[UPDATE 6:30 p.m.] Is Bell Springs Road Open? Can Anyone Tell People Not to Drive a Public Road? We’ve Got Answers

CHP officer is "discouraging people from using Bell Springs

CHP officer is “discouraging people from using Bell Springs,” according to Michelle Bushnell, a local resident who took the photo yesterday.

On April 20, Humboldt and Mendocino Counties decided to close not only Bell Springs Road but other local alternatives to Hwy 101 since the slide blocked the highway six miles north of Leggett at Bridges Creek.

Prior to this, many travelers had been driving Bell Springs Road. GPS and Google Maps had been rerouting people through this area. The south end is between Leggett and Laytonville. The north end is Alderpoint Road east of Garberville. This route allows drivers to circumvent the slide. Unfortunately, the road is mostly unpaved, is narrow with potholes, and has been damaged by storms and the large number of vehicles (including semi trucks) that have been traveling over it. Many people who live on Bell Springs Road are unhappy that their rural route is clogged with people who don’t know how to drive on a dirt road. Multiple accidents have happened and locals are increasingly frustrated by having to rescue people stuck in the middle of nowhere.

On April 20, when we spoke to Officer William Wunderlich of the Garberville California Highway Patrol, he said that Bell Springs Road was still open. However, he said, according to the Street and Highways’ Code the County Road Commissioners could “restrict the use of or close any county highway whenever such closing or restriction is necessary for the protection of the public, the protection of the county highway during storms or during construction improvement or maintenance operations.”

The Director of Mendocino County Dept of Transportation, Howard Dashiell then told us during a phone interview, “We’ve been in conversations with Humboldt and we are contemplating closing traffic to locals only.” He said that Bell Springs Road was “being damaged from this kind of traffic.”

“My goal,” said Dashiell, “is to see the people who live on Bell Springs Road not lose the road. They need the road… If we let the road fall apart so no one can use it, then the people who absolutely must use it, the people who live in the area will be the most impacted. When travelers have to turn around, it is an inconvenience but, if Bell Springs Road becomes too damaged, then the local residents are terribly impacted.

This afternoon, Humboldt and Mendocino issued press releases about the situation. Humboldt’s says,

On Sunday, April 16th, a rock slide six miles north of Leggett in northern Mendocino County forced the closure of Highway 101.  The California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) has not provided an update on when Highway 101 may re-open, but at this time it is estimated to remain closed through the weekend.

Several local roads have been utilized as detours around the slide and the heavy traffic and wet weather have caused rapid deterioration in the road conditions, multiple traffic accidents, and stuck vehicles.  This is a reminder to the traveling public that Bell Springs Road is not an alternate route for the Highway 101 closure between Piercy and Leggett.  Bell Springs Road is closed to through traffic, and only open to local necessary and essential traffic.  Law enforcement officials will request proof/explanation of your need to be in the area (i.e. driver’s license, bill with address, work order for the area, etc.)

“I understand this is a frustrating situation, but we must act in the interest of ‘safety first,’” said Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennel. “I have seen numerous postings on social media from individuals who are not familiar enough with Bell Springs Road to travel it safely, adding to the danger of this rural road. In addition, I know locals are feeling the impact of the increased traffic on an already compromised rural road. We ask for your patience and understanding during this time, and remind you to travel safely.”

In addition, the following roads are not alternate routes for the Highway 101 closure and could be closed to through traffic if necessary to maintain functionality for essential services to local residents: Usal Road (Whitehorn area), Briceland Thorn Road (Whitehorn area), Mina Road (Covelo), Zenia Bluff Road (Covelo), or Hoagland Road (Covelo).

Until Highway 101 is sufficiently cleared, officials on scene will make the final decision regarding who may travel on Bell Springs Road.  The current recommended alternative route is Highway 36, Highway 299, Highway 20, and Interstate 5 to avoid the closure.  Please check with CalTrans for additional updates or alternate routes. Road Conditions: (www.dot.ca.gov) or 1-800-427-7623 (ROAD).

UPDATE 6:30 p.m.: CHP Garberville posted on their Facebook page,

CHP closes RoadSince the slide that’s closed U.S. Highway 101 earlier this week, travelers have taken Bell Springs Road to travel around the closure. As a result of the heavy traffic and continued winter storms, road conditions on Bell Springs Road have deteriorated. There have been several collisions and vehicles have become disabled with roadside services unable to reach them in a timely manner.

