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

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 Bayshore Freeway (US Route 101)

The Bayshore Freeway is a 56.4-mile component of US Route 101 located in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The Bayshore Freeway connects the southern extent of San Jose to the Central Freeway in the city of San Francisco.  The corridor was originally developed as the Bayshore Highway between 1923 and 1937.  The Bayshore Highway would serve briefly as mainline US Route 101 before being reassigned as US Route 101 Bypass in 1938.  Conceptually the designs for the Bayshore Freeway originated in 1940 but construction would be delayed until 1947.  The Bayshore Freeway was completed by 1962 and became mainline US Route 101 during June 1963.   Part 1; the history of the Bayshore Freeway Prior the creation of the Bayshore Highway corridor the most commonly used highway between San Jose and San Francisco was El Camino Real (alternatively known as Peninsula Highway).  The  American El Camino Real  began as an early example of a signed as an Auto Trail starting in 1906.  The era of State Highway Mainte

Former US Route 101 and California State Route 41 through Paso Robles

Paso Robles is a city located on the Salinas River of San Luis Obispo County, California.  As originally configured the surface alignments of US Route 101 and California State Route 41 converged in downtown Paso Robles.  US Route 101 originally was aligned through Paso Robles via Spring Street.  California State Route 41 entered the City of Paso Robles via Union Road and 13th Street where it intersected US Route 101 at Spring Street.  US Route 101 and California State Route 41 departed Paso Robles southbound via a multiplex which split near Templeton.   Pictured above is the cover of the September/October 1957 California Highways & Public Works which features construction of the Paso Robles Bypass.  Pictured below is the 1935 Division of Highways Map of San Luis Obispo County which depicts US Route 101 and California State Route 41 intersecting in downtown Paso Robles.   Part 1; the history of US Route 101 and California State Route 41 in Paso Robles Paso Robles ("Pass of the