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Into the foggy void; California State Route 43

Friday morning I decided to tackle a highway which has been among one of the most frequent I've used since moving to California but never got around to completing; California State Route 43.  CA 43 is a 98 mile long north/south State Highway traversing the center of San Joaquin Valley over much of the watershed of area that used to feed Tulare Lake.  I had driven all of CA 43 from CA 99 all the way south to CA 46 but I never found the route all that interesting given the dull terrain.  The Tule Fog was dense in places this morning which spiced up 43 enough to take a trip to the south end of San Joaquin Valley.


The north terminus of CA 43 is in the city of Selma in Fresno County at the junction of CA 99.  I was heading south out of Fresno thus my starting point on 43 was in Selma.  The Tule Fog was thick by the CA 99 freeway tends to clear it a little bit due to the heat of the vehicles.








CA 43 really doesn't have a major town at it's southern terminus hence why Wasco is signed at 71 miles to the south instead of CA 119 at 98 miles.





The Tule Fog was especially thick between Selma and Corcoran.  Tule Fog season in San Joaquin Valley is typically between November 1st to March 31st during the wet season.  Tule Fog tends to stick low to the ground and is caused by high humidity coupled with rapid overnight temperature decreases.  The Tule Fog is especially bad the week after a significant rain storm as the humidity and soil in the farm lands tends to be wet.  I've often found the Tule Fog to be the worst in spots in and around the low lying areas on San Joaquin Valley near the Tulare Lake bed between Corcoran and Kettleman City.





Just north of the Kings River CA 43 enters Kings County.  The asphalt quality is substantially higher on the Kings County section of 43 as opposed to Fresno County.





CA 43 quickly crosses the Kings River on two bridges after entering Kings County.






Hanford is the largest city on CA 43 at about 56,000 residents.  CA 43 largely bypasses the city of Hanford to the northeast.  Despite what many say; CA 43 never used 10th Avenue in Hanford and always used the modern bypass.







CA 43 passes over a railroad track and approaches a new roundabout at Lacey Boulevard.  As I've discussed previously the roundabout at Lacey was built over the previous year.  Lacey Boulevard is the former alignment of CA 198 which now is on a freeway just to the south.











Corcoran is 16 miles south of the CA 198 freeway.  Luckily the traffic on CA 43 tends to drop south of Hanford which was a good thing considering the fog picked up back up.





CA 43 bypasses Corcoran to the northeast much like it does with Hanford.  Corcoran dates back to as early as 1905 with an incorporation dating back to 1914.  At 207 feet above sea level Corcoran would have been just below spill crest of the former Tulare Lake which was located directly west of the city.  Corcoran is currently experiencing a population boom due to the California State Prison located in the city.  The city of Corcoran has approximately 25,000 residents but about 40% are prisoners.


 
Tulare Lake was once the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River with a maximum surface area of approximately 690 square miles.  Tulare Lake was essentially at a low point of San Joaquin Valley where waters from the; Kings River, St. Johns River, Kaweah River, Tule River, White River, and Kern River drained out of the Sierra Nevada Range into.  When Tulare Lake reached a height of 210 feet above sea it would drain via Fresno Slough northwest into the San Joaquin River.  Agriculture division coupled with upstream reservoirs essentially drove Tulare Lake to dry out and it largely disappears from most maps of California after 1930.

At Whitley Avenue CA 43 meets the junction of CA 137.  The roundabout at CA 137 was just constructed this year and is much like the one at Lacey Boulevard in Hanford.






South of Corcoran CA 43 crosses the Tule River and enters Tulare County.  It is 26 miles south to the next inhabited town which is Wasco.





Much of what is now CA 43 was once part of Legislative Route 135 which ran from Ducor northwest to Hanford.  LRN 135 used to use Avenue 56 to Earlimart to the east at US 99/LRN 136 but I'll touch on alignment the history at the end of this blog.






Which is why there is a guide sign immediately south of Avenue 56 on southbound CA 43.  In fact Avenue 56 is part of Signed County Route J22 which runs from Road 38/Signed County Route J33 in Alpaugh east CA 65 in Ducor.  J22 was created in 1968 but isn't signed much like almost every other Tulare Signed County Route.  J33 runs from J22 in Alpaugh north to CA 43 via Avenue 112 and was created in 1975.  J33 is no exception to the neglect in the Tulare County portion of the Signed County Route program and isn't signed.





Between Corcoran and Wasco is the ghost town of Allensworth which is located on the west side of the railroad tracks running next to CA 43.  Allensworth was on the far eastern banks of Tulare Lake and was founded in 1908 and is named after Colonial Allen Allensworth a freed slave who served in the Civil War.  Allensworth was the apparently the only town in California that was built, governed, and completely populated by African Americans.  Allensworth's water supply became poisoned by arsenic in the ground water in the 1950s which led to the the town declining.  Allensworth became a State Historic Park in the 1970s..















