This featured image covers two dates for a reason. The St. Francis Dam, a former dam in San Francisquito Canyon above Santa Clarita, California, collapsed at 11:57:30 pm on March 12, 1928. The ensuing flood caused a great deal of damage along the canyon and the Santa Clara River Valley. Over 500 lives were lost that night in, even in 2018, the second largest disaster by loss of life in California. The even had repercussions throughout the world. Following that event, dams, as well as other large projects, no longer were approved by engineers. Geologists had the final say, not engineers. Both geologists and engineers also had to be certified by their state government to work as professionals.
The head engineer on the project, William Mulholland, was a great engineer. He oversaw and helped design the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which was the largest and longest project of its time. It is still an engineering marvel today, more than 100 years later. The disaster ruined his career and during the investigation, he not only took full responsibility for the event, but also was said to have “envied the dead”. The collapse took a big toll on the “Chief” and he died a few years later.
This post is in memory of both those that died that fateful night in 1928 and to William Mulholland. A man that went from the “Savior of the City” to a pariah in just a few years.
I am putting together another highway tour, this time in San Diego County. On April 28 (weather permitting), I will be hosting a tour of US 80 from El Cajon to the Desert View Tower. Various stops will be made along the road at important locations, including the Wisteria Candy Cottage and the Desert View Tower. If you’re interested, please RSVP prior to April 25th. There will be no cost for the tour as well. I look forward to seeing you all out there on the highway. More details will follow as the tour gets closer.
On October 8, I am planning another highway cleanup. This one will be in eastern San Diego County and cover two sections of highway, I-8 at Laguna Summit (Sunrise Highway) and US 80. My section of I-8 runs from the summit to two miles east with about 1/2 of it able to be cleaned. The section of US 80 runs from just below Laguna Summit to two miles east as well. Both roadways should be a fairly easy cleanup. The plan, thus far, is to meet at I-8 and Sunrise Highway / Old Highway 80 at 9 am. Safety equipment, such as hard hats and vests will be supplied. There will be a safety meeting for all the volunteers as well before the cleanup begins. Bring plenty of water and snacks as we will be out there a while. Only those 18 and over can volunteer. Please RSVP as so I can get an idea of how many to expect. So, come on out and help clean some of our counties roadways.
While no dates are set as yet. I am planning to do two more tours in the next couple of months. The first tour will be in early October and will cover US 80 from San Diego to Ocotillo, unless temperatures are predicted above 90 F. After that, the next tour, sometime in early November, will cover US 99 from Newhall Pass to Grapevine. The accessible portion of the Ridge Route will also be covered, depending on the weather. Dates will be set in the next couple of weeks.
The tour began at Devore, CA at about 8:30 am after meeting a friend, who ended up being the only person to show. After a quick briefing on what we were to see, we headed south to Verdemont, where we inspected a freeway overpass that had remained mostly intact from its original 1950’s construction. The bridge rail and approach guard rail was original and relatively untouched. From there, we headed back to Cajon Blvd and viewed the old concrete alignment at Verdemont.
After Verdemont, we headed back to Devore to see a section of intact 1916 paving, which acts partly as a driveway for an antenna site. The paving, oil macadam, is quite rare to see these days and was pretty cool to see. Despite all it has gone through, the paving was fairly smooth with only a few major potholes. The roadway damage did also offer an opportunity to more closely inspect the paving itself. The aggregate that was used was fairly large by modern standards and appeared to be granite.
North on Cajon Blvd, we passed a couple of C-monuments adjacent to the freeway. I first spotted these on a trip a few months ago following the Blue Cut fire. It was nice to see they were still there. Those monuments were also at the point where old Cajon Blvd merges with the “new” Cajon Blvd (the extension from Devore on a new alignment).
Our next stop was at Blue Cut. There, we checked out a plaque commemorating the history of the Blue Cut area. Blue Cut, as it was noted on the plaque, was the location of a toll booth on the original wagon road through here. We also inspected the foundations of the 1940’s weigh station, which was removed not long after the freeway bypassed this section. While we were at Blue Cut, we also watched three trains pass by, one of which was a “fast freight”, which was passing another train.
Moving north from Blue Cut, we stopped briefly at the Debris Cone Creek bridge, then headed toward Cajon Junction. At Cajon Junction, we followed the eastern frontage road south to the end of the road. There, we found the trail monument from 1917, which was placed alongside the roadway just after it was paved. The monument itself was moved to its present location when the freeway was built. This location was also the divergence of the original path through Cajon Pass and the later roads, which eventually became US 66. As it was getting a bit hot, we moved onto our next stop – Cajon Summit.
