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Old Highway 399, Part 7: Taft Highway (CA 119)

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Go to: Part 6 | Main 399 page | Part 8

This section of US 399 and the entirety of its succeeding route, CA 119, is appropriately named the Taft Highway for the city we just left in Part 6, and will bring us to our first US 399 terminus at the US 99 freeway (today's CA 99). Along the way we'll visit quite a few of the small southern Kern county communities, and explore one known significant realignment.


Taft Highway (CA 119)

Distance signage leaving Taft. CA 119 is curious in that it is actually an east-west highway, despite replacing a route that ran north-south. While few directional tabs appear to prove this, there is one we'll see in a bit that makes this plain.

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Midway Road, turning off to the Midway-Sunset field that we are now leaving to the west.

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Besides the odd concept of being prosectued [sic] for molesting state property (oh my), we can see Midway Road continue as an ill-maintained gravel road to another gravel road running transversely in the background. This might have been an old alignment, but doesn't give us much of a different view, so we'll press on.

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Whatever it is, it joins us here.

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PM 5.0.

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The small town of Valley Acres, founded in 1937. It has 512 residents [2000].

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Through Valley Acres.

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Just after it (call it a suburb) is Dustin Acres, named possibly as a play on "dust in acres," with 585 residents [2000].

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Through Dustin Acres.

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After Dustin Acres we reach the Buena Vista region ("good view"), possibly named ironically by the Spanish, applied to the slough (!) and wetlands that bedeviled early settlers with mosquitos and malaria until it was drained. Nevertheless, some of that early watery land still survives in the modern Buena Vista Recreation Area. An old US 399 alignment branches off at this point to form ...

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[US 399 around the shore of Buena Vista Lake Bottom, 1934.] Fork 1: Golf Course Road, Tupman Road (Old US 399 and Buena Vista Lake)

Turning off CA 119 onto Golf Course Rd. The bypass CA 119 now follows likely was built around 1962 based on a 1961 adopted routing, but non-realigned postmiles on CA 119 indicating the realignment occurred prior to the 1964 renumbering. This original routing is shown on the map inset at right. Notice that the drained Buena Vista Lake is shown as "Buena Vista Lake Bottom" (see Part 8 for why that happened). The later US 399 and current CA 119 routing is shown in red for comparison.

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Golf Course Rd is another Kern county road, this time KernCo 254D at PM 0.05.

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Golf Course Rd/NB old US 399. Parallel to us is the Buena Vista creek, originally feeding Buena Vista Lake before its diversion. After the Buena Vista Lake was dammed and dried out (see Part 8 for why), the county re-established it in two lakes, Lake Webb and Lake Evans, with a total of 6,800 acre-ft of water in 1973.

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Overlooking the southern farms stretching back to the mountains in the distance.

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Turn-off for the promised golf course.

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A little splash of green in the dusty landscape.

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Continuing along.

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PM 4.00, although the designation has changed to 254E. This is probably the point where the name of the otherwise continuous alignment changes to Tupman Rd.

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Signage for the 6,059-acre Coles Levee Ecosystem Preserve, preserving the last several miles of the Kern River where it drained into Buena Vista Lake and today the Buena Vista Recreational Area, parallel with the modern California Aqueduct. Originally established by the California Department of Fish and Game cooperatively with ARCO in 1992, ARCO's former properties were acquired by Aera Energy in 1998, who has continued the environmental partnership. The Preserve is unique in that it attempts to maintain a continuous strip of habitat rather than disconnected fragments.

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Curving around Tupman Rd/old US 399.

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Final postmile (PM 5.44) just before rejoining CA 119.

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Junction CA 119.

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Sure you don't want to play golf?

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Fork 2: US 399 Expressway (CA 119)

The 1961 realignment proposal calls this stretch of modern CA 119 a "freeway," though it is at best a Super 2 with no interchanges. Notice that the postmiles are not realigned (here at PM 11.0).

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Distance signage for the Buena Vista Recreation Area.

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Crossing the hill, with part of the Kern River slough visible in the valley ahead.

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Rejoining Fork 1.

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Crossing the California Aqueduct, and just ahead, running parallel to it, the Buena Vista Slough and the Kern River. The Aqueduct was built as part of the California State Water Project inaugurated in 1960 by then-Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown as the major main-line conduit for the project, running from the Sacramento River delta in Northern California south through the San Joaquin Valley and over the summit of the Tehachapi range, where it divides into east and west branches. This is part of the west branch. Due to Governor Brown's significant involvement in its creation, the Aqueduct is now properly known as the Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct in his honour.

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Don't go swimming. Go to the lake for that, it's not far.

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Aqueduct marker beside the highway.

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Aqueduct mileage stenciled onto the bridge (241.06), next to CA 119's bridge postmile (PM 14.92).

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Watching the water off into the distance.

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EB CA 119/NB old US 399, with a VMS for the Interstate 5 junction approaching in a few miles.

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Formal signage for the Coles Levee Ecosystem Preserve next to the highway. Notice that the ARCO name was scratched out, but the dangling ampersand invites closer observation by busybodies like me.

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Inexplicable street sign where there is no street. In fact, CA 119 runs on an elevated controlled alignment here, so there's no way anyone could get on or off.

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Advance signage for CA 43.

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CA 43 to Shafter and Wasco (and south to the Buena Vista Recreation Area). This is its southern terminus; Enos Ln south of here is county road.

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END 43 at CA 119.

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Jogging south a bit as we line up for our approach to Interstate 5. This is the official end of the 1961 freeway, although east of the Aqueduct it occupies pretty much the same roadbed (just upgraded).

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Junction I-5. This was part of I-5's initial southern construction in 1967.

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Looking back, we see that CA 119 is signed WEST, not SOUTH.

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Crossing I-5, with another WEST CA 119 on the overpass.

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Distance signage leaving I-5.

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Through the dusty air.

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Old River, named for the old bed of the Kern River that once ran there until geology shifted it west. Founded in the 1870s, it has 140 residents.

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Through Old River and crossing the Old River Rd, a common southern shortcut back to I-5.

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EB CA 119/NB old US 399.

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PM 28.00.

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Traffic light flasher as we near Panama.

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Panama, one of California's smaller incorporated cities at just 300 residents. The name's derivation is no longer obvious today, but in the marshier days prior to the region's drainage this then-small strip of land between two creek channels probably distinctly resembled the isthmus it is named for. Settled in the 1860s, the incorporation appears to be recent because of the obvious greenout used to modify the sign. Panama also appears to have been the old site of Pumpkin Center, which has moved east (we'll get to it).

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Passing through Panama.

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VMS as we near the CA 99 junction and our terminus.

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PM 30 and modern Pumpkin Center, a center for eggplant agriculture. (Just checking if you were paying attention.) The town has 1,369 residents and is our last stop before modern CA 119 ends.

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The main drag.

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Approaching CA 99.

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Taft Hwy and distance signage just before the freeway.

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Junction CA 99, the US 99 freeway prior to the 1964 decommissioning. This is the end of CA 119, and also the end of US 399 after the construction of the US 99 freeway in 1962, and thus its final terminus chronologically until US 399 was decommissioned as well. This wasn't the original end of US 399, of course; for that, we press on into Bakersfield itself.

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END CA 119 as we cross the freeway.

Continue to Part 8

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