Skip to main content

US Route 101 through Richardson Grove State Park

US Route 101 through southern Humboldt County contains a expressway gap through Richardson Grove State Park.  US Route 101 in Richardson Grove has long been a contentious topic regarding potentially highway development in an environmentally sensitive area. 

US Route 101 ("US 101") bottlenecks to a narrow two lane highway within Richardson Grove State Park.  As noted above Richardson Grove is situated in southern Humboldt County and forms an expressway gap amongst the protected Coastal Redwoods.  This has led to a situation where Richardson Grove has become a road block to large capacity truck freight from reaching Humboldt County.  


Part 1; the history of the Redwood Highway, Legislative Route 1, and US Route 101 through Richardson Grove

According to the Richardson Grove State Park Brochure the first inhabitants of Richardson Grove were the Sinkyone people who thrived along the South Fork Eel River.  The non-native settler of Richardson Grove was Ruben Reed of Kentucky.  Reed's lands were homesteaded in the early 1900s by his widow and brother.  The Reed land was purchased by Henry Devoy who subsequently leased it out for development.  In 1920 Edwin Freeman constructed a store, dining room, and cabins at the present site of the Richardson Grove Visitor Center.  In 1922 the Save the Redwoods League purchased 120 acres of Richardson Grove which in turn was used to found Richardson Grove State Park.  The Save the Redwoods League made their purchase in Richardson Grove out of concern due to highway development.  At the time Legislative Route Number 1 ("LRN 1") and the Redwood Highway had already been established through Richardson Grove.  Over the ensuing decades Richardson Grove State Park would expand to a current size of 2,000 acres.

The history of what would become US Route 101 and the Redwood Highway within Richardson Grove begins with the approval of the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act.  The First State Highway Bond Act was approved by voters during 1910 and was the genesis point of some of the most notable highways in California.  LRN 1 in it's original form was a new State Highway which was designated between San Francisco north to Crescent City.  The route of LRN 1 would be extended to the Oregon State Line during the 1919 Third State Highway Bond Act and was known as the Redwood Highway.  LRN 1 can be seen aligned through what is now Richardson Grove on the 1917 California State Automobile Association Map

In November 1926 the US Route System was created.  US Route 101 from San Francisco north to Crescent City was aligned over the Redwood Highway.  Both US 101 and the Redwood Highway through Richardson Grove (shown as Humboldt State Redwood Park) can be seen on the 1927 Rand McNally Highway Map of California.

Some of the early issues with US 101 are evident even before World War II.  In this photo below (from the July-August 1964 California Highways & Public Works) a Division of Highways employee can be seen measuring the narrow width between Redwoods on US 101 in Richardson Grove.   

US 101 is shown in detail through Richardson Grove (shown as Richardson Toumey Grove) on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Humboldt County.

The May-June 1956 California Highways & Public Works displays a familiar traffic scene to modern times on US 101 in Richardson Grove.  

The 1969 Division of Highways State Map shows a proposed realignment of US 101 around Richardson Grove.  US 101 is shown to have a proposed alignment tracking east of Richardson Grove and the South Fork Eel River over the Mendocino County Line. 

The 1970 Division of Highways State Map shows the Richardson Grove bypass under construction. 

 
 
US 101 through Richardson Grove appears to have been planned to be recycled into California State Route 271 ("CA 271").  According to CAhighways.org CA 271 was given the following somewhat vague definition by Legislative Chapter 1473:
 
“Route 101 near Cummings to Route 101 near the Humboldt-Mendocino county line.”
 
The 1977 Caltrans State Map no longer shows the planned US 101 bypass of Richardson Grove suggesting it was cancelled.  

Over the past decade Caltrans has found itself in a legal battle in the Federal Court System over widening existing US 101 in Richardson Grove.  A summary of the legal battle regarding US 101 in Richardson Grove since 2012 can be found on California Highway's US Route 101 page.  The latest U.S. Court Of Appeals For the Ninth Circuit opinion (dated 12/2/2020) can be found on this link.  The root of the expansion of US 101 in Richardson Grove stems from the fact that industry-standard Surface Transportation Act Assistance ("STAA") trucks are not permitted.  The prohibition of STAA trucks are the only road preventing large freight capacity vehicles from reaching Humboldt County (which is not possible on US 101 from Del Norte County nor from CA 299).  The current Caltrans expansion plans for US 101 in Richardson Grove includes removing several dozen younger growth Coastal Redwoods. 


