CAMPO TO MOUNTAIN SPRINGS

 

In the early years the road from Campo to Boulevard and down the grade to the desert was quite a stretch of road.    In 1852, this road was only an Indian trail.  Several people who have studied or have been around here for some years indicate the current route between Campo and Boulevard has not changed that much, except  some variations via LaPosta Road or up Cameron Corners existed.  The mode of travel determined the route.  On horseback you could take the shortest route, but via wagon, one needed to take the route of least resistance, even if it was longer.  Other purposes of this road were for driving cattle down to the desert for the winter months and return them back to the mountains for the summer.  There was a report that 500 hogs at one time came up the mountain for market.

Mr. Carl Calvert (15) owns the old mill at Campo, where the  “Motor Transport Museum” is currently located.  It is open the second Saturday of each month for the entire day and a great place to see old vehicles.   He also owns the cluster of buildings across the street and just south of the old mill.  On this property was the oldest school in Campo, an old garage, and out buildings.  He has put historical plaques on these buildings. 

Just south of this property is a white house that used to be the “Warren Hotel." .   It was a main stop for travelers on the stage for rest and food when traveling from Imperial Valley to San Diego.    There were 2 rooms for rent.  When they were working on the train in this area they served up to 100 chicken dinners a day at this hotel.  Bob Harris said its nickname was “Bloody Bucket."   The Warrens pioneered this property.  They ran the hotel and garage and received a patent deed for this property.   The original building burned  about 1942.  The only exception was the kitchen area, around which the present structure is built.

The road followed the old Highway 80 from Boulevard to Jacumba before starting down the mountain at the lookout tower.  Jacumba Hot Springs was very popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s and attracted a lot of people.  This was a thriving town at that time, with a hotel, drug store, garage and grocery store.

There used to be a popular stop at Mountain Springs,  owned by Peter Larkin (11).   This was the first place settled in that area and all  travelers stopped, whether going up or down the mountain, for rest and food.  There was a stop also at In-ko-Pah.  Mr. Larkin later moved to Jacumba and had a big cattle ranch and finally settled in Potrero. 

From the top of the grade down to the desert floor was a terrible road.  Mr. Sheckler says sometimes they had to resort to dismantling a wagon to get down the steep rocky areas and put it back together when it was safe.   Two roads are still visible (to the north) when driving on Interstate 8 near the top of the grade.  One is the old immigrant road that the wagons, stage coach and settlers used in the early years the lower one is old Highway 80.

Even when reaching the desert, with the soft sand and heavy load, sometimes it was impossible to pull the wagon.  There was a plank road built eventually in 1912 and this helped.  I have found some articles from the San Diego Historical Society regarding the trip down the mountain.  There are also articles about the plant road which are interesting.

 

A brief background history (1) on the very early routes between San Diego and Yuma:

In 1848, a military mail service started between San Diego to Yuma.  The route proceeded south from San Diego to the TiaJuana River, thence entirely in Mexico.  It then entered USA near Campo, and continued east down Walker Canyon, past Mountain Springs into the valley.  The route ran entirely by horseback.

Capt.  Nathaniel Lyon laid out a route for the Army that was north of the old route.   It ran across Barrett Lake Basin, up to Hauser Creek and it came out north of Campo before descending into the steep rocky  side of the mountains east of Jacumba.  This route was shorter than going through Warner’s, and proved to be the best pack mule trail of all.  This trail was used by sheep men and cattle drovers coming west, but the dream of a practical low-level route over the mountain barrier, to San Diego, continued.

In 1869 a new route was laid out by surveyors, under the leadership of John Capron, who wanted to start a stage coach line.  This is the route up Otay River, thru Jamul Ranchos, Dulzura Creek, Potrero, Campo and Jacumba.  The road down the Mountain Springs grade was blasted and improved in 1869 and at Potrero Grade in 1870.  These improvements further shortened the route and opened the route to wagons and stages.  This is the approximate route of the present Highway 94 and old highway 80.

Imperial County and Riverside County were all considered part of  San Diego County.  The separation of these counties occurring in 1907.

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