Part 1; the History of US Route 199
Present US Route 199 ("US 199") is a 80.05 mile highway which connects US Route 101 in Crescent City of Del Norte, California northeast to Interstate 5 ("I-5") in Grants Pass of Josephine County, Oregon. US 199 is one of the original US Routes created during November 1926. US 199 is the only surviving spur of it's parent; US Route 99.
The history of what became US 199 begins in the 1854 when the City of Crescent City incorporated. The incorporation of Crescent City drove the need for a Stage Route to be built inland to Oregon. In June of 1854 the Crescent City & Yreka Plank Turnpike Company ("CCYPTC") formed with the goal of building a wagon road through the Klamath Mountains to Oregon via Oregon Mountain. To that end the CCYPTC surveyed a route to Oregon by October of 1854 but no work began as a recession hit during 1855. The CCYPTC began construction of a planked wagon road in 1857 and completed it during May of 1858. Below is a printed share of the CCYPTC from the Del Norte County History website:
Upon reaching Oregon Mountain the CCYPTC wagon road turned east straddling the State Line via Wilmer Road before turning north towards via what is now Lone Mountain Road. The CCYPTC wagon road followed modern US 199 through O'Brien, Waldo, Kerby, and Wilderville. From Wilderville the CCYPTC route turned east via what is now Fish Hatchery Road, the Applegate River, and OR 238 towards the mining City of Jacksonville. More information on the CCYPTC plank road can be found at the Del Notre County History website:
History of Crescent City and Del Norte County
At some point in the ensuing decades Horace Gasquet purchased a tract of trees at what is now modern day Gasquet. In 1881 the Gasquet Toll Road began to be constructed to Oregon Mountain where it crossed the Oregon State Line and met the existing CCYPTC plank road. The Gasquet Toll Road was a log surface design and would be completed by 1887. The Gasquet Toll Road was connected from Gasquet to Crescent City via the Smith River, Mill Creek, and Howland Summit. The general path of the Gasquet Toll Road included a new suspension bridge at the confluence of the Smith River and South Fork Smith River. The path of Gasquet Toll Road generally follows the path of the following roads from Crescent City northeast to the Oregon State Line:
- Elk Valley Road/Sign County Route D2.
- Howland Hill Road
- Douglas Park Road
- South Fork Road
- US Route 199
- Gasquet Flat Road
- Gasquet Middle Fork Road
- Old Gasquet Toll Road
- Patrick Creek Road
Below a link to a National Park Service article on the Gasquet Toll Road can be found:
NPS.gov; Gasquet Toll Road
The future route of US 199 was added to the Oregon State Route System on 11/27/1917 (date courtesy Jonathan Ledbetter) when Oregon State Highway Commission added the Grants Pass-Crescent City Highway #25 between Grants Pass southwest to the California State Line. Within California the future route of US 199 was added to the State Highway System during the 1919 Third State Highway Bond Act when Legislative Route 1 was extended to the Oregon State Line.
Legislative Route 1 ("LRN 1") can be seen aligned over the Gasquet Toll Road on the 1920 Division of Highways Map of California. The Gasquet Toll Road is noted to be added as part of a 1919 Legislative Amendment.
LRN 1 and Oregon Highway 25 are not shown to have carried any Auto Trails on the 1924 Rand McNally Regional Map. Grants Pass-Crescent City Highway #25 is shown as the Grants Pass-Crescent City Highway. Note; the Grants Pass-Crescent City Highway #25 was renamed to the Redwood Highway #25 by the Oregon State Highway Commission on 5/28/1924 (date courtesy Jonathan Ledbetter).
The 1925 Rand McNally Highway Map of Oregon/Washington shows in much greater detail the alignment of Redwood Highway #25 and LRN 1. LRN 1 is shown be on unimproved road following the path of Gasquet Toll Road. Redwood Highway #25 is shown to be improved from Waldo north east to Grants Pass.