The California Highway Patrol in coordination with local transportation departments has determined that the safest action for the public would be to close Bell Springs Road to through traffic and restrict travel to necessary and essential local traffic. Officers will be staffing the closures of Bell Springs Road and citizens should be prepared to provide proof/explanation of your need to be in the area to Officers at the closures. Proof can include but is not limited to: driver’s license or registration card/ utility bill with address, work order for the area, etc.

Currently the alternate routes of travel for passenger vehicles and light trucks are State Route 36 and State Route 20. The current alternate routes of travel for larger commercial vehicles are State Route 20 and State Route 299.

Additionally the following roads are NOT alternate routes for the US Highway 101 closure: Usal Rd., Mina Rd., Zenia Bluff Rd., Hoagland Rd., Briceland Thorn Rd.

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56 comments

  • Is anyone selling doctored drivers licenses with Bell Springs addresses on them?
    That would really come in handy right now.

  • redway resident

    and totally disrespectful of the people who live on Bell Springs.. trashing their road is not okay.

  • Maybe it’s time to pave it.

    • Ya rock the road instead of making tons of traffic drives hours longer on a longer unnessisary detour. Even better pace it and make an inland scenic route. The locals with a problem should get over it: it’s not like bell springs has never before been used by outside traffic. I live off the road and drive it every time I go to town and I feel like people should be let through the road and they should fix it accordingly. You know what you do when the level of traffic oba road is degrading it. You improve it so that it can handle the traffic.

    • Its mostly one lane, city idiots don”t belong here. They are making it unsafe for locals that must drive this road….

      • No , I am not a city idiot as you describe, I too live off a very rural County Road in Humboldt that also gets damaged during storms. Making me drive all the way to Redding then all the way to Arcata then to Kneeland adds 5 hours to my drive. That, [edit] is unnecessary. If a county road exists, than anyone in the world is allowed to use it. It is not a private road, it is a PUBLIC ROAD, GET IT!

  • They should definitely screen the drivers, but I think that locals of Garberville area and Leggett area should be allowed to use it for mandatory obligations, There are kids that need to get to school and people who need to get to work, going over the 5 is not going to work to commute to school or work. The CHP let my niece over it just now thankfully, she lives by Leggett and goes to school up here. Also they should only let 4 wheel drives. Even though cars can make it, it’s tearing up the road. Last night we came over it and there was a Uhaul truck that had no business up there, and a car was over the edge.

    • i live out here and i dont have a problem with locals using it .its not the locals that are the problem or causing the wrecks.if people used common sense it would still be open

  • Well I certainly hope they let my husband come home from working in Napa County. It’s his only way home I think residents in Garberville Redway should be allowed. It’s the only way to get to work and school from here

    • Well, if he is working in Napa he can go up 5 and Take 299 over to the coast and then down. I know it is a long haul but very safe. I just came up that way from Highway 20 (visiting family in Kelseyville near Clear Lake) . We spent the night in Redding though as the weather turned pretty wild yesterday afternoon. If you Leave Redding on the Hour and between 6am and 6pm you only have a small wait to get through the delays. They are letting people through only on the Hour on the last one. We left Redding at 12 noon today and got to the last delay at about 1:40 and right at 2pm they let us through. We counted 107 cars on the other side that were also waiting to get through. Good Luck!!

    • i live out her and dont see an issue with that.its the idiots in uhauls and rvs hauling ass thats the main issue.if it wasn’t advertised ,it would most likely be still open.i talked to lots of people that were directed up here by redway and garberville people

    • Yes all these people are locals. I think all residents of Humboldt and Mendocino county should be allowed to use it as it is their county road. They pay for it with taxes. I can see limiting tourist and long distance travelers.

      • Agreed. We’re from the Garberville area and had to drive Bell Springs down and back on the 19th & 20th. That road ain’t for whoseis, haha. I think a good COMPROMISE would be: Caltrans supplies each traveler with one bag of gravel to fill a pot hole of their choosing on their way. And NO SEMI’s! We were shocked to encounter a freaken semi truck with 2 trailers out there. Safe travels.

    • I agree. With my son and his brother in Mendocino Village, and the Moms are in Humboldt we have to get back and forth every weekend at minimum and sometimes more. We absolutely are ‘local traffic’ even if only one of us live on this particular road. I highly advise not turning a mom away from getting to her child. Things would get very ugly Very quickly!!!

