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US 95 Vegas to Blythe, Part 6: I-40 to Blythe

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Our last leg of our US 95 tour takes us to the end of its routing within California. Like Part 3, this portion of US 95 has remained essentially unchanged since 1940; the sole exception here is its co-routing with I-10, as it was formerly routed with US 60/US 70 before the Great Renumbering.

First shield past the turn off on US 95 and old US 66 south.

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Distance sign to Blythe. Note the "Next Services 49 Miles" sign in the background. There are few habitations between here and Blythe except for the homes and resorts crowding the Colorado River shoreline. Have a full tank of gas before you leave.

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Junction Five Mile Rd. This is where old US 66 diverges off (signed here as TO I-40), and is the previous alignment of the National Trails Hwy. It will intersect with I-40, as we saw on the advance freeway signage in the previous Part. Despite Caltrans' usual diligence about US 66 signage, this junction is unmarked.

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Just in case you didn't think the Services sign before was serious.

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PM 50.

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US 95 in this stretch can be alternately fearsome and beautiful. On my drive up, the entire area was wracked with huge thunderheads sending lightning forks that could literally be seen striking the ground mere fractions of a mile away. Summer storms can flood the road in a hurry. On the other hand, during daylight and twilight, these mountainous hills it darts around ...

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... give way to beautiful vistas of scattered rock formations and small crags.

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Continuing into the southern Mojave desert.

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First turn-off for Lake Havasu from US 95 in this segment.

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Here, the crags and small hills have mostly given way to flat road. Traffic is sparse in daylight, and nearly zero at night.

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US 95 shield.

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Fair warning to truckers, just before Vidal Jct.

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Junction CA 62. This is a feeder route connecting to Havasu in the east and through Twentynine Palms, Morongo Valley and the Joshua Tree Nat'l Park to the west before intersecting I-10. It is itself a very lonely route through its eastern extents, particularly east of Rice and the junction with CA 177, before resuming civilization and crossing the river into Parker, AZ. At the Arizona border, CA 62 becomes a spur of AZ 95 ("AZ 95S") and joins our old friend AZ 95. Here is a picture of the AZ 95 S shield.

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Distance to Parker, AZ and Twentynine Palms, CA.

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Vidal Jct. This inspection station has replaced the old one in Vidal proper, which is a couple miles south. There's not much else here other than a knick knack shop and some stops for provisioning, but it qualifies as "SERVICES."

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CA 62 (photographed looking NB) is also the connection to the London Bridge in Havasu, which if you count its time spent in, well, London, is the oldest bridge in the United States.

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Distance sign leaving Vidal Jct.

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Vidal itself is a small, mostly abandoned settlement south of the modern junction. Its population isn't zero, but darn close.

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Originally established by settler Hansell Brownell and named after his son-in-law, Vidal was another one of the major railroad stops in the region and was a water refill point for the steam locomotives much as Goffs was in Part 3. This inspection station likely delayed serviced the rail lines and subsequently the highway until the newer station was built to the north in Vidal Jct, which we drove past.

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Water tower and the crossing.

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A few hangers-on still live here, although most likely they work in the "services" in Vidal Jct.

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After a couple more miles, we get to the county line. Keep the Riverside PM count (PM 36.19) in the back of your head for the very end of this exhibit.

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Here, US 95 skirts around and near, and very close to, the Colorado River, but obviously doesn't cross it until we reach I-10. Large numbers of tourist traps, campsites and small marinas dot this area, and are swallowed up in this summary as "Colorado River Communities" (but then refers to them in the singular ... hmm).

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Descending into the basin, now about 30 miles north of Blythe, we can see how the rich river soil and easily accessible water table have caused a significant amount of vegetation growth. Although US 95 does not cross the Colorado on its California routing (duh), it does cross several of the canals feeding the agricultural districts in the region.

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This section of US 95 also carries the Blythe Intaglios. Although we don't have time for them on this photoessay (desperately trying to beat nightfall into Blythe so I can still photograph), these six famous ground artworks are part of the several hundred such intaglios from multiple tribes dotting the Mojave. They are off the main highway a few miles, but fenced off to prevent damage from well-meaning tourists. Here are some closeup photographs from the ground of the Intaglios.

