I got to take a tour up the old Humboldt Road today, thanks to Dave Nopel and the Chico History Museum (and Respect the Walls and the Chico Heritage Association.) I had been along parts of it before (much of it is now Highway 32) but I have never been as far as Jonesville.
We started at the Junction (the intersection in downtown Chico where Park Avenue, Main, Broadway and 9th Street meet), where the Humboldt Road begins. Back in the day this was the hub of industry and transportation in Chico.
We drove up to the section of Old Humboldt Road, just off of Bruce Road, where you can conveniently see the ruts made by old iron-rimmed wagon wheels. Respect the Walls has done a great job of cleaning up this area.
From there we went to Forest Ranch. The toll booth for the road was located just before Forest Ranch. If you take a left turn off Hwy. 32 onto Forest Ranch Road you are driving along an old section of the Humboldt Road for a few miles, until it rejoins 32.
To get back on the old road from 32, turn right at the sign for Butte Meadows. We stopped for lunch at The Outpost in Butte Meadows (yum!) and then continued on the road a few more miles to Jonesville. There you can see the only remaining intact stagecoach stop on the Humboldt Road. A consortium of local residents is restoring it, and we were lucky enough to be invited inside. Our hostess, Barbara Mann, gave us some background on the building.
The front part of the building is two stories, and contained a parlor (or reception area) and seven small bedrooms. They are currently restoring the floor in the two downstairs bedrooms. Back of this is a one-story extension that contains a long dining room and a kitchen.
This is a beautiful setting, with a green grassy meadow surrounded by a conifer forest. Little Jones Creek runs nearby, on its way to join Butte Creek. You can easily understand why families built cabins here to escape the summer heat in the valley.
Not far from Jonesville the paving ends, but the gravel road continues to Lake Almanor, where it meets Highway 89. The original Humboldt Road crossed Big Meadows (now flooded to make Lake Almanor) and continued on to Susanville and the mining towns of Nevada.
Stay tuned and next time I’ll tell you why a road in California is named for a Prussian naturalist.