The April 1925 CHPW guide goes into detail regarding the new Redwood Highway/Smith River Highway alignment of LRN 1 being opened to traffic. The Redwood Highway is described as a river level replacement of the Gasquet Toll Road (the latter is amusingly described as "The Terror"). The new Redwood Highway was opened without a paved surface which is cited to be scheduled to have an anticipated completion in 1926.
The 1926 Division of Highways Map of California shows the new Redwood Highway/Smith River Highway in full detail. The Gasquet Toll Road can be seen bypassed with a shallower alignment of LRN 1 to the east. LRN 1 would approached the Oregon State Line via what is now Oregon Mountain Road.
A January 1926 CHPW guide article discusses the California Highway Commission's approval of the anticipated US Route System. US Route 199 is cited to be a planned signed route from Crescent City to Grants Pass.
The US Route System was approved by the AASHO on November 11th, 1926. This in turn was the official starting point for the existence of US Route 199. US Route 199 can be seen plotted between Crescent City and Grants Pass on the 1927 Rand McNally Map of California and Oregon.
The US Route System in California along with US Route 199 are detailed in the January 1928 CHPW guide. Most documented sources tend to agree that the US Routes in California were not signed by the California State Automobile Association ("CSAA") and Automobile Club of Southern California ("ACSC") until 1928.
The January 1928 CHPW guide also details a new authorized bridge over the Smith River on US 199/LRN 1.
The September/October 1928 CHPW details the progress of the construction of the new Smith River Bridge.
A progress report from the March/April 1929 CHPW guide states that the structure of the new Smith River Bridge was three quarters complete.
The May/June 1929 CHPW guide cites the new Smith River Bridge frame as being completed and road deck installation as underway.
The July/August 1929 CHPW guide details the completed new Smith River Bridge (Hiouchi Bridge) as it's leading story. The Hiouchi Bridge opening ceremony took place on June 22nd, 1929.
Below is an assortment of pictures of the Hiouchi Bridge from the bridgehunter website.
The original alignment of US 199 can be seen on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Del Norte County. US 199 is shown departing US 101 in Crescent City via Parkway Drive. US 199's initial alignment over Oregon Mountain Road can be seen at the Oregon State Line. Of note; the Old Gasquet Toll Road can be seen north of US 199 beginning at Adams Station.
By 1956 US Route 101 had been moved off of Northcrest Drive in Crescent City and onto Parkway Drive. US Route 199's western terminus was moved a couple miles eastward on Parkway Drive near what is now Cookie Street. This new alignment of US Route 101 and new western terminus of US Route 199 can be seen on the 1956 California Division of Highways Map. Former US Route 101 on Northcrest Drive would later become Sign County Route D2 by 1966.
US Route 199 east of Gasquet east to the Oregon State Line is discussed in the July/August 1958 CHPW as needing substantial upgrades.. Hazel View Summit on the Oregon Mountain Grade near the State Line is cited as specifically problematic. The US Route 199 portion of LRN 1 was added to the Freeway & Expressway System in 1959 according to CAhighways.
According to the Oregon State Highway Commission records US 199 was extended through downtown Grants Pass to I-5 on 3/5/1959 (date courtesy Jonathan Ledbetter).
The groundbreaking ceremony for what was called the "Hazelview Tunnel" is discussed in the September/October 1960 CHPW guide. The CHPW guide goes into great detail of the then present alignment of US Route 199 over Oregon Mountain and the planned realignment via the Hazelview Tunnel. Interestingly in the second photo below the phrase "California-Oregon-Nevada" can be seen on a border in the background.
The "California-Oregon-Nevada" is likely referring to the planned Winnemucca-to-the-Sea Highway. The Winnemucca-to-the-Sea Highway was conceived as US Route 140 (which was already existing at the time and lasted until 1979) which would have begun at US Route 101 in Crescent City, CA and ended in Winnemucca, NV at I-80. The Winnemucca-to-the-Sea Highway was set to utilize the following highways but was never approved:
- US 199 from Crescent City, CA to Grants Pass, OR
- I-5 to OR 62 in Medford.
