Skip to main content

Oregon Route 273; early US Route 99 over Siskiyou Pass

Oregon Route 273 ("OR 273") is a 12.42-mile State Highway which is begins at Interstate 5 ("I-5") near the California State Line.  OR 273 crosses the 4,516-foot highway Siskiyou Pass and winds through the Siskiyou Mountains to a terminus at OR 66 at the southern shore of Emigrant Lake.  OR 273 is an original segment of what was once US Route 99 ("US 99").  The map below from Wikipedia depicts the route of OR 273. 


 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.


Part 1; the history of Siskiyou Pass, US Route 99, and Oregon Route 273

Siskiyou Pass of the Siskiyou Mountains has a lengthy history of being a vital transportation corridor between Oregon and California.  The first documented European crossing of Siskiyou Pass was made in February of 1827 by a Hudson Bay Company fur trader Peter Skene Ogden.  Siskiyou Pass was part of a route which would become a well traveled migrant road by the time of the California Gold Rush.  This road was originally known as the Oregon-California Trail but would later be known as the Siskiyou Trail.  The Oregonian detailed much of the road based history of Siskiyou Pass in a January 22nd, 1968 article (courtesy Jonathan Ledbetter of the Historic US Highway 99 Facebook Group).

According to the Oregonian the Oregon Territorial Legislature granted a twenty year toll franchise to Micheal Thomas & Associates to operate the Siskiyou Wagon Road Company.  Thomas would later sell his franchise toll road rights to Captain Lindsay Applegate.  The Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road would subsequently open on August 28th, 1859.  Applegate would later sell his toll franchise rights which in turn eventually changed hands to the possession Clay Dollarhide and George Patterson.  Given Oregon had become a State in February of 1859 an agreement was reached which would keep the Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road under lease for ten years which would then be purchased by Jackson.  By 1869 Jackson County did not have the money to purchase the Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road which was subsequently purchased fully by the Dollarhide family.  The Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road can be seen connecting Ashland, Oregon to Henley, California on the 1872 Bancroft's Map of Oregon, Washinginton, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia.  

By 1887 the Southern Pacific Railroad completed it's line over Siskiyou Pass following the construction of Tunnel #13.  The Southern Pacific Railroad followed much of the grade of the Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road and established siding facilities.  The 1903 Rand McNally Map of Oregon shows numerous sidings (Steinman, Siskiyou, Colestin, and Gregory) flanking the Southern Pacific and Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road.  

In 1913 the Pacific Highway was established as an organized Auto Trail Association borne out of the Good Roads movement.  According to the Oregonian a new route for the Pacific Highway was plotted following much of the existing Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road.  The State of Oregon faced numerous hurdles attempting to purchase the necessary right-of-way from the Dollarhide Family.  Initially only the right-of-way from Barson Ranch to Steinman had been purchased by the State of Oregon but not south to the California State Line.  This early right-of-way purchase led to the construction of the 1914 Steinman Overcrossing which can be seen in the photo below during 1920 (credit Daniel Nauman of the Historic Highway 99 Facebook Group). 

The Dollarhide Family lost a court injunction in 1915 to block the construction of the Pacific Highway.  Subsequent to losing their court battle the Dollarhide's sold their remaining right-of-way to the State of Oregon for $1,000 dollars.  The incomplete Pacific Highway can be seen utilizing what remained of the Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road south of Steinman on the 1917 California State Automobile Association Map.  Notably; the incomplete Pacific Highway can be seen entering Siskiyou County, California near the siding of Hilt and following Legislative Route Number 3 via Hornbrook Highway southward towards the Klamath River.  

According to the Oregonian the Pacific Highway was completed over Siskiyou Pass by 1920 and reportedly was the first fully paved Auto Trail in the County.  This new route over Siskiyou Pass was a vast improvement over the Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road and was designated as part of Oregon Route 1 in 1917.  The Pacific Highway would have crossed into California and Siskiyou County onto Legislative Route Number 3 via what is now Jefferson Road towards Hornbrook.  The Pacific Highway, National Park to Park Highway, and Oregon Route 1 can all be seen crossing Siskiyou Pass on the 1924 Rand McNally Map of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.   



Below the Steinman Overcrossing can be seen during an unknown year (courtesy Jonathan Ledbetter of the Historic US Highway 99 Facebook group).

Steinman Overcrossing circa 1920 (courtesy Daniel Nauman of the Historic US Highway 99 Facebook group).

Pacific Highway during the early 1920s crossing the 4,516 foot high Siskiyou Pass (courtesy Daniel Nauman of the Historic US Highway 99 Facebook group).

The Pacific Highway during the early 1920s north of Siskiyou Pass (courtesy Daniel Nauman of the Historic US Highway 99 Facebook group). 

In November of 1926 the final version of the US Route System was approved by the AASHO.  US 99 was plotted out over Siskiyou Pass and subsequently replaced the Pacific Highway.  The 1927 National Map Company Sectional Map shows US 99 crossing Siskiyou Pass and meeting the original terminus of US 97 near Emigrant Lake. 

