US Route 101 southbound upon traversing Gaviota Pass in Santa Barbara County emerges onto Santa Barbara Channel and begins a generally eastward jog towards Oxnard Plain of Ventura County. US Route 101 along Santa Barbara Channel is one of the oldest and most historic overland corridors in California which has ties to Spanish El Camino Real. While modern US Route 101 along Santa Barbara Channel is carried by either freeway or expressway grades there are numerous former surface alignments of note. This blog features the history of US Route 101 in the communities of; Gaviota siding, Orella siding, Naples siding, Ellwood siding, Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland, Carpinteria, Sea Cliff, Dulah siding and Ventura. Featured above is the Rincon Road Causeway between Carpinteria and Ventura as seen in a photo dated to 1912.
Part 1; the history of US Route 101 along Santa Barbara Channel
The shores of Santa Barbara Channel lie within a narrow coastal plain which backs up to the Santa Ynez Mountains. Santa Barbara Channel was first explored by Spanish during the 1769 Portola Expedition of Las Californias. Upon traversing the shores of Santa Barbara Channel the Portola Expedition opted to follow the coastline northward fearing that the established Chumash path through Gaviota Pass was too narrow to traverse. In time Santa Barbara Channel and Gaviota Pass became a favored established path of Spanish travel as part of El Camino Real.
The route of El Camino Real was intended to solidify a path of travel between the Catholic Missions of Las Californias. In 1804 Alta California was formed out of the larger Las Californias. El Camino Real would ultimately connect twenty one Catholic Missions of Alta California ranging approximately 600 miles spanning from Mission San Diego de Alcala in San Diego north to Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma. Two Missions could be found along El Camino Real on the shores of Santa Barbara Channel; Mission Santa Barbara and Mission Basilica San Buenaventura. Mission Basilica San Buenaventura was founded on March 31st, 1782 whereas Mission Santa Barbara was founded on December 4th, 1786.
During August 1833 in period of Mexican Alta California the Spanish Missions were secularized. The secularization of the Spanish Missions gradually led to most of their lands being granted as Ranchos. Mission Santa Barbara became the hub for most of the documents that were once housed in the Spanish Missions along El Camino Real. Despite usage of the name "El Camino Real" declining following the secularization of the Spanish Missions the communities centered around them remained important destinations. Thusly travel along the former path of Spanish El Camino Real remained a favored corridor of overland travel through the Mexican-American War and emergence of the American State of California.
A coastal highway along Santa Barbara Channel can be seen on the 1857 Britton & Rey's Map of California. Note; Ventura County would not split from Santa Barbara County until March 1872.
The coastal highway along Santa Barbara Channel can be seen on the 1873 Bancroft's Highway Map of California.
In 1918 the Arroyo Hondo Bridge was completed over the namesake creek between Gaviota siding and Ellwood siding. The 1918 Arroyo Hondo Bridge is a 536 foot long open spandrel arch concrete bridge which was among the earliest of such design built as part of a State Highway. The 1918 Arroyo Hondo Bridge can seen in this photo hosted on bridgehunter.com.
The 1920 Rand McNally Highway Map of California shows El Camino Real and the Pacific Highway following LRN 2 through Santa Barbara Channel.
The below 1920 Automobile Club of Southern California map shows the through route of the Pacific Highway/El Camino Real and implied connections to LRN 2 through Santa Barbara. The Pacific Highway/El Camino Real southbound is shown to follow; State Street, De La Vina Street, Micheltorena Street, State Street, Montecito Street, Milpas Street, Cacique Street, Salinas Street and what is now Old Coast Highway. The Pacific Highway/El Camino Real northbound is shown to follow; Old Coast Highway, Salinas Street, Cacique Street, Milpas Street, Haley Street, State Street, Mission Street, De La Vina Street and State Street. Note; it wasn't until 1933 until the State could maintain highways within incorporated cities.
The 1924 Rand McNally Map of California shows the California Banff Bee-Line Highway co-signed with the Pacific Highway through Santa Barbara Channel.
Former US 101 on Hollister Avenue Goleta passes by Santa Barbara Airport. Access to Amtrak service can be found as Hollister Avenue intersects La Paterna Lane.