- OR 62 to OR 140 near Medford
- OR 140 to the Nevada State Line and NV 140
- NV 140 to US Route 95
- Co-Signed with US Route 95 to I-80 in Winnemucca, NV
Had US Route 140 been the number selected for the Winnemucca-to-the-Sea Highway it likely would have ended at Medford. California has never allowed route number duplication and CA 140 was a well established main road into Yosemite National Park. Doug featured the entire 494 mile route of what would have been the Winnemucca-to-the-Sea Highway in April 2020.
The Winnemucca-to-the-Sea Highway can be seen as a proposal for a new US Route 140 submitted to the AASHO by Oregon and Nevada on April 30th, 1963. The Winnemucca-to-the-Sea Highway had proposed endpoints at Eagle Point, Oregon and Winnemucca, Nevada. This proposal undercuts the need to renumber US 199.
Ultimately the creation of US 140 was rejected by the AASHO on 11/14/1963 with the low projected traffic volume and and lack of consistent design standards listed as reasons for denial. Ultimately the Winnemucca-to-the-Sea Highway would live on in the form of OR 140 and NV 140 but would never include US 199.
In the November/December 1963 CHPW article the now named "Randolph Collier Tunnel" on US Route 199 through Oregon Mountain is stated to have opened on July 27th.
Strangely the Gasquet Toll Road is discussed in the May/June 1964 CHPW.
During the 1964 California State Highway Renumbering all Legislative Route Numbers were dropped. US 199 survived being demoted to a State Highway due to it's route crossing the Oregon State Line. US 199 as a stand alone route can be seen on the 1964 Division of Highways State Map.
US 199 was heavily damaged during the Christmas 1964 Floods in Northern California. The destruction along US 199 and the Smith River watershed is featured in the March/April 1965 CHPW. Four bridges on US 199 are described as being destroyed/damaged during washouts, numerous are shown temporarily replaced by Bailey Bridges.
US 199 originally had an eastern terminus at US 99/6th Street via
Redwood Avenue in downtown Grants Pass. As noted above US 199 was extended in 1959
on a dual one-way alignment on 6th Street and 7th Street to a part of
one-way alignments on E Street and F Street. US 199 converged at E
Street where it met I-5.
Regarding Grants Pass the initial alignment of US 199 utilized Redwood Avenue westward towards the Applegate River. The 1967 California Division of Highways Map shows US 199 using the modern Redwood Highway expressway configuration. It appears that the modern US 199 expressway in Grants Pass was constructed west of US 99 sometime after 1956. US 199 appears on Redwood Avenue on the 1956 Shell Highway Map of Oregon.
In recent decades there has been minimal changes to US Route 199. In 1989 the Hiouchi Bridge was damaged beyond repaired by an overloaded truck. According to Jonathan Ledbetter US 199 in Grants Pass was shifted to a new eastern terminus at I-5 via the Grants Pass Parkway on 8/7/2011.
Part 2; a "Virtual" Drive on eastbound US Route 199
Our virtual tour of US 199 eastbound begins at US 101 northbound. US 199 begins at US 101 north Exit 794, traffic is immediately advised the former route is not intended for trucks.
US 199 east intersects Elk Valley Crossings at Post Mile DN T0.802. The "T" Post Mile designation denotes that US 199 is on a temporary alignment immediately east of US 101 and probably is a reference to the never officially cancelled freeway.
At Post Mile DN T1.024 US 199 east intersects it's former alignment on Parkway Drive. There is a historic marker indicating Camp Lincoln can be found on Kings Valley Road.
From Parkway Drive US 199 eastbound is signed as 78 miles from Grants Pass in Oregon.
At Post Mile DN 0.980 US 199 eastbound enters the Mary Lee Kellis Grove.
US 199 is aligned directly through the Coastal Redwoods of the Mary Lee Kellis Grove.
US 199 east crosses the new Hiouchi Bridge over the Smith River and intersects CA 197 at Post Mile DN 4.367.
At Post Mile DN 5.143 passes the entrance to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is co-managed by the Redwood National Park/State Park System.
US 199 east emerges from Jedediah Redwoods State Park into the community of Hiouchi at Post Mile DN 5.538.