Siskiyou Pass on US 99 circa 1930 (courtesy Daniel Nauman of the Historic US Highway 99 Facebook group).

According to the Oregonian US 99 over Siskiyou Pass became quickly inadequate to meet the needs of modern highway traffic.  This led to a new alignment for US 99 between Ashland to Sikiyou Pass being plotted out.  The first segment of this new alignment of US 99 from Ashland to Wall Creek broke ground in October of 1933.  This new alignment of US 99 may have been part of the reasoning of why US 97 was shifted to a new terminus in Weed, California during 1934.  The 1935 Goshua West Coast Road Map shows US 97 shifted off it's original route to California and being replaced with OR 66.

The 1935 Gousha Oregon Map shows the shift of US 97 and the newly designated OR 66 in greater detail.

The new alignment of US 99 can been being constructed below (courtesy Jonathan Ledbetter of the Historic US Highway 99 Facebook group).

A slide on the new alignment of US 99 near Ashland (courtesy Jonathan Ledbetter of the Historic US Highway 99 Facebook group).

US 99's new alignment under the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1938 (courtesy Kirk J. Poole of Historic US Highway 99 Facebook group).

 
 
According to the Oregonian the new alignment of US 99 between Ashland and Siskiyou Pass was opened on October 31st, 1940.  What had been US 99 from Emigrant Lake to Ashland became an extension of OR 66.  Former US 99 from Emigrant Lake to Siskiyou siding by way of the Steinman Overcrossing was retained as an unnumbered State Highway.  The 1940 Rand McNally Map of Oregon shows the new alignment of US 99 between Ashland and Siskiyou Pass.. 

According to the January/February 1950 California Highways & Public Works US 99/Legislative Route Number 3 in California north from Hornbrook to the Oregon State Line was moved to a new 1.84 mile realignment to meet the improved highway over Siskiyou Pass in Oregon circa 1941.  



The January/February 1950 California Highways & Public Works continues with a feature article depicting the realignment of US 99/Legislative Route Number 3 north from the Klamath River to the Oregon State Line.  This shift of US 99/Legislative Route Number 3 moved the highway off of Hornbrook Highway onto the grade occupied by modern I-5 on November 21st, 1949.  The new alignment of US 99/Legislative Route Number 3 bypassed Hornbrook to the west via Henley. 


The original Emigrant Creek Reservoir was constructed in 1924.  The Bureau of Reclamation later expanded the Emigrant Creek Reservoir in 1960 which consumed the original US 99/US 97 junction.  According to the Oregonian the construction of I-5 over Siskiyou Pass began on March 14th, 1963.  I-5 from Ashland south towards Siskiyou siding was largely built over existing US 99.  I-5 south of Siskiyou siding to the California State Line cut west of Siskiyou Pass to a new grade over Siskiyou Summit (located at 4,310 feet above sea level).  I-5 was completed over Siskiyou Summit on June 21st, 1966 according to Oregonian.  Former US 99 from Siskiyou siding south over Siskiyou Pass was retained as unnumbered State Highway.  On the California side I-5 was not completed north of the Klamath River to the Oregon State Line until 1974 (as indicated from the bridge date stamps on overpass structures). 

The AASHO Renumbering database shows that US 99 was approved to be truncated out of California by the AASHO Executive Committee on June 29th, 1965. 






In 2003 the unnumbered "Siskiyou Highway" was assigned Oregon Route 273.  Former US 99 on the Siskiyou Highway was designated as such due to a State effort to number all State Highways which did not carry a numeric designation.  


Part 2; a drive on former US Route 99/Oregon Route 273 over Siskiyou Pass

I-5 northbound upon entering the State of Oregon intersects OR 273 at Exit 1.  Exit 1 is mistakenly signed as "Siskiyou Summit" and there are no OR 273 shields to be found.  Siskiyou Summit as noted above is located on I-5 whereas OR 273 ascends Siskiyou Pass.  


OR 273 is known as Old Highway 99 in field.  OR 273 northbound makes a fast but steady ascent and climbs to Siskiyou Pass.  










There is presently no field signage indicating OR 273 has crossed Siskiyou Pass.  Siskiyou Pass offers a southward view through the Siskiyou Mountains into California. 


OR 273 northbound crosses under I-5 near Siskiyou Summit. 


OR 273 intersects Mount Ashland Ski Road north of I-5.  This is where the Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road would have diverged from the 1920 Pacific Highway alignment westward towards Colestin via Toll Road Gap.  

OR 273 north tracks west of I-5 and crosses eastward over it at Exit 6.




OR 273 northbound remains unsigned but a guide sign directs traffic to OR 66 via "Old Highway 99."

OR 273 northbound winds through the Siskiyou Mountains towards the Steinman Overcrossing. 









