Skip to main content

US Route 101 and the Last Chance Grade

 
 
The Last Chance Grade of US Route 101 refers to a segment of the highway in Del Norte County, California from Crescent City southward through Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  The Last Chance Grade traditionally has been a slide prone choke point through much of the history of US Route 101 and the Redwood Highway.  




The history of the Last Chance Grade

Prior to a highway being constructed over the Last Chance Slide overland transportation between Crescent City southward to Klamath River was virtually non-existent.  Travelers and freight would arrive in Crescent City where it they would be loaded onto rowboats.  The rowboats would follow the coastline southward and turn inland via the Klamath River to the village of Requa.  Requa and the Klamath River served as the gateway to reach Klamath County (annexed into Humboldt County by 1874).  This corridor between Crescent City and the Klamath River can be seen on the 1873 Bancroft's Road Map of California


The 1884 California Office of the State Engineer Map of Del Norte County also shows no established foot path or road from Crescent City south to the Klamath River.  Notably a foot path is shown existing from Wilson's Creek south to the Klamath River.  


In 1888 the Del Norte County Board of Supervisor's authorized construction of a road from Crescent City south to Requa and the Klamath River.  This road was placed under construction in 1889 and was known as the Crescent City-Requa Road.  The Crescent City-Requa Road would be completed by 1895 and ascended the notable slope of the Last Chance Slide.  Journeys on the Crescent City-Requa Road were made via four horse or six horse teams which took ten to sixteen hours to complete depending on the weather conditions.  Fare for a trip on the Crescent City-Requa Road cost travelers a fee of $5 dollars.  

Much of the Crescent City-Requa Road was constructed by way of use of Coastal Redwood puncheons.  A photo of a derelict segment of the Crescent City-Requa Road can be seen in the March 1934 California Highways & Public Works.  

The history of what would become US Route 101 ("US 101") over the Last Chance Grade 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.  Legislative Route Number 1 ("LRN 1") as originally plotted 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 came be known as the Redwood Highway.  LRN 1 can be seen aligned over the Last Chance Grade via the Crescent City-Requa Road on the 1917 California State Automobile Association Map

The existing Crescent City-Requa Road was upgraded and modernized to State standards by 1920.  Much of the previous Redwood puncheon roadway from Crescent City south to Wilson's Creek was abandoned as it was not suited to automotive traffic.  This 1920 alignment of LRN 1/Redwood Highway now exists as Enderts Beach Road and the California Coastal Trail in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  LRN 1 and the Redwood Highway can be seen aligned over the Last Chance Grade between Crescent City-Requa on the 1920 Clason Highway Map of California.  

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 between Crescent City-Requa can be seen on the 1927 Rand McNally Highway Map of California.  

The March 1934 California Highways & Public Works describes the nearly completed realignment of US 101 and the Redwood Highway south of Crescent City.  Specifically new alignment of US 101/Redwood Highway would eliminate 205 curves south of Crescent City to the Last Chance Slide.  The new alignment of US 101 was cited to have only 34 curves which shortened the distance between Crescent City and the Last Chance Slide from 10.31 miles to 9.52 miles.  The article cites the new alignment of US 101 and the Redwood Highway as having expected completion date by late 1934.  Note; the history of the Crescent City-Requa Road can be found in the March 1934 California Highways and Public Works.





The September 1935 California Highways & Public Works features the formal dedication of the US 101/Redwood realignment south of Crescent City to the Last Chance Slide.  The formal dedication ceremony took place on August 18th, 1935.  



The 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Del Norte County displays the new alignment of US 101 south of Crescent City to the Last Chance Slide alongside the 1920 alignment.  

Since 1935 US 101 and the Redwood Highway have changed minimally.  The climb via the Last Chance Grade still has the signature vista of Crescent City described in the September 1935 California Highways & Public Works and serves as a boundary of the Redwood National Park & State Parks system.  









According to CAhighways.org from July 2012 to February 2013 the Last Chance Grade experienced over 200 slides.  The road deck of US 101 subsequently slid 13 inches horizontally and 10 inches vertically.  In March 2014 Caltrans established the Last Chance Grade Partnership to work with local authorities on the feasibility of realigning US 101 off the Last Chance Grade.  As of 2019 Environmental studies have been continuing to progress regarding potential realignments of US 101.  This image snip from CAhighways.org shows the multiple alignments under study from Postmile DN 19.81 south to DN 13.47.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

California State Route 38

California State Route 38 is a fifty-nine-mile State Highway located entirety in San Bernardino County and a component of the Rim of the World Highway.  California State Route 38 begins at California State Route 18 at Bear Valley Dam of the San Bernardino Mountains and follows an easterly course on the north shore of Big Bear Lake.  California State Route 38 briefly multiplexes California State Route 18 near Baldwin Lake and branches east towards the 8,443-foot-high Onyx Summit.  From Onyx Summit the routing of California State Route 38 reverses course following a largely westward path through the San Bernardino Mountains towards a terminus at Interstate 10 in Redlands.   Pictured as the blog cover is California State Route 38 at Onyx Summit the day it opened to traffic on August 12th, 1961.   Part 1; the history of California State Route 38 California State Route 38 (CA 38) is generally considered to be the back way through the San Bernardino Mountains to Big Bear Lake of Bear Valley

The original alignment of California State Route 33 in Firebaugh

Firebaugh is a city located on the San Joaquin River of western Fresno County.  Firebaugh is one of the oldest American communities in San Joaquin Valley having been settled as the location of Firebaugh's Ferry in 1854.  Traditionally Firebaugh has been served by California State Route 33 which was one of the original Sign State Routes announced during August 1934.  In modern times California State Route 33 is aligned through Firebaugh on N Street.  Originally California State Route 33 headed southbound passed through Firebaugh via; N Street, 8th Street, O Street, 12th Street, Nees Avenue and Washoe Avenue.  The blog cover depicts early California State Route 33 near Firebaugh crossing over a one-lane canal bridge.  The image below is from the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Fresno County which depicts the original alignment of California State Route 33 in Firebaugh. Part 1; the history of California State Route 33 in Firebaugh The community of Firebaugh is named in honor of Andr

Driving the Watkins Glen Historic Road Course - New York

  Situated at the south end of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, Watkins Glen is well known for wineries along Seneca Lake and waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park . But one thing that gives the town much renown is its connection to the world of auto racing. The raceway at Watkins Glen Internationa l holds a number of big races every year, such as Six Hours at the Glen and the NASCAR Cup Series . The history of auto racing at Watkins Glen starts during the 1940s when the race followed a course on local roads and also through the streets of downtown Watkins Glen. It's a course that you can follow today, preferably at a more moderate speed than the auto racers of yore raced at. Let's explore the history of the original course, how it came to by and why it is no more. Organized races through the village of Watkins Glen and surrounding roads were first proposed and started by Cameron R. Argetsinger in 1948, marking the beginning of post-war sports car