Amtrak Service actually still runs to Allensworth and the station next to the park entrance isn't a display piece.  Apparently you have to make special arrangements for Amtrak to drop you off in Allensworth and it isn't listed as a regularly scheduled stop.  I visited Allensworth back in March of 2016 and my photo album can be found here.

Allensworth, CA Ghost Town

Incidentally as I'm writing this at about 6:15 PM on December the 1st, ABC 15 out of Fresno just had a segment about CHP dispatching escort cars on the CA 198 freeway in Hanford this morning.  I find that highly amusing considering I took a much more difficult route through the area.

South of Allensworth CA 43 enters Kern County.  At the Graces Highway traffic can access the Kern National Wildlife Refuge.  The Refuge is a habitat restoration for the wetlands that waters from the Kern River would drain through to reach Tulare Lake.  Apparently the refuge is just for water fowl and doesn't have any Tule Elk which used to inhabit San Joaquin Valley.



At Pond Road CA 43 passes through the community of Pond.  Apparently Pond dates back to the late 1880s but seems to be in a steep decline towards becoming a ghost town with lots of abandoned buildings.






CA 43 meets CA 46 in Wasco and multiplexes eastbound under the railroad tracks before splitting south through downtown.










Wasco dates back to 1899 when it was called Deweyville.  Apparently the name of the town changed to Wasco in 1900 and may have been named after a sugar company or a county of the same name in Oregon.





South of Wasco CA 43 widens to an expressway to Shafter.




Shafter was founded as a railroad siding on the Santa Fe lines in the 1890s.  The city essentially has become an outskirt of the Bakersfield area and has an approximate population of 19,000.


Exiting Shafter CA 43 cuts south off from  Santa Fe Way towards I-5.  Guide signs begin to display control cities not even on CA 43.






After crossing a series of rails CA 43 picks up the east/west CA 58 briefly at Blue Star Highway before it cuts towards Bakersfield at Rosedale Highway.








CA 43 crosses another set of rails before meeting the Stockdale Highway.  This segment will eventually become part of CA 58 once the Westside Parkway project is completed all the way to CA 99.






South of Stockdale Highway CA 43 crosses I-5 before ending at CA 119.  There is no signage indicating that CA 43 ended or that you are at the junction of CA 119 aside from street blades.







As stated previously one the precursor route to CA 43 was LRN 135 but also LRN 139.  LRN 135 ran from Lacey Boulevard (the original CA 198 alignment) and 10th Avenue in Hanford southeast to Ducor via Avenue 56 to Road 236 (the original CA 65).    LRN 139 ran from US 466 (modern CA 46) in Wasco south to US 399 (modern CA 119).  Both alignments can be seen on the 1938 State Highway Map.

1938 State Highway Map 

CAhighways.org has LRN 135 being created in 1933 and LRN 1939.  There is a slight discrepancy with the time frame on LRN 139 given it appears on the above map from 1938.

CAhighways.org on LRN 139

CAhighways.org on LRN 135

By 1953 the alignment of LRN 135 was shifted on the modern routing of CA 43.  LRN 43 can be seen bypassing Corcoran to the northeast like CA 43 and ending at CA 198/Lacey Boulevard via 7th Avenue where the above roundabout is located today.  This change can be seen on the 1953 State Highway Map.

1953 State Highway Map

Originally LRN 135 north from Corcoran used; Santa Fe Avenue, Whitley Avenue, 10th Avenue, 10 1/2th Avenue, Kansas Avenue, and 10th Avenue to reach CA 198/Lacey Boulevard in Hanford.   I visited the portion of former LRN 135 from 10th 1/2 Avenue/Kansas Avenue north to former CA 198 in Hanford back on March 24th this year.

Former LRN 135 Photos

Interestingly most older highway highway maps show a place called Guernsey between Corcoran and Hanford at the intersection of Kansas Avenue and 10th Avenue.  All Guernsey ever appeared to be was a railroad siding dating back to the 1890s.  I'm not such why it had such prominence on state highway maps, all that seems to be left today is the ruins of a derelict bar.

By 1954 LRN 135 was extended south from Avenue 56 to Wasco.  The alignment on Avenue 56 was deleted from the state Highway system.

1954 State Highway Map

By 1960 an extension of LRN 135 south from US 99 out of Selma to the Kings County line is shown built.  It seems highway traffic was directed onto 10th Avenue which was maintained at the local level to Lacey Boulevard/CA 198 east to 7th Avenue to continue on LRN 135 south.

1960 State Highway Map

By 1962 the modern bypass of Hanford was completed as an extension in that connected the gap in LRN 135.

1962 State Highway Map

By 1963 all of LRN 135 and LRN 139 were signed as CA 43.

1963 State Highway Map

It appears that LRN 139 used to run on Wasco Avenue south from US 466 and cut west over the rails on Kimberlina Road on it's original alignment.  I have no idea when LRN 139 was shifted on F Street in Wasco but the original alignment can be seen on the 1935 Divisions of Highways Map of Kern County.

1935 Kern County Highway Map

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