Historic USGS maps added to online archive

National Automobile Club map from circa 1937.


Thanks for jamesRides for pointing out some interesting history of Montebello Road, which has become a popular cycling route.

Not all roads are county, city, or state owned/managed/right of ways. Montebello Road and parts of Stevens Canyon Road were always on private property. I’m not sure when Santa Clara County took over maintenance and established a right of way on these two roads.

However, just because a road isn’t government maintained, etc., doesn’t mean it is not a public road. The way a road becomes “public” is through a pattern of use established over time.

The original owners of Montebello Road and Stevens Canyon Road probably saw no need to barricade their roads back in the day. The population was small and their neighbors were farmers and ranchers.

Things changed with the rapid growth of industry starting in the 1930s. By the 1950s, people had free time. The more adventuresome took up off-road motorcycling. Those abandoned iron gates, still visible in Stevens Canyon, were the result.

There’s more history of the Black Mountain area in Wikipedia.

Even better, a company called ArcGIS has made available most, if not all, USGS historic maps online. It’s easy to use and lightning fast to load maps, which can be downloaded.

My contribution above is a National Automobile Club map from circa 1937. There’s no date on the map other than 61237 in small numbers. It could be 1937, although Stevens Creek Reservoir is not shown, built in 1935.

One Response to “Historic USGS maps added to online archive”

  1. jamesRides Says:

    Thanks for posting the link to the USGS maps. By overlaying the historic maps you can find the history of both Montebello Rd and Stevens Canyon Rd (Canyon Trail).

    Looks like Montebello Rd connected from Stevens Canyon all the way to Page Mill as early as 1895. Most likely this was an agricultural road as the farmers and wine makers needed to get their products to market. No motor vehicles back then, just ox carts, so no need for gates.

    Stevens Canyon never connected through to Page Mill as a real road. If you look at the historical progression provided by the maps you see the Steven’s Canyon stub emerging out of Cupertino as it does today. Then you see a stub emerging from Page Mill heading down the canyon, not named and doesn’t go far. Probably an orchard road as their were tree orchards in that area.

    In 1940’s you see the emergence of the middle section of the trail. It starts as a “jeep trail” from the ranch on the ridge down what is now Indian Creek trail. After a few years the jeep trail is shown to be extended down the canyon to where Gold Mine Creek intersects the trail and a little beyond. This was most likely an agriculture route and most likely on the single ranch property. The Gold Mine Creek area of the trail today is grass land so most likely cattle grazing. The trail stopped most likely at the property boundary.

    The three sections were never drawn as a complete through-way in these maps, even up to 1970. Most likely there was an informal through-way but it probably couldn’t be mapped as a road do to gated private property.

    In addition, the maps show the trail alignment to be different than it appears today especially near where the Grizzly Flat and Table mountain trails intersect. Looks like the trail was on the other side of the creek. Must have been a nightmare keeping any semblance of a throughway open given shifting lands when the creek rages in the winters and storms bring big trees down.

    So Montebello is an old, historical road, and Stevens Canyon was never a through road, only a series of linked trails that followed the creek.

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