[Return to Floodgap Roadgap]

['EXIT' Back]

Old CA 209 and the Cabrillo National Monument

[San Diego 1934-1999] Click the thumbnail at left for a new window with a scrolling map of San Diego highways from 1934-1999.


One of my personal favourite highways in San Diego, Old CA 209 was also a road I traveled often when I worked in Point Loma. It is also the road to the small but lovely Cabrillo National Monument, the main national park in San Diego county, featuring the beautiful Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Along the way, it takes in a fascinating cross-section of the San Diego coastal community, as well as the naval installation and the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

Old CA 209 originally existed as Legislative Route Number 12, which was actually originally signed as US 80 in 1933 when the routing was added to the legislative definition. (LRN 12 ran as far as El Centro, turning into LRN 27, but both legislative routes were still signed as US 80.) US 80 entered via Barnett Ave; Rosecrans St north of Lytton St and "State Route 209" north of Sports Arena Blvd were not part of the legislative definition. This stretch of US 80 between Rosecrans and Pacific Highway along Lytton and Barnett was once proposed as a freeway, and its history is partially discussed in Casey's US 80 Guide and Dan Faigin's entry on Old CA 209. It does not appear this routing persisted much after 1934. US 80 would later be truncated to end at US 101 by 1940, and the orphaned portion of LRN 12 resigned as CA 209 after the Great Renumbering. Before the construction of old CA 109 (the Ocean Beach Fwy) in 1969, the US 80 (BTGR)/I-8 (ATGR) freeway directly emptied into Camino del Rio W, which is also signed "State Route 209" at intersections before joining Rosecrans St. The I-5/I-8/old CA 209 interchange still bears vestiges of the old termination point, even after CA 109 was absorbed into I-8; we'll see that below.

CA 209 was accepted by the City of San Diego in 2001 (as part of the same vote that accepted defunct CA 274), but curiously its routing was not legislatively deleted until 2003. Sadly, very little signage still persists as references to it have largely disappeared from the freeways and I am not aware of any existing free-standing shields today.

Photographed February 2005, with additional photographs added April 2005, July 2006 and September 2007.

Advance signage for old CA 209 approaching the junction.
Exit to old CA 209 from WB I-8 at the I-8/I-5 interchange. Access to this particular ramp is also furnished from the I-5 ramp on Morena Blvd neé old US 101. SB I-5 also offers access to old CA 209, but its new signage omits CA 209 (much as it also omits old CA 274).
Crossing on the ramp.
End freeway.

Camino del Rio W

[Original US 80 Interchange, 1965] The stub here is Camino del Rio W, the original "endway" for the US 80 (BTGR)/I-8 (ATGR) freeway and its initial western terminus before the construction of the Ocean Beach Fwy; see the map at right for the old interchange configuration. There are two relics of this today; the first is reflected in the modern postmiles for I-8, which do not match the exit numbers and are off by approximately two miles, explained by the length of the Ocean Beach Fwy extension to I-8's modern western terminus at Sunset Cliffs Blvd/Nimitz Blvd (old CA 109) from which the exit numbers start but not the postmiles.

(In the map, note that Frontier St is modern-day Sports Arena Blvd. Also note that I-5 was not fully constructed through this area by this time, with traffic running on old US 101 Pacific Hwy instead.)

The second relic is that there is still to this day no access to WB I-8, shown here facing north on CA 209. Notice the signage as Camino del Rio W at the terminus.
This was originally the first CA 209 reassurance shield you saw exiting the freeway ramp, here at Kurtz St while descending into the Midway district.
Junction Sports Arena Blvd. Rosecrans St joins CA 209 at this point (a left turn places you on NB Rosecrans St). We proceed straight.
Before joining Rosecrans, CA 209 is simply signed "State Route 209" at traffic intersections, as this sign attests, despite the fact that the street signs [correctly] say it's Camino del Rio.
CA 209 trailblazer at the Rosecrans St junction, along with signage to Pacific Hwy, the former alignment of US 101.

