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California State Route 88 the Carson Pass Highway

Between 2016 and 2017 I drove the majority of California State Route 88 from CA 99 in Stockton east over Carson Pass to CA 89.






CA 88 is a 122 mile state highway from CA 99 in Stockton east over the Sierra Nevada Range to the continuation route Nevada State Route 88 at the Nevada State Line.  CA 88 is known as the Carson Pass Highway.  Carson Pass at 8,574 feet above sea level along CA 88 is an all-year Mountain Pass in the Sierras and on occasion designated as Temporary US Route 50 when conditions are bad over Echo Summit. 

CA 88 was not one of the original Signed State Highways.  CA 8 was the original designation over Carson Pass which can be seen on the 1938 California State Highway Map.

1938 State Highway Map

CA 8 was substantially different than CA 88 west of Jackson as it largely follows the current route of CA 26.  From US 99E in 1934 and later US 50/99 in 1936 from Stockton CA 8 originally used the following route to reach Jackson:

-  Legislative Route 5 from US 99 in Stockton to CA 49 in Mokelumne Hill.  According to CAhighways.org this segment of LRN 5 was adopted in 1933.

CAhighways.org on LRN 5

-  Legislative Route 65 from Mokelumne Hill on a multiplex with CA 49 to Jackson.  LRN 65 was the original iteration of the "Mother Lode Highway" between Auburn south to Tuolumne County adopted in 1921.

CAhighways.org on LRN 65

CA 8 and later CA 88 would use LRN 34 east of Jackson to cross the Sierras to reach the Nevada State Line.  LRN 34 was apparently extended in 1911 to cross Carson Pass according to CAhighways.org.

CAhighways.org on LRN 34

By 1940 CA 88 was created and replaced CA 8 east of Jackson to the Nevada State Line.

1940 State Highway Map

CA 88 used the following route from US 50/99 in Stockton to reach Jackson:

-  LRN 97 from Stockton to downtown Ione. LRN 97 was adopted in 1933 according to CAhighways.org.

CAhighways.org on LRN 97

-  LRN 34 from Ione to Jackson.

By 1960 a new state highway was built south of Ione bypassing the city which CA 88 appears to have been shifted onto.  This appears to have been when CA 88 took it's fully modern alignment.

1960 State Highway Map

From CA 99 in Stockton in San Joaquin County CA 88 eastward starts at Waterloo Road. 


Northeast of Waterloo CA 88 picks up CA 12 at Victor Road.  Jackson is shown as 31 miles to the east.


At Jack Tone Road in southern Lockefort CA 88/12 picks up Signed County Route J5 which multiplexes it through downtown to Elliot Road where it splits away.  J5 is one of the few clear instances where a Signed County Route multiplexes a State Route.  Lockeford is on the fringe of the Californian Gold Country and was first settled in 1851.






CA 88/12 continues through Clements where the latter splits away towards the south shore the Comanche Reservoir.  CA 88 continues towards the Amador County line near Ione and Jackson.





Just south of Ione CA 88 meets a junction with CA 124 at Church Street.  CA 88 originally would have followed Church Street to downtown Ione where it would have used used Main Street and Ione Street on modern CA 104 to continue towards Jackson.  Oddly CA 104 meets CA 88 east of Ione and multiplexes it to Ridge Road only a couple miles from it's eastern terminus at CA 49 in Sutter Creek.







Near Martell CA 88 meets CA 49 and multiplexes it to Jackson.  It appears that CA 88 likely used Sutter Street, Main Street, Water Street, and Court Street through downtown Jackson.  The alignment north of Carson Creek appears on the 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Amador County. 

1935 Amador County Map

The picture below is the junction of Main Street and Water Street in downtown Jackson.  CA 49/CA 88 would have likely turned left at this location.  CA 49 definitely used Broadway to exit Jackson heading southbound.




 Modern CA 88 splits away from CA 49 at the junction of Sutter Street and Carson Pass Highway.




East of Jackson CA 88 begins to ascend the Sierras towards Carson Pass.  CA 88 passes through the communities of Bonnefoy and Pine Grove before meeting the eastern terminus of CA 26 south of Volcano. 

Back in 2016 I stopped in Volcano to view the community since it dates back to 1849 during the California Gold Rush.  Early miners apparently thought bowl shaped valley the community was in was caused by a volcanic eruption.  Volcano almost became the Amador County Seat on two occasions in the late 1850s before the community began to decline.








CA 88 rising to Carson Pass is extremely gentle for a Trans-Sierran Highway.  East of CA 26 the route of CA 88 crosses through Pioneer and Barton as it ascends to higher elevation.  There is several views of the High Sierras and surrounding terrain that are plainly visible from the side of CA 88.  This particular overlook of the Upper and Lower Bear River Reservoirs is near the Mormon Emigrant Trail.  The Upper Bear River Reservoir is a 83 foot high rockfill dam completed by Pacific Gas & Electricity in 1900.  The Lower Reservoir has a completely separate dam that I can't find a construction date for.  Both reservoirs are apparently near the 5,800 foot elevation line.


This overlook is northbound near the Mormon Emigrant Trail.





The Mormon Emigrant Trail takes traffic from CA 88 northwest towards Signed County Route E16 near Placerville.  The Mormon Emigrant Trail is the approximately path that a Mormon Wagon Train took from Coloma over the Sierras to reach Carson Pass in 1848.  El Dorado County has more extensive information on the Mormon Emigrant Trail.

El Dorado County on the Mormon Emigrant Trail

Between Tragedy Springs and Kit Carson there is an overlook of Silver Lake from CA 88.  Silver lake is located at approximately 7,300 feet above sea level.  Silver Lake is part of the course of the South Fork American River and the big island in the middle is apparently called Treasure Island.


CA 88 east of Silver Lake crosses the Alpine County Line near Kirkwood and passes north of the Cables Reservoir.





Carson Pass lies 8,574 feet above sea level and overlooks Red Lake at the divide of the Sierras.



Modern CA 88 takes a northern course around Red Lake whereas the original roadway likely used Red Vista Road as shown on the 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Alpine County.

1935 Alpine County Highway Map

Carson Pass is named after Kit Carson and was part of the 1844 Fremont Expedition which crossed the Sierras to Sutter's Fort.  Kit Carson was advised by local Washoe of a mountain pass which ultimately came to bear his name.  Carson Pass was used a primary means to ship goods into California until the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad over Donner Pass to the north.

Near the junction for CA 89 at the Luther Pass Road CA 88 crosses the West Fork Carson River.





I've never actually take CA 88 east of CA 89 at Luther Pass Road.  CA 88 multiplexes CA 89 east to Alpine Village where the latter splits southward towards Monitor Pass.  CA 88 continues to the Nevada State Line where the highway continues as NV 88 to a junction with US 395 in Minden.



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