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Turn-off for the Intaglios, about a mile off the highway on a poorly maintained dirt road. I'll do this next time I'm in the area since the rest of the photoessay is pretty much nailed down.

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Marker for the Blythe Intake. Blythe is named for Thomas Blythe, who had an ambitious plan (in his 60s) in the late 1870s for new land development on the western banks of the Colorado River. Already having had experience with such undertakings, including a 40-acre experimental farm north of Fort Yuma, the linchpin was a cut diversion of Colorado River into irrigation channels for his development scheme, with water rights secured in 1877 and blasting completed by 1882. This historical marker is near that diversion, approximately the site where Blythe's first legal water rights claim was made; the present-day Palo Verde Diversion Dam (completed 1957) routes water into the Palo Verde Valley (Spanish for 'green stick', named for the ubiquitous indigenous scrub plant that infests the washes and flood plain) on the basis of that original claim to this day. This dam was borne of a problem with our old friend, the Hoover Dam. Although there was greatly improved downstream flow initially after the sealing of the Dam in 1935 due to large reductions in river silt, after some time the simultaneously lower water volumes greatly reduced the carrying capacity of the original Intake and seriously threatened crops. A temporary weir was created in 1945 until the authorization and completion of the present-day Diversion Dam. It is maintained by the the U.S. Department of Reclamation.

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PM 10.

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Past this curve and bridge, US 95 becomes Intake Blvd into Blythe. Note that there is no city limit sign on US 95.

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I call it, "Drainage at Dusk." Jazzy, eh? The Caltrans log calls this the "C" canal, the northernmost and largest of the canal system 'tributaries'; it is, in fact, the original course of the Intake.

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Well, we were beating nightfall into Blythe, but it looks like nightfall is winning.

After the construction of Blythe's Intake, the Palo Verde Valley in which the modern city of Blythe sits was further developed by Edwin F. Williams who nearly singlehandedly transformed Thomas Blythe's idea into over 100,000 acres of farmland. The modern city (21,500 [2003]) was incorporated in 1916.

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Junction E Hobsonway. This is the eastern end of BR 10 in Blythe, and is the former alignment of old US 60/old US 70. The former alignment continues to the left and intersects with I-10 just before the River crossing. The oldest alignment and routing of US 95 in California ended right here; US 95 between 1961 and US 60's decommissioning in favour of I-10 joined the multiplex here and traveled east.

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Old US 60/old US 70 ran right through downtown Blythe originally (hence today's business route designation); I-10 largely bypasses it to the south.

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Downtown Blythe at nightfall at the corner of Main St and Hobsonway, along old US 60/old US 70.

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Junction I-10.

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The old junction sign, from EB I-10. This has been replaced by an ugly retroflective sign.

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Modern-day US 95 is routed along I-10 to cross the River into Arizona as this sign demonstrates. The very astute among you will have noted that despite this, our PM count at the Riverside county line means we're at PM 0.0 here, despite as of this writing there being no marker (measure it out if you don't believe me ... go on, I'll wait). To be sure, the official legislative routing of US 95 in California does indeed end at Route 10 (see Dan Faigin's US 95 in Calfornia entry for proof of the legislative definition), and it proceeds officially no further. This is the southern end of its independent alignment in California. All "miles" of US 95 along I-10, as along I-40, are administratively miles of I-10.

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Nevertheless, the route is decently co-signed as it is on I-40, here showing co-signage just past the junction with a really butt-ugly I-10 shield.

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At the Colorado River we turn around at the final exit to discover this "anonymously placed" (tip of the hat to J) US 70 shield along the old alignment parallel to the Interstate.

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Off we go into the long night, crossing Blythe on WB I-10.

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One last picture, not related to US 95 at all, but just something funny along the way on WB I-10. This appears on the EB side too, both at the state prison accessible from the Wiley's Well Rd exit.

Get out of the car (and go back to the main US 95 page, but don't try to thumb a ride)

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