Rosecrans St

Junction Midway Drive.
The signage still shows a CA 209 shield, but now with Rosecrans St.
SB CA 209/Rosecrans St.
Junction Lytton St.
This was the earliest alignment of US 80, which split from Pacific Hwy/former US 101 on Barnett Avenue. Barnett is continuous with Lytton, and the old US 80 routing now merges with us. Former CA 209 and US 80 will run on the same alignment for the remainder of their respective routings.
SB CA 209/old US 80/Rosecrans St.
Liberty Station, the former Naval Training Center San Diego. Closed by the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission, it housed up to 33,000 men during World War II and by the 1970s trained a variety of naval personnel from entry level and apprentice class positions through advanced professional skills. The end of the Cold War saw major military downsizing and the Navy moved training operations to NTC Great Lakes in Illinois, presently its only training facility; a 1995 master lease agreement progressively subleased portions of the base to the City of San Diego until 1997 when all military operations terminated. A small southern portion remains part of modern-day Naval Base Point Loma which contains a base exchange, medical facilities and housing. Liberty Station is the successor development to the remainder of the former facility, a National Register of Historic Places-listed mixed use property, with retail, residental, professional and educational districts and a 46-acre waterfront park.
Rosecrans St at Nimitz Blvd, with signage to San Diego International Airport and Harbor Island (via Harbor Blvd).
Nimitz Blvd occupies a quasi-city freeway alignment between Rosecrans and Sunset Cliffs Blvd, complete with interchanges of various levels of grade separation. These deteriorating signs were (reasonably) replaced by the City, but I reproduce them here because the button copy was lovely when I worked in the neighbourhood.
Intersection Hugo St and Harbor Dr.
Advance signage for the Cabrillo National Monument.
Shelter Island Dr, to the eponymous Shelter Island and also America's Cup Harbor.
The America's Cup Harbor is probably the most famous part of the Point Loma Marina in San Diego's well regarded natural harbour. The small cove was christened such in 1994 to be the site of the 1995 America's Cup races, where New Zealand swept all five races and took the cup away from the United States for only the second time in 144 years (the first time was Australia, in 1983). The history and prestige of the America's Cup (since its first race in 1851), as well as the eye-watering investment required, attracts many entrepreneurs and sponsors who may spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a credibly competitive team and vessel.
Intersection Cañon St. CA 209 turns right at this point; Rosecrans St continues down south straight ahead. We turn right. Note the end of the truck route as well.

Cañon St

Cañon St through Point Loma.
A CA 209 reassurance shield sits on the northbound side.
The drive here is a bit curvy, but gentle, and the coastal scenery is delightful.
SB old CA 209/US 80/Cañon St.
Del Mar Ave.
Continuing SB.
Westminster Park, a private park operated by Westminster Presbyterian Church, which also has a theatre troupe that I tried out for a couple times.
Talbot St, with some reassurance shields. Some of the street signs are missing the tilde; this junction gives the street (incorrectly) as Canon St.
Approaching the third and final leg of CA 209 at Catalina Blvd.
Third leg of CA 209, at Catalina Blvd. We turn left.
CA 209 trailblazer and signage at the intersection facing northbound.

Catalina Blvd

Catalina Blvd at Lomaland Dr, and the turnoff to Point Loma Nazarene University.
Point Loma Nazarene was the home of the Apple server that was the first Floodgap from 1997 to 2003 while I was a staff database developer (and later contractor) for their Information Technology department. Many thanks are owed for six years of power and Ethernet :) Drop by sometime for the exceptional views of the shore down around Young Hall, with much love for Nelson, Robert, Ben, Pat, Don, Malissa, Herman, Barbara, Keren, Ken, Carey, Vlad, Jim and everyone else who was there in the Ryan Learning Center.
Malformed 2ds-format reassurance shield past Lomaland.
Electron Dr and the guard tower for Fort Rosecrans Military Reservation (a hasty picture to avoid alarming the guards).

