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Author Topic: History of the Mountain Springs Grade  (Read 679 times)


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History of the Mountain Springs Grade
« on: March 14, 2021, 05:33:00 PM »


This article is super detailed about the history of travel between Yuma and San Diego.  One major take away for me though was that there was no "stagecoach" route between San Francisco and LA during the gold rush.  It makes sense if you think about all of the mountains in the way, but I take for granted all the highway passes we have now. 


Except for an inconvenient accident of geography, the all-weather harbor of San Diego would have been a bustling hub of commerce in 1849-1861 linking the South- west to the booming gold fields of northern California. San Diego lay only 170 miles almost due west of Fort Yuma, located at the only practicable crossing of the Colorado River within 200 miles. During the US-Mexican War and the Gold Rush that soon followed, San Diego’s harbor should have been crowded with the flood of troops, gold-rushers, emigrants, and military supplies passing through Yuma, to connect with steamships from the East bound for San Francisco and the gold fields.

During this time, however, San Diego’s residents slumbered on beside an empty bay because of that one inconvenient geographic fact—about 80 miles to the east there was a then-impenetrable mountain barrier to wagon travel. That barrier made it much easier for horse or wagon travelers from the east to go to Los Angeles and its fair-weather San Pedro harbor than to San Diego.1 San Pedro, moreover, was 120 miles closer to San Francisco and the gold fields.

Today, Interstate 8 penetrates the barrier over the Mountain Springs Grade in the Jacumba Pass. The federal government built Interstate 8 grade in the 1970s at a cost of about one million dollars per mile. Its goal was to connect all major cities with high-speed freeways. But in the mid-1800s, there were no federal or state charters to build roads. If San Diego wanted a road, it had to build one out of its own resources.

The first stagecoach roads over the barrier were built past Mountain Springs in 1865-70. The residents of San Diego planned, financed by public subscription, and built the roads, as they were the only people vitally interested in San Diego’s commerce with the east. The first automobile road over the barrier was built in 1912-13, entirely financed by residents of San Diego. This is the story of the building of those roads, and the circumstances that led the people of San Diego to rise to the challenge presented to them.

Max Rockatansky

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Re: History of the Mountain Springs Grade
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2021, 05:41:29 PM »



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