale Road and former US 60/70 continue east of CA 177 where the alignment disappears into the westbound lane of I-10.  Desert Center essentially is a ghost town today but the community is fairly old having been founded by "Desert Steve Ragsdale" in 1921.  Apparently Steve Ragsdale broke down in the Sonoran Desert in 1915 and found a well near the present town site of Desert Center.

Desert Center reached it's peak during World War II.  In 1942 the Desert Center Army Airfield was opened six miles northeast of town.  The Kaiser Steel Eagle Mountain Mine opened during World War II and continued to operate until 1982.  The Eagle Mountain Mine even had a small company town known by the name of the mine.   After steel mining at Eagle Mountain shuttered the former company town of Eagle Mountain was used as a prison until 2003.  Given the closure of the mines coupled with I-10 bypassing the community there isn't much reason for people to live in Desert Center anymore.









Comments

Anonymous said…
A Sign Engineer? Seriously?
Ken Roberge said…
As a young child I remember this Service Station because
it had a small zoo and He sold water for Fifty cents per gallon and my Dad cursed.
Very historical township. I am glad that someone else knows about this place.
Anonymous said…
Sadly, I just received news (11/26/22) that Desert Center has been totally demolished to make way for a truck stop.

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