[Click here for a key to the symbols used. Some county routes were constructed with federal funds. These routes are indicated as FAP (Federal Aid Primary), FAU (Federal Aid Urban), or FAS (Federal Aid Secondary). If no funding source is shown, no federal funds were used. Note that while some segments seem to have the same attributes, they may differ in the county-local road number assigned to the segment, or in the Caltrans Map Sheet number.]
Wagner Dr. / Balch Park Road (Mountain Road 239) from Route 190 to Balch Park Road (Mountain Road 296) (FAS, 6.15 mi)
Balch Park Road (Mountain Road 296) from Wagner Dr. / Balch Park Road (M239) to the Mountain Home Tract State Forest in Balch Park (19.09 mi)
This route was defined in 1975.
The following additional history is condensed from Tom Fearer's excellent blog on CR J37 on Gribblenation:
County Sign Route J37 was intended to be part of a Trans-Sierra Highway known as the Lone Pine to Porterville High Sierra Road. The route of the Lone Pine to Porterville High Sierra Road would have followed Carroll Creek southward out of Lone Pine ascending to Mulky Pass at 11,300 feet above sea level. The Lone Pine to Porterville High Sierra Road was to cross the Kern River Fault emerging via the North Fork of the Middle Fork Tule River in Balch Park. The route of the Lone Pine to Porterville High Sierra Road was to continue west to Milo on what is now Balch Park Road/County Sign Route J37 to Springville with a branch splitting northwest on Yokohl Valley Drive to Visalia.
The initial survey for the route of the Lone Pine to Porterville High Sierra Road was conducted in 1923 and was to be funded by: Tulare Couny, Kern County, and Inyo County. Road building input was provided to the aforementioned counties by the California Division of Highways in addition to the Automobile Club of Southern California. Monetary assistance was provided by the City of Los Angeles which fronted $170,000 to build part of the Lone Pine to Porterville High Sierra Road eastward from Mulky Pass towards Lone Pine. Much of the route of the Lone Pine to High Sierra Road was built from Lone Pine westward towards Carroll Creek but never to Mulky Pass. This section would be adopted by the California Division of Highways in 1933 as part of LRN 127, which was signed as Route 190 in 1934.
In 1926 the original road from Balch Park west to Springville was Bear Creek Road. Bear Creek Road was built in 1884 along Bear Creek by L.B. Frasier to service his sawmill located within what is now Mountain Home State Forest. Mountain Home State Forest was once the site of a resort known as "Mountain Home" which was constructed in 1885 and was accessed by Frasier's Bear Creek Road. Financial instability leading Frasier to abandon Bear Creek Road, which continued to be maintained by the Mountain Home Resort. Frasier attempted to toll Bear Creek Road in 1889 but lost in court to the operators of the Mountain Home Resort.
In 1923 the Mount Whitney Power and Light Company sold the rights to the Doyle tract to the Balch Family. The Balch Family bought the Doyle tract with the intention of donating it to Tulare County as a park. A condition of the donation Tulare County by the Balch Family was to build a better road to the Doyle Tract which would be part of the Lone Pine to Porterville High Sierra Road. Construction on what is now Balch Park Road/County Sign Route J37 began in 1927 and was completed to the Doyle Tract by 1930. The Balch Family in turn donated the Doyle Tract to Tulare County which renamed it as Balch Park in their honor.
The Balch Park Road, just like the rest of the planned route of Lone Pine to Porterville High Sierra Road, was unsurfaced dirt. Conditions on the Balch Park Road were so bad that Tulare County operated the roadway in one-way control times until 1942. By 1956 the Balch Park Road was completely paved, which eventually led to it being designated as County Sign Route J37 in 1975.
See the original blog entry for additional history details, as well as a detailed photolog and specifics of road conditions, hairpin turns, and grades.
Note that Bear Creek Road is even more narrow than County Sign Route J37 on Balch Park Road. Additionally, estimates are that Bear Creek Road has an 18% grade section whereas County Sign Route J37/Balch Park Road is about 5% sustained.
Note: Google Maps shows the routing along Bear Creek Road / Mtn Road 220. The official definition is on Balch Park Road.
It was reported that J37 is actually signed. That is significant because
it appears to be the only Signed County Route in Tulare County that still
(Source: Max R / AARoads Travelog)
Total mileage: 25.17 mi.
Acronyms and Explanations:
CR J36 CR J38
© 1996-2020 Daniel P. Faigin.
Maintained by: Daniel P. Faigin <email@example.com>.