Jump to content
American Road Magazine
Celebrating our two-lane highways of yesteryear…And the joys of driving them today!
parsa9

Branches Of The National Parks Highway

Recommended Posts

Does anyone know why the branches existed in the NPH? The Rand McNally maps show three branches coming into Washington from Idaho. I'm assuming the Idaho branches had to do with Glacier N. P.. Besides route maps, is there written documentation concerning these branches?

 

Steve

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a reproduction of a 1924 Rand McNally Auto Trails map that does not show the NPH at all, so I guess it had fallen into disuse by that time, just a couple of years before the start of the Federal numbered highway system. What the map does show are three separate highway branches converging on Spokane, with the most southerly labeled as the Yellowstone Highway and the two more northerly branches being some combination of the Parks To Parks Highway, the California-Banff 'B' Line, and the Theodore Roosevelt International Highway.

Then there is another highway that enters Washington from Idaho at Lewiston/Clarkston that is labeled as the Evergreen National Highway.

The map does not show any road through Glacier, which jibes with what I learned from my most recent visit there: That until sometime in the 1920s there was no road connecting the east and west sides of the park. Going-to-the-Sun road was not completed until the 30s, and today's US 2 along the southern boundary of the park was not completed yet either, so motorists on the Parks To Parks or T. R. routes had to put their autos (and themselves} on the train that parallels what is now US 2 to get them from one side of the park to the other.

Edited by mga707

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steve,

 

I have driven (and photographed) much of the original NPH from Tacoma to Chicago, and have studied much of its history, but I can't say that I know why there were three routes later on. John Ridge might know, but other than what I note below, I am not aware that their records have survived.

 

There was a route map up on Ebay a few days ago. Did you win that, or did John? I decided not to bid......but I digress.

 

I'll share some thoughts from memory, but if anything catches your interest, I'll look up citations.

 

You probably know that the original NPH did not have the three routes (branches), and went by way of Philipsburg and Anaconda. It also went over Snoqualmie Pass, whereas the later version (probably post 1924) went over Stevens Pass, at least in the summer.

 

A little side story, then back to the subject. As the NPH was dying, their representative was trying to get sponsorship in a Wisconsin town and was turned down because he was discredited by folks (I think in Fargo), and was accompanied by a woman who it was implied was of loose virtue. As I read the article I thought “How sad an ending to a great blazed route.”

 

Back to your question. The original NPH was “boosted” by Frank Guilbert ( a good roads man) and the Inland Automobile Association in Spokane, and also got considerable initial play from the Seattle auto interests. I think Gilbert lost interest after a few years, and I know he turned his attention to the development of Mt Spokane.

 

The headquarters then moved to Bismarck from Spokane, and they looked eastward for their support. This was no doubt because North Dakota benefited from westbound traffic (e.g. from Chicago), if travelers could be convinced to chose the NPH (Red Trail) over the Yellowstone Trail (which as I know you know went via South Dakota). I should also comment that the NPH and the Red Trail were synonymous in North Dakota, and the men that were involved with the Red Trail were usually involved with the NPH. There are still Red Trail markers in ND, but no NPH markers have been found to my knowledge.

 

I suspect splitting the road three ways in Montana and Idaho was an effort to please and attract more travelers, and of course to sell more communities on support. Without being unkind, I would say that most blazed trails would have had twenty branches if they could sell more memberships! I guess one might also speculate that the route to Glacier was the main thing that distinguished the NPH from the Yellowstone Trail (and of course, the NPH went due west from Spokane until that was copied by the YT in 1926)

 

The Yellowstone Trail was getting the attention, in part I believe because it had a well organized association, whereas the National Parks Highway was having trouble finding a stable home. In my humble opinion, the NPH had only one group with any reason to care, and that was the North Dakota folks in places like Fargo, Bismarck, Jamestown, and Dickinson. As an aside I have a a NPH brochure with Bismark over-stamped in purple ink with Jamestown, which may have been their their very last home.

 

The Inland Automobile Association and Guilbert's son, David left some materials with Eastern Washington University, perhaps including the original lantern slides Guilbert and his colleagues used in the original promotional cross country trip. The archivist there is quite helpful, and I owe myself trip over there to look through the box.

 

I "own" the NPH web domain, but have never developed it. If you get interested in the route, let me know. I can dig out some material

 

That is the long way of saying I don't know! Maybe the EWU archives will hold a clue, but I think in the end the answer to your question will be like mine above, an "educated" guess.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That area of Montana had a lot of variations in the later 1920s. All the highways, except for perhaps the Yellowstone trail, seem to have altered paths between Bozeman and Missoula.

 

Looking at most of my maps, it seems safe to say that the two main branches of the NPH through Idaho were a southern branch following the Yellowstone Trail (future U.S. 10), and a northern branch following old U.S. 2 and then U.S. 95 as far south as Athol, ID, at which point it followed the rail line to Rathdrum, ID, then current Idaho route 53 and Washington route 290 to Spokane. The third branch, which does not always show on auto trails maps, went directly from Missoula to Sandpoint, ID along the railroad line parallel to the Clark Fork River (not current Montana route 200, even though the road existed in the 1920s and had better surfacing).

 

I don't think I have any maps showing the NPH ever going via old US 195 (now US 2) through Newport, WA.

 

Steve

Edited by parsa9

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

MGA707,

 

As usual, an interesting and informative post. Thanks!