At Post Mile DN 7.191 US 199 east intersects South Fork Road. South Fork Road is signed as access to the Scout Grove via the former Gasquet Toll Road at Howland Hill.
At Post Mile DN R11.976 US 199 east crosses the Smith River via the Mary Peacock Memorial Bridge.
US 199 east enters Gasquet and intersects Gasquet Flat Road at Post Mile DN 13.038.
At Post Mile DN 14.441 US 199 east in Gasquet passes by the Six Rivers National Recreation Area headquarters.
East of Gasquet US 199 expands to a four-lane expressway and is signed as 63 miles from Grants Pass.
At Post Mile DN R17.072 US 199 east crosses over the Middle Fork Smith River.
At Post Mile DN R19.200 US 199 east crosses the Middle Fork Smith River again.
At Post Mile DN 20.000 US 199 east drops to a conventional two-lane highway again and crosses the Middle Fork Smith River an additional time. Upon dropping to a two-lane road US 199 begins to mostly turn northeast towards the Oregon State Line.
At Post Mile DN R22.0.80 US 199 east crosses Patrick Creek.
At Post Mile DN 24.080 US 199 eastbound crosses the Middle Fork Smith River again.
Another crossing of the Middle Fork Smith River on US 199 eastbound is encountered at Post Mile DN R24.883.
At Post Mile DN 27.900 US 199 east passes through the community of Idlewild which essentially is just a Caltrans maintenance yard. US 199 in Idlewild is signed as 50 miles from Grants Pass.
US 199 east splits from the Middle Fork Smith Creek and begins to follow Griffin Creek. At Post Mile DN 31.31 US 199 eastbound intersects it's former alignment at Oregon Mountain Road.
At Post Mile 33.410 US 199 east passes by the Collier Tunnel Rest Area.
At Post Mile DN 35.520 US 199 east enters the south portal of the Collier Tunnel.
US 199 east emerges from the Collier Tunnel and intersects the back end of Oregon Mountain Road at Post Mile 34.950.
At Post Mile 36.408 US 199 east enters Josephine County Oregon. From the State Line the Mile Makers on US 199 descend eastbound in Oregon.
US 199 eastbound crosses the West Fork Illinois River upon entering O'Brien.
Within O'Brien US 199 intersects Lone Mountain Road.
Incidentally the old patrol car is a nice touch in front of O'Brien Groceries.
US 199 beyond O'Brien enters the Illinois River Valley. US 199 east crosses Rough & Ready Creek and passes by the Rough & Ready Botanical Wayside.
US 199 eastbound crosses the North Fork Illinois River a second time.
Approaching Cave Junction US 199 eastbound crosses the East Fork Illinois River.
Within Cave Junction US 199 intersects OR 46/Caves Highway which is the access road to Oregon Caves National Monument. Recent Google images don't show OR 46 on any of the junction signs from US 199.
US 199 east of Cave Junction passes through the community of Kerby.
US 199 east of Kerby passes through the community of Selma.
US 199 is signed as 20 miles from Grants Pass. What's up with the OR 199 shield?
US 199 eastbound bypasses Wilderville and the Old Redwood Highway.
Approaching the Applegate River US 199 eastbound intersects OR 260.
US 199 east crosses the Applegate River and expands to a four lane expressway.
US 199 east crosses over it's original alignment on Redwood Avenue.
US 199 enters the City of Grants Pass and intersects OR 238 in addition to OR 99.
US 199 east of OR 99 transitions on the Grants Pass Parkway.
US 199 east crosses the Rogue River on the Grants Pass Parkway.
US 199 east terminates without much fanfare at I-5 in Grants Pass.
Part 3; a westbound driving tour on US Route 199
From I-5 northbound in Josephine County, Oregon US 199 begins from Exit 55. Signage from I-5 indicates that US 199 is denoted as the Redwood Highway.
At 6th Street US 199 west intersects OR 238.
Leaving Grants Pass US 199 westbound is signed as 85 miles from Crescent City.
West of Hubbard Lane US 199 has signed access to Rogue Community College.