Part 2; a drive on US Route 101 through Richardson Grove State Park

US 101 southbound begins it's approach to Richardson Grove State Park upon crossing the South Fork Eel River via the Edward C. Wagner Memorial Bridge at approximately Postmile HUM R5.90.

As US 101 south intersects Benbow Drive at Postmile HUM R5.22 it converges to a conventional two-lane highway. 



US 101 south dips to a 40 MPH Speed Limit and trucks are advised of tight curves through the next 3 miles.  


US 101 south narrows and lacks a shoulder upon entering Richardson Grove State Park at approximately Postmile HUM 2.02. 





US 101 continues south through a tunnel-like lined alignment of Coastal Redwoods and emerges from Richardson Grove State Park into Cook's Valley at approximately Postmile HUM 0.47.









The One Log House can be found on US 101 in Cook's Valley.  The One Log House was carved in 1946 from a 2,100 year old Coastal Redwood.  The One Log House toured the United States until 1999 when it was brought Cook's Valley.

US 101 south passes through Cook's Valley and intersects it's former alignment at the Northern Segment of CA 271 at Postmile HUM T0.08.  The "T" Postmile designation at CA 271 serves as a trace reminder regarding the long dead planned US 101 bypass of Richardson Grove State Park. 


Part 3; visiting Richardson Grove State Park

The Richardson Grove State Park Entrance can be accessed from the western flank of US 101.  The South Fork Eel River can be accessed following a State Park Road eastward under US 101.  




During the summer months the State Park Service installs a low water bridge over the South Fork Eel River as a access road to Oak Flat Campground.  






A small trail through the Coastal Redwoods of Richardson Grove can be found behind the State Park Visitor Center.  Traffic on US 101 can be seen zipping by in the distance from Visitor Center trail.
  























A look at US 101 southbound from the Richardson Grove State Park entrance.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Old NY 10 and Goodman Mountain in the Adirondacks

  Old highway alignments come in all shapes and sizes, as well as taking some different forms after their lifespan of serving cars and trucks has ended. In the case of an old alignment of what was NY 10 south of Tupper Lake, New York, part of the old road was turned into part of a hiking trail to go up Goodman Mountain. At one time, the road passed by Goodman Mountain to the east, or Litchfield Mountain as it was known at the time. As the years passed, sometime around 1960, the part of NY 10 north of Speculator became part of NY 30, and remains that way today from Speculator, past Indian Lake and Tupper Lake and up to the Canadian Border. At one time, the highway was realigned to pass the Goodman Mountain to the west, leaving this stretch of road to be mostly forgotten and to be reclaimed by nature. During the summer of 2014, a 1.6 mile long hiking trail was approved the Adirondack Park Agency to be constructed to the summit of the 2,176 foot high Goodman Mountain. For the first 0.9 mi

Oregon State Highway 58

  Also known as the Willamette Highway No. 18, the route of Oregon State Highway 58 (OR 58) stretches some 86 miles between US 97 north of Chemult and I-5 just outside of Eugene, Oregon. A main route between the Willamette Valley region of Oregon with Central Oregon and Crater Lake National Park, the highway follows the Middle Fork Willamette River and Salt Creek for much of its route as it makes its way to and across the Cascades, cresting at 5,138 feet above sea level at Willamette Pass. That is a gain of over 4,500 in elevation from where the highway begins at I-5. The upper reaches of OR 58 are dominated by the principal pinnacle that can sometimes be seen from the highway, Diamond Peak, and three nearby lakes, Crescent, Odell and Waldo (Oregon's second largest lake). OR 58 is chock full of rivers, creeks, mountain views, hot springs and waterfalls within a short distance from the highway. OR 58 was numbered as such by the Oregon State Highway Department in 1940. OR 58 is a del

Siuslaw River Bridge - US 101 in Florence, Oregon

  As the Oregon Coast Highway (US 101) was being completed across the State of Oregon during the 1930s, a number of bridges needed to be built to cross some of the state's finest rivers. In Florence, Oregon , the Siuslaw River Bridge was designed and constructed to help fill in the gaps between different coastal communities. Built in 1936, the Siuslaw River Bridge is a bascule bridge flanked by two reinforced concrete arches that spans across the Siuslaw River. The bridge and the river get their names from the Siuslaw tribal people who make their home along the river valleys of this part of the Oregon Coast. Today, the bridge provides a vital link connecting US 101 and the Central Oregon Coast to points north and south. The total length of the Siuslaw River Bridge is 1,568 feet, stretching across the river. But more specifically, the bridge is made up of a north approach with eight spans of reinforced concrete deck girder totaling 478 feet in length. There is a main span in three