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Henness Pass Road (No. 421 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District

California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder.

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.

In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.

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This secluded and winding mountain road extends 88 to 107 miles, depending on where you begin, and rises to en elevation of 6,920 feet through scenic mountain passes and vistas popular with and recommended for high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles. In addition to scenic views, travelers will find a waterfall, rustic inns such as the Mountain House Stage Stop and Inn, abandoned mining camps, abandoned mines and numerous historic sites from the Gold Rush. Sardine House and a 1,500 acre ranch once stood in Sardine Valley. Weber Falls is at the top of a 25 foot pool that plunges into a waterfall of nearly 80 feet. Jackson Meadows Reservoir marks the halfway point of the driving tour.

The road travels high above the Middle Fork of the Yuba River and crosses open pine forests and meadows above the Little Truckee River. In many places, the creeks wash over the road. Even at 6,920 feet, Henness Pass Road is the lowest pass through the Sierra. Allow about four to five hours for driving time. The Sacramento Jeepers lead an annual trip through the area. Since the road is part of the Tahoe National Forest, visitors will find designated stops included in the brochure, “From Gold to Silver – The Comstock Connection, A Historic Driving Tour.”

Henness Pass Road was the primary emigrant trail from Virginia City, Nevada as early as 1849 and the only mountain pass that existed at the time. During the Gold Rush, this often forgotten highway served as a supply road for the Comstock silver mines in Nevada. In 1852, Henness Pass Road was a wagon toll road from Nevada to the gold field of California. Between 1860 and 1868, traffic was so heavy at times during its heyday that freight wagons traveled by day and stagecoaches drove at night. The road continued to be used until the the completion of the transcontinental railway in 1868. Today the road is left off many maps in favor of traveling Interstate 80, Highway 49 and Highway 20 by car.

Begin the driving tour of Henness Pass Road on Highway 49 in Camptonville (88 miles length). The road ends in Verdi, Nevada. The historical marker is located on the southwest corner intersection of Ridge and Henness Pass Road, 3.3 miles west of Alleghany.

Sierra County

Sierra County is named for the Sierra Nevada, “Snow-covered, saw-toothed mountains.” The county is not as mountainous as the name suggests and includes remote sections of scenic highways that wind through small towns established during the Gold Rush.

Time Period Represented


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