 

The National Parks Highway got off to a fairly good start with it's offices in Spokane, and got a fair amount of press in the late teens and perhaps very early 20's. It seems to have struggled after that, and got diminished recognition, at least based on the newspapers of the time. Most of my maps show it, but I'm not at all surprised that it didn't show on your map.

 

I have concluded from my research that it struggled for identity. The name Red Trail stayed with it in Wisconsin and ND, even after the NPH superseded it. In Montana and Idaho much of its original route was collocated with the Yellowstone Trail, as was the case in Washington.

 

I believe that Guilbert and the Inland Automobile Association (Spokane) lost interest. My personal guess is that they realized that they were going to get the westbound tourists in any event, so why promote a route which primarily benefited North Dakota? A “temporary” summer move to Bismarck became permanent, until, the very end, when I think they moved to Jamestown.

 

Thanks again for your post!

 

 

Steve,

 

I know you are interested in the National Park to Park Highway. Have you taken up an interest in the National parks Highway as well?

 

When you state that the NPH did not go via Newport you are correct. Were you refuting someone's claim that it did? I would be interested in learning of any citation that claims it went via Newport.

 

I take it from your silence on whether you were the successful bidder on the NPH brochure that you were not. John Ridge and I were looking at it, but we failed to bid, to the loss of the seller, and gain of the buyer! Fortunately we have similar maps and guides for the NPH, so we did not miss out on any new information.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dave,

Sorry, no I didn't buy the NPH map. Was it a National Highways Association map? I don't have an ebay search for National Parks Highway, so I didn't see it. I'm interested in all the old auto trails, but some of them can be very confusing. I'm actually compiling lists by state to make it easier on myself to trace each highway. I'm working on Washington now, as it's one of the simplest.

 

I know that UC Berkeley has this map that I may get a scan of someday:

Map of the National Parks Transcontinental Highway : Northwest Trail, the Red Trail. Imprint Washington : National Highways Association, c1915.

 

As for the US 2 path through Newport, it just seemed logical as a possible highway branch, especially as several auto trails already went that way. Nobody said anything about it being an NPH branch. I was just making sure. Interestingly, it seems that the Theodore Roosevelt International Highway may have gone via that NPH route through Rathdrum, Idaho to Spokane in the earlier days. By 1924 or 1925 it had definitely shifted to the US 2 route.

Edited by parsa9

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steve,

 

Thanks for the clear and prompt post!

 

I know you are a pro on these old routes, so I was interested whether you were turning your talents in the direction of one of my favorites.

 

I drove the NPH a couple of years ago, and photographed every hotel and garage that still exists and was listed in their 1919 brochure....at least all those I could identify. A few hotels are still in operation as hotels, and some as apartments.

 

I am pleased to see your expertise appearing here. Hope to see more of your posts.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Two points.

The NPH seems to head into Seattle by going north completely around Lake Washington via Bothell, whereas the Yellowstone Trail is usually shown crossing from Kirkland to Seattle via the Kirkland Ferry.

[bTW, Moss Bay Neighborhood Assn has some great period photos of the ferry: http://mossbay.org/historicpix/index.htm]

 

A few of my Rand McNally auto trail maps show the NPH going to both Mr. Rainier, and all the way south to Crater Lake in Oregon along with the National Park to Park Highway. Did the NPH Assn consider this part of their highway? I know that a lot of the roads down in my area, such as the Lee Highway and Old Spanish Trail, terminated in San Diego, whereas maps often showed them continuing up El Camino Real to Los Angeles or even San Francisco.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steve,

 

If the National Park to Park Highway followed the earlier Pacific Highway from Tacoma to Medford (and you know if that is the case better than I do), then the National Parks Highway followed the same route, as far as their last map shows.

 

I have what may be the last brochure produced by the National Parks Highway, with Bismarck over-stamped with Jamestown. The NPH route south of Tacoma is that of the Pacific Highway. It is also interesting to note that no where in the brochure is there a single mention of anything in Oregon, which sort of makes one suppose that the Oregon/ Crater Lake leg was an afterthought. I read a newspaper account that they had posted that leg, but I bet the NPH blazes were few and far between!

 

In that brochure the route goes via the Kirkland Ferry across Lake Washington. If it is important to your work, I can dig out a 1919 brochure copy to see what route they were using in 1919.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, that would be nice. Thanks.

 

By the way, the official pole marker submission to Minnesota DOT shows black letters on the white-red-white pole marker. Is that what the brochures show?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steve,

 

Give me a week or so to make copies. I have some other requests in the Q and my stuff is in boxes since we did a remodel. (I really need a bigger house, but I like the location of this one!).

 

If you discovered the application, you must be digging in Google Books and Archive.org, etc. Be careful or you will become the worlds's expert on the NPH.

 

A little side story. About two years ago I decided to open the world headquarters of the "new" National Parks Highway Association. I rented a small store front on the old route, had logo decals made for the windows (yes, the black letters NPH were on the decals), and signs. I made a TV show up from old videos and my maps, and explained to the public the history of the road. The TV show ran continuously on a big screen TV.

 

I filled a display case with old maps (none too valuable) and made speeches to the local historical society, etc. I prepared some brochures and made them available free. I even furnished the place with period desk, chair, and radio, etc.

 

Build it and they will come doesn't apply here. But for about a year the National Park Highway had a new headquarters, back in Washington!

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×