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Back in the Day: How a mountains-to-desert highway came to be 85 years ago

By in Press Enterprise on June 17, 2017

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 […]    

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