Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
> CASTAIC   > RIDGE ROUTE   > ST. FRANCIS DAM DISASTER
Auto Bridge Over the Santa Clarita River
Castaic Junction


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Postcard of a metal-truss auto bridge over the Santa Clara River at Castaic Junction. Today's location is west of Interstate 5 between Feedmill Road (the Magic Mountain employee access road) and the SCV Sanitation District's Valencia Water Reclamation Plant.

According to Ridge Route historian Harrison Scott (2002:90), the publisher, Western Publishing & Novelty Co., mislabeled it "Castaic Creek." It's not; it's the Santa Clara river.

The bridge was wiped out in the St. Francis Dam Disaster during the early morning hours of March 13, 1928.


Ridge Route history by Jerry Reynolds:

Ever since the days of Phineas Banning, General Beale and the Butterfield Overland stage, vehicles made their way out of Los Angeles, through San Francisquito Canyon, down the Grapevine Pass, and then into Bakersfield. The California Highway Commission was formed in 1911, and one of its first priorities was to build a simpler, more direct road through the La Liebre Mountains. That task fell to the man with the unlikely name of W. Lewis Clark.

Frustrated in several attempts to locate an easy way across the stony barrier, Clark, at last, blazed a trail right over the top from the mouth of Castaic Canyon to Gorman. It was called the Ridge Route.

After a year of toil, during which four-horse Fresno scrapers graded hilltops alongside chugging Caterpillar tractors to the tune of a staggering half-million dollars, the Tejon Route, as it was originally dubbed, opened to the motoring public late in November 1915. The Auto Club did a little calculating, finding that in the 36 miles between Castaic and Gorman, there were 642 curves that added up to 97 complete circles. It did cut 60 miles off the road, however.

Even before construction started in 1914, an enterprising businessman by the name of Sam Parsons purchased an acre of land from W.H. Cook fronting the stake line, then threw up a general store that catered to the needs of the workers. Afterwards, "Sam's Place" became a mecca for truckers and the beginning of a new town called Castaic.[...]

While the Ridge Route did not bring permanent residents (to the Santa Clarita Valley), for the most part it did cut down on travel time to the great markets of Los Angeles. One could journey to town and back in a single day — amazing! Then there was the increasing horde of gentlemen clad in long linen dusters with goggles, piloting their chugging, spitting vehicles with names such as Marmon "41," Winton "Six," or Packard ("Ask the man who owns one"). They, their womenfolk, and children might get hungry along the way or need gasoline or automobile repairs. So began a series of what might be called "tourist traps." [...]

The next stop (after Newhall-Saugus) along the Ridge Route would have been Castaic, (and then) there was the Ridge Road Garage, The Tumble Inn, Reservoir Summit, and that splendid establishment in the wilderness known as Sandberg. Local rancher Herman Sandberg provided excellent, guaranteed-fresh steaks at his hotel. Slot machines could also be found there and, in a long, low building out back (known as "The Crib,") feminine companionship was available for weary truckers and lonely salesmen. [...]

In 1933 Highway 99 was carved up the canyons, bypassing the 18-year-old Ridge Route, which was already antiquated.


The view in 2014. Click to enlarge.


AL2301: 19200 dpi jpeg from original postcard | Collection of Dr. Alan Pollack.
SANTA CLARA RIVER BRIDGE AT CASTAIC JUNCTION

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Postcard ~1923

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Same Bridge? 1928

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St. Francis Flood Damage 1928 x2

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St. Francis Flood Damage 1928

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Repairs 1928

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Damaged Bridges

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Roadbed 1980

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Ruins 2014 x23

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