Before there was a highway connecting Phoenix to San Diego there was the Old Plank Road. A seven-mile roadway built on over the Algodones Dunes near Yuma Arizona.
Built in 1914 the original plank road resembled a railroad track but instead of rails, there were 2 parallel tracks made out of boards for automobile or wagon wheels to run on. The plank road took two months to build and was considered a success even though it needed constant maintenance to keep it clear of sand.
Soon after the plank road was completed the California State Highway Commission took authority for the road and upgraded the route to an 8-foot wide wood roadbed. Turnouts were added about a mile apart in order to let the traffic flow in both directions.
In order for autos to pass each other on the plank road, someone would have to agree to back up to one of the turnouts. Usually, the larger group of cars get the right of way.
The upgraded Old Plank Road was built in sections and hauled to the dunes to be pieced together. (A replica section can be viewed at the plank road monument.) The wood highway required almost daily repairs and was replaced in 1927 with an asphalt roadway that later became U.S. Route 80.
Most of the remains of the old plank road are buried under the sand of the Algodones Dunes. For those interested a few remains of the can be seen at a California Historical Landmark along Interstate 80.
The California Off Road Vehicle Association were instrumental in saving this last section of the plank road. They assisted the BLM in saving one of the last remaining portions of the Plank Road back in the 1970’s.
The Old Plank Road Monument features a one-eighth mile section of the road that put together from pieces of the original road recovered from the dunes. There is also a replica section of the plank road and display and California State Landmark Plaque 845.
Where is the Old Plank Road
Exit on Gray’s Well Road, along Interstate 8. Follow the road adjacent to the interstate highway 3 miles west of the Old Plank Road Monument. The remains of the plank road are fenced off to protect them from vandalism.
Another interesting nearby stop is the Museum of History In Granite. The museum is a historical record of humanity designed to last 4,000 years. Hundreds of Granite panels are engraved with historical information including the History of Humanity, The History of Arizona, and The History of California.