California State Route 266 is 12 mile State Highway entirely contained within Fish Lake Valley of remote eastern Mono County. California State Route 266 begins at the southern terminus of Nevada State Route 264 at the Nevada State Line/Esmeralda County Line and jogs southward to California State Route 168 at the small community of Oasis. From Oasis the alignment of California State Route 266 swings eastward to a terminus at Nevada State Route 266 at the Nevada State Line/Esmeralda County Line. California State Route 266 has one of the lowest average daily traffic counts on any California State Highway with a 1992 estimate of 70-110 vehicles daily. Pictured above is the northern terminus of California State Route 266 at the Nevada State Line transitioning onto Nevada State Route 3A as depicted in the July/August 1966 California Highways & Public Works.
The history of California State Route 266
The eastern segment of California State Route 266 ("CA 266") came into modern relevance as part of the National Roosevelt Midland Trail. The National Roosevelt Midland Trail was a ocean-to-ocean Auto Trail which was established during 1913. The National Roosevelt Midland Trail entered California via what is now Nevada State Route 266 ("NV 266") westward from Lida to Oasis in Fish Valley of Mono County. From Oasis the Roosevelt Midland Trail continued westward over Gilbert Pass and Westgard Pass towards Owens Valley. Westgard Pass lies in a gap between the White Mountains and Inyo Mountains at an elevation of 7,313 feet above sea level. Westgard Pass is named after Anton L. Westgard who made a cross country journey in his Pioneer Freighter truck circa 1911. The National Roosevelt Midland Trail can be seen passing through Fish Lake Valley and Westgard Pass towards Owens Valley on the 1920 Clason Highway Map of California.
Historically Westgard Pass was tied to the mining fortunes of Lida, Nevada. Mining claims in Tule Canyon during the 1860s led to the establishment of the town of Lida (also known as Alida) in 1872. The formation of Lida was soon followed up with Post Office Service being established in 1873. A stage route westward through what is now Gilbert Pass and Westgard Pass was subsequently established to Owens Valley. Oasis was established as a stage stop on Cottonwood Creek of Fish Lake Valley in the the early 1870s near the mines of Sylvania west of Lida. Post Office Service in Oasis began in 1873 signifying the community was notable for it's time. Oasis can be seen on the 1882 Bancroft's Map of California and Nevada displayed as Ropers Ranch. The stage route west of Oasis can be seen traversing the then unnamed gap in the White Mountains and Inyo Mountains.
Legislative Route Number 63 ("LRN 63") was added to the State Highway System by way of the 1919 Third State Bond Act. The original definition of LRN 63 simply was a highway originating in Oasis and terminating at Big Pine of Owens Valley. The projected line of LRN 63 first appears on the 1920 California Highway Commission Map.
LRN 63 appears in the August 1924 California Highways & Public Works as a secondary State Highway. LRN 63 is stated to be 38.6 miles in length from Big Pine east to Oasis.
1931 Legislative Chapter 82 extended LRN 63 from Oasis 2.5 miles east to the Nevada State Line. The extension of LRN 63 was made with the simple rationale that it provided a logical connection with NV 3. The extended LRN 63 can be seen east of Oasis for the first time on the 1932 Division of Highways State Map.
The extension of LRN 63 east of Oasis to the Nevada State Line first appears in the August 1932 California Highways & Public Works.
LRN 63 can be seen in detail on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Mono County. A local road north of Oasis and LRN 63 can be seen connecting to NV 3A at the Nevada State Line.
LRN 63 in Westgard Pass is seen a primitive state in the January 1939 California Highways & Public Works.
During the 1964 California Highways Renumbering all the Legislative Route Numbers were dropped. Legislative Routes which did not have a Sign State Highway attached to them were given designations. LRN 63 east of Big Pine to the Nevada State Line was added assigned as an extension of CA 168. CA 168 east of Big Pine to the Nevada State Line by way of Oasis appears for the first time on the 1964 Division of Highways Map.
1965 Legislative Chapter 1875 added CA 266 as a new State Highway with the following definition:
"Route 168 near Oasis to the Nevada state line via Mono county road 101"
The adoption of Mono County Road 101 into the State Highway System is discussed in the July/August 1966 California Highways & Public Works. CA 266 was adopted during October of 1965 via Legislative Chapter 1875. The adoption of CA 266 included the 7 miles of paved highway from CA 168 in Oasis north to NV 3A at the Nevada State Line. The same article features CA 168 east of Big Pine and the history of Westgard Pass.
During the 1976 Nevada State Highway Renumbering NV 3A from the northern terminus of CA 266 was reassigned as NV 264. NV 3 from the eastern terminus of CA 168 was reassigned as part of NV 266. It is unclear if the assignment of NV 266 was intentional or a coincidence given many of the Nevada State Highways of Esmeralda County were assigned numbers in the 200-299 range. NV 264 and NV 266 both appear for the first time on the 1978-79 Nevada Department of Transportation Map.
1986 Legislative Chapter 928 extended CA 266 east from Oasis to the Nevada State Line via transfer from CA 168. The extension of CA 266 provided a continuous multi-state highway via NV 266 east to US Route 95 near Goldfield. The extended CA 266 appears for the time on the 1988 Caltrans Map.
A full photo tour of modern CA 266 can be found on Corco Highways: