Wednesday, December 30, 2020

State Route 65: Emigration and East Canyons

For this post we will finally end the trend of moving southward with each post. Instead of posting about something in southern Utah, we'll go back up to northern Utah and discuss the state highways that have served Emigration and East Canyons. This post actually turned out much longer than I'd originally planned - turns out there is a ton of history up here.

These canyons are fairly well known as the route of the Mormon pioneers. From a topographical standpoint, the route across the Wasatch Mountains does not make a whole lot of sense because it requires three mountain passes...but although the crossing can technically be made without any, the terrain is much more difficult with narrow canyons and other obstacles. The route of the Mormon Trail is shown on the map below, with relevant terrain features included:

This route derives from the Hastings Cutoff and had only been explored a couple years before the Mormons first traveled it. In 1845, explorer John C. Fremont surveyed much of the interior West, including the central Rockies and Great Salt Lake Desert, and realized that what is now northern Utah could be used as a shortcut for the California Trail, bypassing the long detour north to Fort Hall, Idaho. John Hastings learned of this new route and led a party of westward emigrants along the new cutoff - descending through Echo and Weber Canyons to the modern site of Ogden before continuing west across the Great Salt Lake Desert. Although the Hastings party did ultimately make it to California safely, they found the descent through Weber Canyon extremely difficult.

The famous Donner-Reed Party was initially supposed to travel with the Hastings party, but they were about a week late. As a result, they got advance word of the difficult terrain in Weber Canyon and pioneered a new trail through the Wasatch Mountains - including the major obstacle of Big Mountain Pass. Although the south side of the pass drains directly into the Salt Lake Valley, the lower portion of what is now called Parleys Canyon was very narrow, and so the Donner party opted to descend via Little Mountain and Emigration Canyon. This extra trail-blazing took about a month and was probably the largest contributor to their ultimate fate in the Sierra Nevada the following winter.

At any rate, when the Mormons moved west in 1847, they followed the Donner party's trail since it was at the time the best route to the Salt Lake Valley. It later also became the route of the Pony Express during its brief existence. But over time, the route gradually fell out of use as roads and railroads were developed through the more direct Parleys and Weber Canyons. It is somewhat interesting that the canyons expressly avoided during early pioneer days are the ones that wound up as the major highway corridors.

The first state highways were created in 1910, codified into state law in 1919, and were all numbered by 1927. But it took until 1931 for the old Mormon Trail route to be added to the state highway system, as SR 65:

(65) From Salt Lake City easterly via Emigration Canyon and along old Mormon trail as near as practicable to Henefer.

But here's how it appeared on the official state highway map in 1936:

USRC/Gousha, 1936.

There was no road worth putting on the map connecting Emigration and East Canyons. At the time, a road existed up Emigration Canyon (labeled 65 here), but it dead-ended without any connection to Mountain Dell or Parleys Canyon. In addition, though it's not labeled as 65 on this map, the portion of the road from US 30S in Henefer south through East Canyon did exist...but it just went to Gorgoza on US 40 (now Jeremy Ranch). There was no connection over either Little or Big Mountain Pass.

This was still the case by the time of the 1940 census:

US Census (Morgan County), 1940.

US Census (Salt Lake County), 1940.

The Morgan and Summit County maps show that at this point, SR 65 was only signed from US 30S in Henefer down to its junction with SR 66 at East Canyon Reservoir. Although the portion of today's alignment running along the bottom of East Canyon did exist, it appears not to have been signed as a state route.

The Salt Lake County map has a road heading up Emigration Canyon and dead-ending, as well as another dead-end road heading north from US 40 up Mountain Dell Canyon. The northern portion of this second road would become part of SR 65 once a connection existed. The map also illustrated a state highway system addition that had been made in 1935, creating SR 172:

Route 172. From route 65 in Emigration Canyon to Pinecrest.  

The actual location of "Pinecrest" was probably at the modern split of Pinecrest Canyon Road and Lefthand Fork Lane a couple miles up the canyon. Since 65 did not exist east of the Pinecrest road, at the time SR 65 and 172 really served more or less as one combined route. And indeed, the resolution page for 172 notes that even though it was designated a separate route by the state legislature, it was maintained by the Commission as part of SR 65. I would be curious to know if this means 65 was the signed route number on this segment - normally I'd think so, but 172 does appear on the census maps which normally only had signed numbers.

A connection from the Mormon Trail road to SR 4 (US 40) at Mountain Dell was also added to the 65 legislative description in 1938...but as we just saw with the maps above, the Mormon Trail road wasn't even a state highway here yet! So by 1940, the legal definition of route 65 consisted of a road from Salt Lake City east up Emigration Canyon, over Little Mountain Summit, up Mountain Dell Canyon, over Big Mountain Pass, down East Canyon, over Hogback Summit, and down to Henefer, with a spur down Mountain Dell Canyon to US 40 at Mountain Dell. The roads over Little and Big Mountain Passes did not exist, while the roads in East and Mountain Dell Canyons were probably not signed as state highways. 

The next year's official UDOT map included the completed Little Mountain Summit road (by which point SR 172 certainly would have become a signed route), but still nothing over Big Mountain yet:

USRC, 1941.

So upon completion of that pass, there were essentially two routes designated as SR 65 - one from Salt Lake City to Mountain Dell, and another from Henefer to East Canyon. There potentially may have been signage directing 65 traffic over US 40 between Mountain Dell and Gorgoza, but this seems rather unlikely. In 1945, it seems the state legislature realized there were in effect two unconnected SR 65s, but their response was rather strange -  that year, the entire branch from Mountain Dell Canyon to Henefer was removed from the legislative description.

But only two years later, that deletion was reversed. The Big Mountain Pass road had finally been completed by 1947, and the Little Mountain-Henefer road was added back to the SR 65 description then. An observer examining this situation in detail might notice that this would have created a three-pronged SR 65 meeting at Little Dell: one branch would have run west to Salt Lake City, another south to Mountain Dell, and another northeast to Henefer. In order to avoid this situation, the 65 number was restricted to just the Salt Lake City-Henefer road, with the spur to US 40 at Mountain Dell becoming SR 239. At the same time, the roads in This Is The Place Heritage Park at the mouth of Emigration Canyon were added to SR 65 for the state to maintain. This was apparent on the 1950 Shell map of Utah:

Shell/Gousha, 1950.

That map actually screws up the county lines - SR 65 has never entered Summit County in the Big Mountain region. Interestingly, so do the official state maps from that time frame - but neither the road nor the county lines have moved, so my hypothesis is that the county lines were poorly mapped to begin with and were never changed once the Big Mountain Road was accurately mapped. However, what is important is that roads existed over both area mountain passes. So by 1950, SR 65 consisted of a highway from Salt Lake City to US 30S in Henefer, with branches to Pinecrest (SR 172) and Mountain Dell (SR 239) along the way. That configuration remained stable for nearly 20 years.

If you thought that was confusing, the story of exactly how 65 ended in Salt Lake is even more complicated. It appears the initial west end of this route in Salt Lake City was located at US 91/SR 1 at the junction of State Street and 900 South. From there, it ran east along 900 South before shifting north on today's Amanda Avenue and exiting to the east on Sunnyside.

USRC/Gousha, 1933.

Unfortunately, SR 65 was never given a precise legal definition in Salt Lake, so we get to determine the changes by comparing a series of contradicting inset maps.  In 1935, SR 186 was created in eastern Salt Lake City, initially running along 400/500 South and 1300 East. Based on the map below, it appears this probably did not affect 65 at first. (I believe the displaying of 3rd/4th South as state highways is an error - almost certainly that was intended for 4th and 5th South, and this was corrected in subsequent official maps.)

USRC/Gousha, 1936.

...but it appears that four years later, 65 had been cut back to its junction with SR 186 at 1300 East, with the portion of 900 South between there and State reverting to city maintenance:

USRC, 1940.

That map shows a 1940 reroute of SR 186 along the red line, in conjunction with the completion of Foothill Drive south of Sunnyside and the creation of Alternate US 40 along 186. It is sort of unclear what was intended to happen with the extra portion on 900 South and Amanda Avenue - was that decommissioned at the same time? It seems sort of unlikely, given that the description of SR 186 was updated in the 1941 legislative session while 65 was not. So there could have been a brief 65/186 concurrency (or a gap in 65) along Sunnyside between Foothill and the east side of Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

The 1940 census map largely agrees with that, including a SR 65 shield on the Amanda/900 South routing down to 1300 East. However, the 1940 Rand McNally does not:


Rand McNally, 1940.

That seems to show SR 186 running directly east on Sunnyside from 1300 East (back then, Sunnyside didn't connect to 800 South), with either a gap or concurrency on 1300 East between Sunnyside and 500 South. 900 South and Amanda Avenue were shown as a local road. It also still has 900 South in bold - suggesting a state highway - all the way out to State Street...but if you ignore line width, the west end of 65 might be intended for the intersection of Sunnyside and Foothill Drive (we'll get into that in a minute).

I'd be inclined to ignore this Rand McNally completely...but the census map also lacks any road on the east side of Mount Olivet Cemetery, and a 1950 historic aerial shows no road or even really a trace of one there. So that may have only ever been a planned alignment, with 186/Alt 40 actually heading east from 1300 East on Sunnyside, probably via 9th and Amanda. If this was the case, it would have put the west endpoint of 65 at Foothill Drive and Sunnyside.

In 1945, the legal description was changed to explicitly place the western terminus of 65 at the junction with SR 186, by now also Alternate US 40. That for sure eliminated any remaining portions of SR 65 west of Foothill Drive, definitely putting its west end at Foothill Dr/Sunnyside. That was illustrated on the 1945 official inset map of Salt Lake City:

USRC, 1945.

But not too long after that, an alignment change was made on SR 186/Alt 40 that affected the endpoint of SR 186. It first appeared on the 1948-1949 official Salt Lake City inset; the map below is a 1950 Shell map showing the same thing:

Shell/Gousha, 1950.