Cabrillo Memorial Rd

Entering the Military Reservation, now the fourth and final leg of CA 209.
Coastal pines as we near the shore.
Although FAP and FAS (i.e., Federal Aid Primary and Federal Aid Secondary) signs are sometimes still seen on very old alignments of state highway, these small unobtrusive signs are considered obsolete, were never intended for motorist guidance (the route numbers don't correspond to any California route number or legislative designation) and haven't been posted on new construction in decades. However, rarer still are FLH (Federal Lands Highway) markers which correspond to those federally-funded roads serving public lands, national parks and Native American reservations. Although this program offered over $1b in funding as late as budget year 2009, the Division of Highways posted even fewer of these markers in the field and they are only seen on that minority of very old alignments that served those functions.
Overlooking the coastline.
A few of the military buildings, some of which date back to old Fort Rosecrans.
Fort Rosecrans (and, for that matter, Rosecrans St) was named for Union General William Starke Rosecrans, a Civil War officer who visited the location in 1871 in the interests of the Texas and Pacific Railroad. However, the site was in use much earlier than that, including the ill-fated 1797 Fort Guijarros which was pummeled by British forces exploring the coast in 1803. After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded California to the United States in 1848, the region was established as a military reservation in 1852, though the Army did not make use of it until around 1870 and it also became a Navy coaling depot in 1901. Its only occupant for many years was the Point Loma Lighthouse, built in 1855 and which we will visit presently; an artillery battery was added at Ballast Point from 1897 to around 1900 and additional mortars were added in 1916. Strengthened for the Second World War, its armaments were eventually scrapped and the entire reservation was ceded to the Navy in 1959, though local Army Reserve offices still remain. Today it is another part of modern Naval Base Point Loma.
CA 209 was still signed then, despite being on federal lands.
Turn-off to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
Fort Rosecrans Nat'l Cemetery, a 77.5-acre federal military cemetery administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Its first official burial was Pvt. John T. Welch of Company 1, 8th Infantry, on October 5, 1879 (then known as "Post Cemetery, San Diego Barracks (Point Loma)"). However, other remains in the cemetery are rather older, including those who fell during the 1846 Battle of San Pasqual, who were reinterred there in 1882 when the national cemetery was officially established. Over 100,000 graves are present and burial is still available to eligible veterans.
We pause a moment here to acknowledge their service to the United States.
Another southbound shield, along with a no-less important service task. This was, near as I can tell, the last one along the SB alignment.
Down the coastline to the terminus.
Advance signage for Cabrillo National Monument.
Entering the Cabrillo National Monument.
The Cabrillo National Monument commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542, the first time a European expedition set foot on the United States west coast. It was established out of a half-acre transfer from Fort Rosecrans Military Reservation in 1913 by proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson for the purposes of an honourary statue. However, no statue was placed and the commission lapsed until 1935 when a plaque was installed. In 1939 the Portuguese government donated a 14-foot sandstone statue for the Golden Gate International Expedition, but it arrived too late, and it sat disused in a Bay Area warehouse until local State Senator Ed Fletcher (the Fletcher in Fletcher Parkway) obtained it and shipped it to San Diego in 1940, where it again sat in a Navy warehouse until it was finally installed in 1949. Unfortunately, this first statue weathered badly, and a 1988 limestone replica now stands in its place which I have not bothered to reproduce here. The modern monument was expanded greatly by Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford, and is now 143.9 acres including the Old Point Loma Lighthouse (its most famous, and arguably original inhabitant) and its thriving and diverse tidepools.
Overlooking the CA 209 "terminus" (of sorts) at the visitors' centre.
Exteriors of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, probably one of San Diego's most identifiable landmarks. The Assistant Keeper's quarters are at left.
The location for the Point Loma Lighthouse was selected in 1851 and construction completed in 1854, although the lighthouse did not cast its first beam until November 15, 1855 as the French-built Fresnel lens used for its lighting apparatus did not arrive for over a year. It remained in service welcoming sailors to San Diego with its bright oil-lamp glow until March 23, 1891, when it was decommissioned in favour of the "New" Point Loma Lighthouse at the bottom of the hill, a location that was less susceptible to being obscured by Point Loma's frequent fog and low cloud formations (at times so thick that the lighthouse keeper would fire a shotgun to warn oncoming ships when the beam was not visible, as there was no foghorn). During its time, it was the highest lighthouse in the country, with the beam coming from 462' above sea level. It was substantially refurbished in 1935 along with a major reconstruction of the main road, which CA 209 followed nearly precisely and remains in use today.
Stairwell and quarters within the Lighthouse, which is open to the public during park hours and is exceptionally well preserved.
The lighting apparatus itself, with the Fresnel lens at top. This area is normally closed to visitors, although it is open for special occasions and has a remarkable vantage point. In 1984, the beam was ignited again for the first time in 93 years in celebration of the Lighthouse's 130th birthday in front of 3,000 guests and over 100 descendants of the Israels, the last keepers of the Lighthouse.
A couple gratuitous vistas of the shore before we go.

All images, photographs and multimedia, unless otherwise stated, are copyright © 2004-2021 Cameron Kaiser. All rights reserved. All writeups are copyright © 2004-2021 Cameron Kaiser. All rights reserved. Unauthorized copying or duplication without express consent of the copyright holder is strictly prohibited. Please contact the sitemaster to request permission if you wish to use items from this page.

Go back to the main Roadgap page
[Main page]