If you happen to drive Interstate 8 across the desert of Southern California, you'll pass through a beautiful area known as Algodones Sand Dunes. You probably won't give a moment's thought to how challenging it was to cross these shifting desert sands before the modern highway was built. But if you pull off, you can see a little bit of the answer -- a small remaining section of what was known as the Plank Road. This was literally wooden planks bound together and laid across the sand to make a primitive roadway. A crossing of the dunes on this 7-mile plank road, which operated from 1916 to 1926, was an ordeal in itself; the wooden surface was less than smooth, provided only occasional wide spots for passing, and was frequently covered by blowing sand. Gazing upon what remains, and reading the monument (see text below), one can't help but feel grateful for modern conveniences!
PLANK ROADThis unique plank road, seven miles long, was the only means early motorists had of crossing the treacherous Imperial sand dunes. The 8-by-12-foot sections were moved with a team of horses whenever the shifting sands covered portions of the road. Double sections were placed at intervals to permit vehicles to pass.
Directions: About 20 miles west of Yuma on Interstate 8, exit at the Sand Hills Interchange and take Gray's Well Road (the frontage road on the south side of the freeway) for about 3 miles further west to the monument.
Last visited: March 2000.
Standard disclaimer: Sites are described for entertainment purposes only, as they were at the time of my last visit. I can not vouch for the current condition of the site or its accessibility.