Generals Highway Roads and Bridges
Sequoia National Park, California
Sequoia was designated a national park on September 25, 1890. The early military superintendents of the park soon discovered that only two wagon roads entered the park boundaries; the Mineral King and Colony Mill roads. These two roads, although steep, prone to winter washout, and narrow, remained the primary roads into the park until the opening of the Generals Highway in 1926. The Mineral King Wagon and Toll Road, built in 1879, provided an access route into the new park, as it connected the foothill community of Three Rivers with the mountain mining community of Mineral King. The Colony Mill Road was begun by the socialist Kaweah Colony in 1886 as a link to its land claims in the Giant Forest area and a nearby mill. The colonists' road was only completed to their mill site, 8.7 miles below the Giant Forest.
The need for improved roads in Sequoia was apparent to the park's early managers, as a route was desperately needed to reach the highly desirable Giant Forest grove of Big Trees. For many years a lack of funding prohibited road improvements within the park. Finally, in 1900 the park received its first appropriations for road work, and the extension of the Colony Mill Road to the Giant Forest was completed in 1903.
The Mount Whitney Power Company or "Elk Park" Road was the third major road to enter the park prior to the construction of the Generals Highway. The power company was granted a right-of-way under a special use permit with the Department of the Interior, allowing for the construction of flumes, ditches, etc. within the park. Under this agreement the power company constructed a wagon road along the Middle Fork Canyon to Hospital Rock. Anticipating completion of this new road, the Army began construction of a road down from Giant Forest to connect with the power company road at Hospital Rock. However, the "Smith Grade," begun in 1909, was only completed from Camp Sequoia at Commissary Curve to Eleven Range Point, and never reached Hospital Rock.
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