US 99 – Piru Gorge : Beneath Pyramid Lake

Virtual Tour of US 99

99_smallPiru Gorge : Beneath Pyramid Lake

Looking South along US 99. The construction work is for the widening of the highway. Taken about 1950. Photo Courtesy - Caltrans.
Looking South along US 99. The construction work is for the widening of the highway. Taken about 1950. Photo Courtesy – Caltrans.
Postcard view of 99 through the lake area. Chumash Island, as it is now known, is to the left. This was known as the "Big Cut and Fill".
Postcard view of 99 through the lake area. Chumash Island, as it is now known, is to the left. This was known as the “Big Cut and Fill”.
Aerial view of the Pyramid Lake area from 1958. View is southerly.
Aerial view of the Pyramid Lake area from 1958. View is southerly.
1958 view looking northerly from above Piru Gorge. Pyramid Rock is at center. Courtesy - Caltrans.
1958 view looking northerly from above Piru Gorge. Pyramid Rock is at center. Courtesy – Caltrans.
1958 view of the Oak Flat Maintenance Station, now submerged beneath Pyramid Lake.
1958 view of the Oak Flat Maintenance Station, now submerged beneath Pyramid Lake.
1951 view of one of the bridges now submerged beneath the lake. This was over Piru Creek near the site of the dam.
1951 view of one of the bridges now submerged beneath the lake. This was over Piru Creek near the site of the dam.

This lake was created in 1972 as a holding reservoir for the California State Water Project. Unfortunately for highway buffs, it conceals one of the best sections of US 99. There were many bridges and cuts in this section as well as deep canyons and tall mountains. This section of highway was originally built with three lanes in 1933 and widened to a four lane divided highway from 1949-1951. In 1968, I-5 bypassed this segment from Violin Summit to Smokey Bear Road (Formerly known as Hungry Valley Road). There were plans to put a reservoir here since the days of the Ridge Route but the Ridge Route Alternate was put though here as it was easier at the time.

Map from the late 1930's showing the area that is now Pyramid Lake.
Map from the late 1930’s showing the area that is now Pyramid Lake.

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