  • Why aren’t they putting up signs in Willits and Laytonville that the highway is closed? Duh.

    • I’ve been told that there are signs in Laytonville. I’m not sure about Willits though. I know Hwy 20 has signs.

      • I just got home ( Branscomb ) from Nice and saw a sign when leaving highway 20 to 101 north and another sign on the south end of Oil Well Hill. These are the lit up signs that they show the amber alerts on. All they say is highway 101 closed at Legget.

        They also have flyers posted on the counter showing the slide at Chevron Station in Laytonville.

      • There is a CalTrans marquis signage we saw somewhere north of Petaluma. Made for a long trip home from SFO. Over 20, I-5, 299, and finally north to Bald Hills.

  • And on top of it, (just traveled to Redding and back) 36 is taking a BEATING from the huge influx of traffic, along with the weather. There are a lot of very rough/cracked areas of roadway just waiting to slip out!

  • Doesnt bell spring have there own road crew the locals take care of the road because they get no help from eather county to keep up with the pot holes hi peg I hope sarv makes it home . I sure dont miss those days on tbe road .One job to the next its like starting school every day . Poor sarv .

  • Mina Rd folks. Its in way better condition than Bell Springs and still faster than going out to the 5. Spend some money in Covelo and at the Kettenpom store while you pass through.

    • Hell no, thats horrible advice!!!
      DONT DO IT. You want to destroy anothr back route used by folks who live there???

      I doubt theres cel reception for most if it and if youre not used to back roads you can easily get stuck or crash and be stuck with no way to contact anyone.
      Plus i bet locals will be on the road turning folks back now that youve announced this.

      One more time, TURN AROUND AND USE THE ROUTES THERYRE ADVISING.
      Otherwise you are taking your life in your own hands. Plus the chp is going to be writing tickets if you try other routes. It will cost you either way.
      Folks from so hum with 4wd should be let through bell springs.

      Nature bats last, get used to it.

      • Are these not public roads? if all the alternative routes were open and the locals here stoped acting like they own all the roads and the county got to roaring and fixing pavement this whole 101 closure could be much smoother. To anyone taking bell or for that matter being told they can’t complain to the county of its condition it is a county road and you have the right to request they bring it up to safe conditions. If it isn’t safe enough for a short time with increased traffic it is clearly not safe for everyday traffic either. The more complaints the better make them fix the road rather than block traffic.

        • Yes, upgrading Bell Springs to a level adequate to these repeated, predictable emergencies seems like the sensible way out. I understand it is “county, good luck”, but enough pressure to prepare for this.

  • I commute on 299 frequently, the traffic today was unbearable. The speed limit is 55 the whole way, but today I was in a line of cars doing 30 for miles and miles. Usually I can slingshot those 1/4 mile passing lanes straight to victory……..not a chance today. I bet their having a hard time clearing the ques at the Big Bar slide before the next opening. Just take a deep breath, turn up the stereo and try and relax -_-

  • This means that United Airlines will be making money from folks who have necessary reasons to be elsewhere. United is (as I recall) the one airline serving the county at the moment. Greyhound or Amtrak will be problematic until CalTrans gets the time and space to fix the drooling problem. They’ll need to re-route and I’m not sure they are flexible enough to do that. Thing is, from this side of the slides, it feels as though US 101 between Ukiah and Crescent City is being sidelined as a scenic route and left to collapse. In over 30 years I’ve heard discussion after discussion about re-routing around the trees but they re-routed around Willits instead.

  • >”Mina Rd folks. Its in way better condition than Bell Springs…”

    Mina road has a single lane dirt section coming down (or going up) from the Eel river bridge on the south side.

    IMHO: It won’t take much traffic to tear that section up and make car-swallowing
    mud-holes.

  • So let me get this straight. My county taxes pay for these roads and I can’t even use them? My road is bad also can CHP come and shop more people from coming? Total BS

  • I heard that if you go to Shelter Cove you can just drive down the beach all the way to Los Angeles. Don’t tell anyone, OK?

  • redway resident

    Mina Rd is also closed ( according to Cal trans bulletin)

  • thank you to the supervisors for shutting it down.
    unfortunately it was advertised by locals,local media,and google.
    for many years it was available to humboldt county folks .its unfortunate a good thing was lost because people couldn’t keep it quiet.
    they really did have to shut it down ,or there would be no road.the county used up the greavell that was supposed to last another ten years and the state isn’t helping.
    i watched people flying by the county folks trying to fill potholes today.
    they didn’t have a choice.