US 199 west crosses the Applegate River and intersects OR 260.
US 199 west passes by Wilderville and Wonder. At Waters Creek Road US 199 west has signed access to the Waters Creek Interpretive Trail.
US 199 west climbs to the 1,640 foot summit of Hayes Hill.
US 199 intersects National Forest Route 25 immediately west of Hayes Hill Summit which is signed as access to Briggs Valley.
US 199 west enters Illinois Valley and crosses Anderson Creek.
US 199 west crosses through Selma and passes by a weigh station.
Immediately west of Selma US 199 intersects Lakeshore Drive. Lakeshore Drive is signed as access to Lake Selmac.
US 199 west of Lakeshore Drive is signed as 7 mile Safety Corridor.
US 199 westbound enters the community of Kerby.
US 199 west enters Cave Junction and intersects OR 46.
US 199 immediately west of OR 46 passes by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Ranger Station.
US 199 westbound traffic leaving Cave Junction passes by a notification light which indicates if the highway is closed in California.
US 199 west crosses the East Fork Illinois River and passes by Illinois River Forks State Park.
US 199 is signed as 57 miles from Crescent City west of Illinois River Forks State Park.
US 199 west crosses the West Fork Illinois River.
US 199 west passes Illinois Valley Airport.
US 199 west passes by Rough & Ready State Park and crosses Rough & Ready Creek.
US 199 west of Rough & Ready Creek intersects Webb Road. Webb Road continues east to Greyback Road which in turn travels southward to Happy Camp in California.
US 199 west of Webb Road passes through O'Brien.
US 199 west of O'Brien crosses the West Fork Illinois River.
US 199 west enters Del Norte County, California. At the State Line US 199 is signed as 40 miles from Crescent City.
Traffic is on US 199 west is given a 30 foot truck advisory and is signed with a End Truck Route assembly.
US 199 west passes through a Agricultural Inspection Station.
US 199 west enters the Collier Tunnel at Postmile DN 33.86.
US 199 west emerges from the Collier Tunnel at Postmile DN 33.50 at the Collier Tunnel Rest Area. A historical plaque and overlook of the Collier Tunnel can be found at the Rest Area.
From the Collier Tunnel Rest Area US 199 is signed as 36 miles from Crescent City.
US 199 west of the Collier Tunnel Rest Area is signed with a 6% downhill grade and is designated the Smith River Scenic Byway.
US 199 west enters the Smith River National Recreation Area of Six Rivers National Forest.
US 199 west descends to the opposite end of Oregon Mountain Road at Postmile DN 31.31.
US 199 west picks up the Middle Fork Smith River, crosses it, and intersects Little Jones Creek Road at Postmile DN R24.84.
US 199 west continues to follow the Middle Fork Smith River and intersects Patrick Creek Road at Postmile DN R22.10.
US 199 west crosses Patrick Creek and Patrick Creek Lodge.
At Postmile DN 20.01 US 199 west crosses the Smith River and expands to a divided highway.
US 199 remains a four lane highway westward and merges back to two lanes approaching Gasquet.
US 199 west enters Gasquet at Postmile DN 14.24 and passes through the community.
US 199 west of Gasquet crosses the Smith River at Postmile DN R12.0.
US 199 west crosses through some of the first Coastal Redwood Groves, is signed as 10 miles from Crescent City, and leaves Six River National Forest.
At Postmile DN 5.53 US 199 west passes through Hiouchi.
At Post Mile DN 5.143 passes the entrance to Jedediah Smith Redwoods
State Park. As noted in Part 2 Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is co-managed by the
Redwood National Park/State Park System.
US 199 west intersects CA 197 at Post Mile DN 4.367.
US 199 west of the CA 197 junction crosses the new Hiouchi Bridge over the Smith River.
US 199 west is aligned directly through the Coastal Redwoods of the Mary Lee Kellis Grove. At Post Mile DN T1.024 US 199 west intersects Parkway Drive.
Traffic headed to Oregon is directed to Elk Valley Road to reach northbound US 101.
US 199 west terminates and merges into US 101 southbound.