So around 1947, the east-west route between 1300 East and Foothill had been moved to use 900 South the whole way, removing any part of 186/Alt 40 on Sunnyside. This seems rather strange today given that 900 South is a two-lane residential street and Sunnyside is a five-lane arterial...but the USGS map from 1952 backs it up. This was probably done to eliminate the shift south on Amanda from Sunnyside to 9th on 186/Alt 40 westbound. However, it resulted in a rather strange west endpoint of SR 65. 65 now began at Foothill Drive and 900 South, initially proceeding northwestward on Foothill before making a sharp right on Sunnyside.

But just a couple years later, 186/Alt 40 was rerouted again: this time to its modern alignment through Fort Douglas and the University of Utah, using the newly built 2100 East and Foothill Boulevard to connect from Foothill Drive to 500 South. This new 186/Alt 40 alignment was probably completed during 1952, as it first appeared on the 1953 official inset. (Of course, UDOT continues to sign the road southeast from 500 South as Foothill Drive...but Salt Lake City and the University of Utah correctly sign it as Foothill Blvd and 2100 East). This had the effect of moving the SR 65 terminus further east once again, to the intersection of Sunnyside and 2100 East/Foothill Blvd. That was a much more stable endpoint, and it remained there through the 1960s. 

Unknown source, 1964.

A pair of realignments were made along the parts of 65 outside Salt Lake in the mid-1960s. The first straightened out a section of Emigration Canyon just below the Pinecrest junction in 1965:

USDH, 1965.

The second was a year later, building a new alignment just east of the old one in the East Canyon Reservoir area:

USDH, 1966.

Unfortunately, the great 1969 decommissionings hit SR 65 rather hard. That year, the entirety of the road from Salt Lake City through Emigration over Little Mountain was removed from the state highway system, as was the spur to Pinecrest (deleting SR 172) and presumably also the roads in This Is The Place Monument. SR 65 was instead routed over SR 239, ending at US 40 (soon to also be I-80) at Mountain Dell. This deleted the SR 239 designation and restored SR 65 to the Mountain Dell road, where it had been designated but maybe never signed back in the 1940s.

But that same year, the north end of the route in Henefer was also adjusted. And it wasn't the first change up there either. SR 65 had always ended at Main Street (US 30S), but originally it came into town on Memorial Park Road and 100 North: 

US Census, 1940.

But by 1961, it had been moved to 300 North:

USGS (Devils Slide), 1961.

Fast-forwarding to 1969: that year, SR 3 (the legislative designation for I-80N) was officially moved from surface alignments to the interstate through the Henefer area. Henefer got two interchanges: one to the northwest and one to the southeast of town, with the original US 30S alignment connecting them. But, with SR 3 being moved to the interstate, US 30S needed a state designation. So SR 65 was extended down both legs to the interchanges...but since the interstate wasn't done yet, these would have only been signed as Temporary I-80N (and US 30S before 1972).

USGS (Ogden), 1980.

The interstate was fully completed through here around 1973. At that point, SR 65 would have become signed on both legs...but that did not last more than two years. In 1975, UDOT renumbered almost all spurs and multi-segment routes. Since Henefer was closer to the southeastern interchange, this part retained the SR 65 designation. The portion of old US 30S from Henefer northwest was renumbered to SR 86.

SR 65 has largely remained stable since then...except for the construction of Little Dell Reservoir. Surprisingly, Little Dell is much newer than the nearby lower Mountain Dell Reservoir. Mountain Dell Dam was built all the way back in 1917 and is one of Utah's oldest dams, while construction on Little Dell only began in 1987 - a few years after Salt Lake City experienced its most severe snowmelt flooding in decades. Despite its name, Little Dell Reservoir is actually larger than Mountain Dell; the name derives from a Pony Express station that was located near the north end of the reservoir. 

At any rate, the original highway alignments in the Little Dell area looked like this:

USGS (Mountain Dell), 1963.

Naturally, with the creation of Little Dell Reservoir, part of SR 65 was flooded and had to be moved to a new alignment, completed probably sometime in late fall 1987. The new 65 alignment was mostly a brand new roadway, but it did use some of the original Emigration Canyon road (resulting in the junction moving about half a mile west). Old 65 below the reservoir is no longer public, but it is still a maintenance road to the dam. The portion above the reservoir now serves the Little Dell Recreation Area.

USGS (Mountain Dell), 2014.

Since then, no further changes have been made to SR 65 or 86.

Route Photos

SR 65

Although I've driven the entirety of this route, I apparently only have photos from the portion between SR 66 and 86.

No reassurance shield right after the 66/65 junction, but we do get NPS signage for the California, Mormon, and Pony Express Trails.

Several miles and a mountain pass later, we reach Henefer.

Turn left to get to I-84 west, right for I-84 east and ultimately I-80. Both should have TO banners.

SR 65 turns right on old US 30S. 86 begins to the left.

SR 86

No progression, just a few photos here and there:

Heading west from Henefer, we'll pass this TO I-84 WEST trailblazer.


End sign looking the other way.

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