Between Cajon Junction and Cajon Summit, the old roadway has been greatly modified. Only portions of both directions of the former expressway are still visible. The whole section, however, has been closed since the Blue Cut fire burned the area. This same fire, unfortunately, also took what would have been our lunch stop – the Summit Inn Café. The sign still remains, but the whole business is gone. It may be rebuilt, but only time will tell. So far, the site has only been cleared.
After stopping at the summit, it was time to work our way back down the hill. Instead of taking the freeway back to Devore, we decided it best to take the old highway once again. This time, we made an additional stop at a bridge near Swarthout Canyon Road. This stop proved to be quite interesting as we found the foundations for an old structure that was alongside the 1916 roadway. We figured the old building may have been a gas station or some other roadside service building. We also saw two more trains pass by while we were there.
We headed back to Devore to finish up the tour. By then, we were quite hungry, so we decided to have a late breakfast at Tony’s Diner. The food was decent and the location was nice. It was good to be in a nice air-conditioned building as well. Overall, the tour was a lot of fun, even though it wasn’t well attended. Next time will be better and hopefully be cooler.
On August 12, 2017, I will be hosting this websites first highway tour in the Cajon Pass area. This tour will cover the roadway from Verdemont to Cajon Summit. Some portions will have to be skipped, unfortunately, due to fire-related closures. The start of the tour has changed from the initial announcement. It will now begin at Devore, in front of Tony’s Diner at 18291 Cajon Blvd, San Bernardino, CA 92407 at 8 am. Please do not park in their parking lot. There is plenty of on-street and off-street parking in the area.
After a brief introduction, we plan to leave at about 8:30 am. The tour will stop at the following locations:
Cajon Blvd (at the freeway)
Debris Cone Creek
Additional stops may be added if needed. I strongly recommend bringing water and snacks as there are few water/food stops along the route. Please RSVP if you plan to attend this tour. Again, we will be leaving the starting point no later than 8:30 am. Please RSVP no later than August 11 so that I can get a rough number of how many will attend. I look forward to seeing you out there!
While some evacuations are being lifted, others continue. The continuing evacuations are in the northwestern end of the fire, surrounding Wrightwood, Lytle Creek, and parts of Phelan.
Interstate 15 is OPEN in both directions. State 138 is still closed through the area in addition to most local roadways. The BNSF Railway is open and UP traffic is detouring onto the BNSF trackage around the damaged bridges.
Follow these links for detailed information about the fire and what areas are affected:
All Railroad traffic is still shut down through the pass. I haven’t heard of what BNSF trackage has been damaged but the Union Pacific line has been damaged at Alray. There is no ETA thus far for reopening. This also delays and/or cancels some Amtrak service as well, such as the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Chicago.
With all the wildfires propping up lately, it is important to stay on top of the news. Your local newspaper and tv stations should be able to give updated information, but you can also get it directly from the agencies involved. I highly recommend the sites listed below as they can give more detailed information about what is going on and are usually updated regularly.
In regards to the current fires in the Cajon Pass, I plan to assess the damage to the highways myself once the area is clear. From what I understand so far, it looks like most of the wooden railing along US 66 / 91 / 395 in the pass may be gone, in addition to the historic Summit Inn restaurant at Cajon Summit. Other structures, not associated with the roadway, have also burned. According to CHP, a railroad bridge in the pass has burned, the Alray UP where former US 66 / 91 / 395 passed below. Please stay clear of the Cajon Pass for the duration of this fire.
If you need to head north toward I-15 and I-40 near Barstow, I recommend taking I-10 East to State 62 East to State 247 North to Barstow. From there, you will connect with I-15 and I-40 just west of their junction. State 247 is a two lane roadway and may be busier than usual, so use caution.
All other traffic should use State 14 through Santa Clarita and the Antelope Valley to connect with points to the north/west of I-15.
How can you help the United States Geological Survey? One simple way is to report to them when you feel an earthquake. This data helps them determine magnitude of the earthquake, how the geology affects that, and how the type of structure reacts to the event. Most earthquakes larger than 4.0 are listed in the “Events” section of the page. So, help the USGS understand how earthquakes affect our region by contacting them at: “Did You Feel It?“