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Imperial Plank Rd.

Remains of the Imperial Dunes Plank Road

Field review by the editors.

Winterhaven, California

It was bad enough crossing the Imperial Valley sand dunes of Southern California on horseback. Early automobiles found it impossible. So in 1916, a one-lane road of wooden planks was laid across the eight miles of sand, funded almost entirely by the far-away city of San Diego, which wanted to lure people from the East by the most direct route. The speed limit was 10 mph. If there was a lot of traffic, traveling the eight miles could take up to two days.

The plank road -- the original Route 80 -- lasted for a dozen years until it was replaced by an asphalt road and then today's four-lane highway. It still crosses the dunes in spots, and a surviving section (with its own historical marker) can be seen from a roadside picnic area at Grays Wells. But you'd be nuts to try to drive on it.

Remains of the Imperial Dunes Plank Road

Grays Wells Rd, Winterhaven, CA
I-8 exit 156 onto Grays Wells Rd. Drive west along the south side of the freeway for three miles. There is a parking/camping area on the right; the Plank Road is on the left.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Imperial Valley Sand DunesImperial Valley Sand Dunes, Winterhaven, CA - 3 mi.
Official Center of the WorldOfficial Center of the World, Felicity, CA - 10 mi.
The MoundThe Mound, Winterhaven, CA - 11 mi.
In the region:
Tiny Church - Pause Rest Worship, Yuma, AZ - 30 mi.

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