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

Control Stations And Coffee Camp 1917

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Old road maps tell stories, or at least offer the first page. Take the 1917 & 1921 Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC) maps of Tulare County, California. There is a Coffee Camp control station shown outside Porterville (and Springville) in the Inyo National Forest, just south of Sequoia National Park. Was this an early espresso stand? :) If not, what is a control station and why is it called Coffee Camp?






In the teens and 20’s of the last century it was common, especially in mountainous areas, to build single lane roads that hugged steep slopes with sheer drops into the abyss if you were not careful. And much of the time there was no where for cars or wagons meeting on these narrow roads to pass.


The roads were so narrow that if wagons met, it might be necessary to disassemble one wagon and walk the horses around the other. There is no reverse gear on a wagon. It wasn’t for music that freighters had loud clanging bells on their wagons!!


In my early days I drove such roads, and just so you know, the rule is for the automobile going downhill to back up until there is a wide spot. This reduces the risk of a loss of control or brake failure from hot brakes. But I digress.


The common solution on these roads was the “control.” You find these marked on several ACSC maps and I suppose other organizations as well. I haven’t looked. Uphill traffic might be permitted on even hours and downhill on odd, with a break in between to clear the road.


The Porterville Ledger provides an article by Brent Gill that explains the name Coffee Camp and describes the use of “controls” HERE. You will enjoy reading it.



Brent attributes the name to the practice of drivers who were headed for camps to brew a pot of coffee while waiting for the control to change. That’s a good story, and he knows much more about the name than I do.


Today Coffee Camp is a popular recreation area, where the young and bold jump from the rocks into the Middle Fork of the Tule River. As the saying goes, there are old jumpers and bold jumpers, but no old bold jumpers. :)


The article is well worth reading as it provides an insight into early road and logging practices along with the Coffee Camp name explanation…..another example of the stories old maps tell…..or at least lead you to discover!!




Keep the Show on the Road!

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