Back in the Day: How a mountains-to-desert highway came to be 85 years ago
By Steve Lech
Sunday, June 18, marks the 85th anniversary of the opening of what is arguably Riverside County’s most scenic drive – the Pines to Palms Highway.
Running from Mountain Center to Palm Desert, this portion of today’s State Highway 74 is a monument to civic engagement during the “good roads” era of Southern California’s history.
The idea for a highway connecting the mountains to the desert was not a new one in the 1920s when Indio Date Palm newspaper editor J. Win Wilson joined forces with Santa Rosa mountain resident Wilson Howell to begin lobbying for just such a route. Citing the need for desert residents to easily access the mountains, plus the ability for such a road to bring in more tourist dollars, Wilson and Howell petitioned the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to construct the road.
Initially, supervisors opted to complete the Hemet-Idyllwild road using prison laborers. When that road was completed, the new mountain-to-desert road was given the go-ahead.
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The initial alignment was to go from Keen Camp (near today’s Mountain Center) through Garner Valley to Vandeventer Flat, then head north through Palm Canyon and […]