 
 
OR 273 loops through the Steinman Overcossing and begins to run alongside the former Southern Pacific Railroad tracks.  The rail route over Siskiyou Pass is presently operated by the Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad which was sold by the Southern Pacific in 1994.  The Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad shuttered the Siskiyou Pass route in 2008 but reopened it in 2015 after a series of line repairs. 

OR 273 descends northward towards to a terminus at OR 66 near the south shore of Emigrant Lake in Rogue Valley.







Former US 99 can be followed north from the modern OR 273/OR 66 junction into Emigrant Lake.  When the waters of Emigrant Lake are low one can still find the original US 99/US 97 junction.  US 97 entered Emigrant Lake via what is now Old Greensprings Highway.  

Note; OR 273 does carry a southbound reassurance shield from OR 66. 




Further Reading

Continuing south on US Route 99 into California towards Hornbrook? 

Comments

Robert Bowers said…
I've got to say, without going there you answered my question abot which way the Steimen overcross faced, north or south. I've been tracing 99 from a 1930s perspective, because my Great Grandparents came to Oregon in 1931. I've found various topographic maps that are a far better source for following 99, I found one of the "Medford Oreg.-Calif." quadrangle of 1938. I even found maps from 1901 reprinted 1913 of Redding Ca. and latter to the Oregon border. On some of those maps it designated the highway "Oregon Road."
Sorry for commenting so long after the fact, but I somehow missed your mention of this blog post on AARoads 2 years ago, and just caught it today when I was reviewing older content there.

I continue to be impressed by the thoroughness of your research. Max. I can add very little, except, where you noted "OR 273 northbound remains unsigned but a guide sign directs traffic to OR 66 via "Old Highway 99," it just happens that ODOT did once have an OR 273 shield just past that sign, shown in the picture linked below:

https://i.imgur.com/zrNimfO.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/y59mOYJ.jpg

Sadly, it looks like the shield was replaced with the blue sign, which reads "No Gas, No Diesel." Makes me wonder if there was a problem with cars/trucks exiting I-5 looking for fuel?

Anyway, I thought you'd appreciate the info. Keep up the great work, I really enjoy reading your detailed & informative posts.

Chris,
aka xonhulu on AARoads

Popular posts from this blog

California State Route 190; a Trans-Sierra Highway that could have been

This past week I decided to take a small scale road trip on California State Route 190 from CA 99 east to the unbuilt section over the Sierra Nevada Range.  While I was in for what turned out to be a fun drive following the course of the Tule River watershed what I found researching the back story of CA 190 was one of the most complex and unusual stories of any California State Highway.  Given that I had a ton of older photos of the eastern segment of CA 190 in the Mojave Desert of Inyo County I thought it was time to put something together for the entire route. The simplified story of CA 190 is that it is a 231 mile state highway that has a 43 mile unbuilt gap in the Sierra Nevada Range.  CA 190 is an east/west State Highway running from CA 99 in Tulare County at Tipton east to CA 127 located in Death Valley Junction near the Nevada State Line in rural Inyo County.  The routing CA 190 was adopted into the State Highway system as Legislative Route 127 which was adopted in 1933 acc

I-73/I-74 and NC Future Interstates, Year in Review 2022

Another year over, already? 2022 turned out to be quite the year if you are a fan of new interstate routes, and it wasn't bad for some long standing favorites. As per the tradition, I will review what happened with I-73 and I-74, and then the other new and future interstate routes in North Carolina... Work continued on the one segment of I-73 under construction, the I-73/I-74 Rockingham Bypass. As of the beginning of December, work was getting close to being 2/3 complete at 60.1%. Progress could be seen from US 74 on constructing of the future interchange at the Bypass's southern end. Here's a look from US 74 East in September from Google Maps Street View: Here's a photo from US 74 West taken last week by David Gallo: Work is now scheduled to be completed in October 2025, though the road itself could open earlier that year.  Progress on I-74 earned more publicity in 2022 with the opening of 7.5 more miles of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway from US 311 (Exit 49) to NC

Interstate 605

Interstate 605 is a 27.4-mile freeway located in the Los Angeles Metropolitain Area.  Interstate 605 begins at Interstate 210 near Duarte and terminates at the Interstate 405/California State Route 22 junction to the south near the boundary to the city of Long Beach.  Interstate 605 is known as the San Gabriel River Freeway and has three unconstructed miles which would extend it south to California State Route 1 near Seal Beach.  Much of the corridor of Interstate 605 was built up from what was the original California State Route 35.  The blog cover photo is taken from the July/August 1964 California Highways & Public Works which featured the initial segment of Interstate 605 to open between Whittier Boulevard and Peck Road  Part 1; the history of the San Gabriel River Freeway and Interstate 605 The origin of what is now Interstate 605 begins during 1933 with the addition of Legislative Route Number 170 (LRN 170) to the State Highway System.  The original definition of LRN 170 was