Road Closure info: Route 66 in California

As many Route 66 travelers will know, there has been a long-term closure of a section of Route 66 in the eastern Mojave Desert in California. Due to the abundance of questions about this area on Route 66 Facebook groups, I decided to write up a summary of what is signed for travelers on the affected roads. Our October trip to the Road Runner's Retreat provided the opportunity to photograph all of the road signs that have been placed to deter travelers from the closed area.

Two segments of Route 66 between Needles and Amboy have been closed for a couple of years, and there is no timetable for reopening. Many bridges were washed out in flood conditions and San Bernardino County has not finished repairing them all, as they are an enormous county without a lot of funds. After having a chance to photograph all of the signs, the source of travelers' confusion becomes clear: the signs are a jumble of contradictory and often wrong information. I will try to lay it all out here, in as clear a way as possible given the conflicting official information.

Overview

A map, from San Bernardino County Public Works

The above map comes from San Bernardino County public works department, showing the two segments of Route 66 that are officially closed, in bright orange. Heading westbound, the first segment is from Mountain Springs Rd. at I-40 Exit 115 to Goffs Rd. near Essex. The second segment is from Essex Rd. at Essex west to Cadiz Rd. at Chambless. Both of these segments contain bridges that were damaged in flooding. They cannot be driven as a through route unless you drive off-road around the damage through dry washes, which locals often do but which the police have been known to ticket travelers for doing.

I have numbered the 4 exits where signs have been placed, as well as the site of Chambless. The four I-40 exits in this area, from east to west, are Exit 115 - Mountain Springs Road, Exit 107 - Goffs Road, Exit 100 - Essex Road, and Exit 78 - Kelbaker Road. According to this map, only the road at Exit 115 is officially closed at the interchange. The roads leading from both Exit 107 and Exit 100 are supposedly open to allow access to the town of Essex, along with a small segment of Route 66 between the two roads. But the road signs at these exits state otherwise.


Exit 115: Mountain Springs Road

Looking south from I-40 exit 115, Mountain Springs Road


The orange diamond sign reads, "Road Closed, Use Kelbaker Road". The white sign reads, "Road Closed Ahead, Resident Access Only", along with two "Road Closed" signs blocking the road. According to the SB County map, this is a true closure. There is little or nothing in the way of settlements or ruins along this stretch of closed Route 66.


Exit 107: Goffs Road

Looking south from I-40 Exit 107, Goffs Road

Signage marking closure leads south of this exit. There is another orange diamond that reads the same as Exit 115 - "Road Closed, Use Kelbaker Road". There is also a white "Road Closed" sign along with an orange sign which reads, "National Trails Hwy - Route 66 Closed Ahead At Essex Rd., No Through Traffic East Of Essex Road." But this is Goffs Road, not Essex Road, so this text describes the closure *ahead*, but NOT a closure AT this interchange. The SB County map indicates that this road is open, but that contradicts the "Road Closed" signage. The direction indicated on the sign is also apparently wrong - the restriction on through traffic is *west* of Essex Road, not east of it. I have not driven this road to Essex and I don't know if local police will hassle a traveler for doing so.


Exit 100: Essex Road

Looking south from I-40 Exit 100, Essex Road

This exit has exactly the same signage as exit 107. There is an orange diamond that reads, "Road Closed, Use Kelbaker Road". There is also a white "Road Closed" sign along with an orange sign, which reads "National Trails Hwy - Route 66 Closed Ahead At Essex Rd., No Through Traffic East Of Essex Road." This IS Essex Road but the sign has the same text as on Goffs Road - that Route 66 is closed *AHEAD*. Just like Goffs Road, despite the 'closed' signage the SB County map indicates that this road is open, to reach Essex and to reach Goffs Road. Once again the direction indicated on the sign is apparently wrong - the restriction on through traffic is *west* of Essex Road, not east of it. As with Goffs Road, I have not driven this road to Essex and I don't know if local police will hassle a traveler for doing so.


Exit 78: Kelbaker Road

Looking south from I-40 exit 78, Kelbaker Road


This road is not blocked, and is in regular use to reach Amboy, but it still has warning signage. Westbound Route 66 travelers use Kelbaker Road to rejoin Route 66 from I-40. It is also used by travelers between Las Vegas and the Palm Springs area. The pictured orange sign is placed to the side of the road and reads, "National Trails Hwy - Route 66 Closed Ahead At Cadiz Rd., No Through Traffic West Of Cadiz Rd." Cadiz Road is east of Amboy, and there is no restriction to visit Amboy or any points west of Kelbaker Road on Route 66. As with the other orange signs, the direction of the restriction seems to be backwards - it is actually traffic *east* of Cadiz Road that is restricted.


Route 66 at Kelbaker Road

Route 66 at Kelbaker Road, looking east

The above photo faces east on Route 66, at the intersection with Kelbaker Road. Although the signs block the road, this road is not actually closed. There are two white signs that say, "Road Closed To Thru Traffic". One orange sign is a duplicate of the sign at Exit 78, which reads, "National Trails Hwy - Route 66 Closed Ahead At Cadiz Rd., No Through Traffic West Of Cadiz Rd." The direction of west is once again in error. The nearer orange sign reads, "National Trails Hwy - Route 66 Closed Ahead At Cadiz Rd., No Through Traffic East Of Cadiz Rd. Use Kelbaker Rd. For I-40 Access."  This time they got the direction correct - Cadiz Road is east beyond this roadblock at Chambless. The text of the signs do not restrict a visit to Chambless or Cadiz and return; they only restrict *through* traffic. The SB County map also indicates that Route 66 is still open beyond this roadblock, until another roadblock several miles away at Chambless.


Route 66 at Cadiz Road, Chambless

Route 66 at Cadiz Road, looking east

This is where the SB County map indicates a real closure, several miles after driving around the roadblock at Kelbaker Road. Cadiz Road proceeds south from Route 66 at this point, 3 miles to Cadiz. Beyond these two "Road Closed" signs lie some building ruins at Cadiz Summit, and after that the closed, damaged bridges begin. Police do patrol the area and have been known to ticket people who drive through washes to go around the damaged bridge work.


Exercise caution

Due to the conflict of information between San Bernardino County public works department and the road signs themselves, it's easy to see why this closure has caused a lot of confusion. This area is so sparsely populated that it seems reopening it is a very low priority even though many Route 66 travelers, including myself, would love to see it reopened. Many bridges have been repaired, but many more remain damaged and there is no public schedule for the reopening of the road. Any travel on the hard closures shown on the map risks a ticket from authorities, and the possibility of becoming stranded if you get stuck trying to bypass a damaged bridge by driving through a dry wash.

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