California 96

California 96 is the Klamath River Highway, closely following its namesake river through the Siskiyou Mountains. The state route meanders from California 299 in Willow Creek in the south to a point north of Yreka to join with Interstate 5 following a curving arc. Photo taken 05/25/08.

California 96 follows the Trinity and Klamath Rivers on its journey from Willow Creek (California 299) north to Interstate 5 near Hornbrook. Staying within these rivers' valleys, the highway serves recreational areas within the Klamath National Forest as well as the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation, Weitchpec, Orleans, Clear Creek, Seiad Valley, and Hamburg. A portion of the route is designated as the State of Jefferson Scenic Highway.

California 96 north
Northbound California 96 approaches California 263 (Historic U.S. 99). The 1931 bridge visible to the right carried U.S. 99 over the Klamath River and today carries California 263. Photo taken 05/25/08.
Through traffic on California 96 north stops at the intersection with California 263 (Historic U.S. 99). Photo taken 05/25/08.
Shields for California 96 and California 263 are mounted into a cliff face at the intersection of these two state routes. Proceed ahead on California 96 to the junction with Interstate 5. Photo taken 05/25/08.
This mileage sign along California 96 north (after the intersection with California 263) provides the distance to Ashland, Medford, and Portland via Interstate 5 north. Photo taken 05/25/08.

Northbound California 96 approaches Interstate 5 near the Randolph Collier Rest Area. This interchange marks the northern terminus of California 96, not too far from the California-Oregon state line. Photo taken 05/25/08.
After the rest area turnoff, northbound California 96 meets Interstate 5 at this interchange. The first right turn connects to Interstate 5 south to Yreka and Redding, and the main lane shifts onto Interstate 5 north to Ashland and Portland. Photo taken 05/25/08.
An end California 96 shield is posted on the transition ramp from northbound California 96 to northbound Interstate 5. Photo taken 05/25/08.
California 96 south
Southbound California 96 meets its junction with California 263 (Historic U.S. 99) at this intersection. Note the signage for the State of Jefferson Scenic Byway, which is reflective of an old proposal to carve a new state from the southern counties of Oregon and the northern counties of California into the state of Jefferson. While this proposed new state never became a reality, it is a part of this region' history, especially since the areas of southern Oregon and extreme northern California have more in common than with either Portland or Los Angeles. Photo taken 05/25/08.
After the intersection with California 263, southbound California 96 proceeds alongside the Klamath River toward Willow Creek. Note that the scenic byway may see closures from time to time due to weather, but California 96 is shown as being open. Photo taken 05/25/08.
California 96 scenes
At the north end of California 96, where it meets Interstate 5, is the Randolph Collier Rest Area. The rest area serves travelers on Interstate 5 and California 96, and it is the first rest area for travelers entering California from Oregon. Photo taken 05/25/08.
Within the Randolph Collier Rest Area, we find a Blue Star Memorial Highway marker honoring those who served in the Armed Forces while defending the United States of America. The Yreka Garden Club posted the sign. Photo taken 05/25/08.
Closer to the restroom building at the Randolph Collier Rest Area, a plaque honors Randolph Collier, who passed away in 1983. A state senator and chairman of the California Senate Transportation Committee, Mr. Collier was instrumental in crafting the Collier–Burns Highway Act of 1947, which established a role for the state in constructing urban freeways, increased gasoline and vehicle registration fees that were allocated to a highway revenue fund, and set a 55:45 ratio of state highway construction funds split between the southern half and northern half of the state, respectively. Counties also received a guaranteed minimum amount of funding for road systems as part of the act.1 As a result of this historic 1947 act, which ushered in a new era of rural highway and urban freeway construction, Mr. Collier became known as the "Father of the California Freeways." Both this rest area and the Collier Tunnel on U.S. 199 are named in honor of Mr. Collier. Photo taken 05/25/08.
The Randolph Collier Rest Area also hosts a small welcome center, which has maps, tourist brochures, and other information for Siskiyou County, with volunteers staffing the facility. Adjacent to the rest area is the Klamath River, which creates a park-like feeling. Photo taken 05/25/08.
This sign is posted at the exit from the parking lot Randolph Collier rest area, which is located at Exit 786 (California 96) near Yreka. The rest area serves both north and southbound Interstate 5 traffic as well as California 96, a north-south route known partially as the Jefferson Scenic Highway and Klamath River Highway. This scenic highway designation is in reference to a once-proposed state of Jefferson. Locals in extreme northern California and southern Oregon once proposed to have been this new state carved from several counties in the region. Photos taken 05/25/08 by AARoads and 03/99 by Jerry Mullady.
At the north end of the driveway leaving the Randolph Collier Rest Area, we find another sign at the point where the driveway meets California 96. Turn left for California 96 (Klamath River Highway) south/west to Willow Creek or right for California 96 north to Interstate 5. Photo taken 05/25/08.


  1. Statewide Transportation Planning in California: Past Experience and Lessons for the Future by Jeffery Brown, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, November 13, 2000. Relevant quote: "The Collier-Burns Highway Act of 1947 made the Division of Highways responsible for the construction of a 475-mile metropolitan freeway system in Los Angeles and San Francisco at an estimated cost of $750 million. This policy development had a profound effect on the state and its urban areas and the Division of Highways. ... The Collier-Burns Highway Act also codified a new geopolitical compromise between the state' ever-feuding northern and southern parts. Under the terms of the compromise, the southern 13 counties were guaranteed 55 percent and the northern 45 counties 45 percent of state highway expenditures. The creation of 'county minimums' also made sure that each county received a floor amount of highway aid every year. ... Under the terms of the final bill, all motor vehicle user taxes were increased -- and the proceeds were deposited into a State Highway Account whose balances were earmarked for highway construction and maintenance purposes only."

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