    • What rock that was suppose to last ten years. What kind of allocation was this because the road was shit before the traffic. It’s crazy they try to blame the traffic alone and act like they used ten years of rock. They hav’nt properly rocked in a good five years either bell springs or island mountain. The far end of bell in mendo is far nicer than Humboldt side or it had been in the past. There is a rock quarry on Drerry’s I recommend the county looking into purchasing more rock that is what you do when you run out. And I also think they should open the road as an alternative route and push for state funding.

  • I drove over Bell Springs in a Prius on the first day of the slide and it was STUPID! If I’d have known the road and condition I would not have taken the chance on ruining my car or getting stuck somewhere alone with no cell service. There were pot holes big enough to tear up the suspension in a truck and I saw a little Nissan Sports vehicle coming from the south as I FINALLY made it over the mountain. Don’t do it, even if you can get away with it, unless you have the vehicle to handle the road and you have the decency to not cause more damage to a road needed by locals.

  • The locals need the road fixed! This should draw attention to the need for repair. Instead it seems everyone wants to close the road to traffic its crazy. Fix the road county/ state this is an important alternative route when 101 and 1 are closed. 299 has controlled tragic and parts of 36 are hazardous as well we need this road in working condition to help alleviate traffic problems everywhere.
    I live on this road and don’t appreciate the traffic but also can understand the need for a alternate route.

  • I’m not sure the chp will actually turn people around. My sis whatched a Tini little fiat stop and get directions from a chp and drive on just earlier today around 2-3.

  • Maybe Kommiefornia should spend money on infrastructure rather than pissing it away to non-productive losers.

  • http://tinyurl.com/read-ALL-942-5

    Read the whole thing, it’s been California law since 1935

  • we drove up it yesterday and it was a free-for-all. definitely not for two-wheel-drive vehicles or the faint of heart. we came across the usual boys hauling ass in big trucks with trailers, as well as lots of out- of- state license plates creeping slowly with scared looks on their faces. there are at least two vehicles, a black sedan and a green truck, that have come to a bad end. one’s down in a gully, the other’s been hauled back up to the road where it stands looking pretty much totaled. we live in island mountain and were returning home from a trip to visit family abroad. thank you, Kym, for keeping us updated as we traveled.

    this is nothing new. the road has gone out before. it is often catches people unaware in winter when it snows in its higher elevations but not down lower, leaving inexperienced drivers stranded in the cold. an old rancher once told me about a man and a woman in the 1930’s who died in their car out there. they were not found until after the spring thaw.

    there will always be some people insistent on their sacred right to drive who will take it as a personal affront when asked not to. and there are others, like us, two old-timers just trying to get home. add to that a whole bunch of people who’ve never even been on a road like Bell Springs, much less driven it; some of them driving little sedans and you’ve got a picture of what you’re in for..

  • These roads have been bad for a long time. It’s not all the travelers fault,GPS sucks. And why can’t folks help with taking care of that road. We took care of our road,we don’t own it,but we took care of it just sayin,because all the bitching won’t help. Drive safely,if the road doesn’t seem safe turn around!!!

  • The Society for Civil Discourse

    Thanks to those who want the county to use taxes to pay for road repair in Southern Humboldt. Please keep your county supervisors informed that you think Southern Humboldt road repair is a PRIORITY for your county tax dollars. These roads have suffered extreme neglect; presumably the tax dollars are being spent elsewhere. They are in no condition to be the main alternate route at this time…they are barely passable these days. Destroying the back roads as an “alternate route” when the highway is out, and not maintaining them with your tax dollars is insanity. These roads are necessary to the locals who live here, and ALSO should be kept in impeccable condition for those times when the highway is out. This ain’t our first road-eo.

  • Thanks Kim for keeping us updated, it is so helpful. Hope your Lyme’s is coming under control. I so much appreciate your keeping on truckin but remember to rest too.

  • IF the DOT had actually spent a LITTLE of the taxpayer’s hard-earned dollars and started taxing the rich to actually be participants in the society for which they live in…people traveling on 101 north of Arcata (southbound) would have been properly alerted to the landslide south of Garberville so we could have taken alternate routes and avoided being caught in a jam in the first place (like us).

    In the 21st Century in the worlds 10th richest economy (state of CA) in the belly of the beast of the tech industry….one would think that technology would have been useful to alert people south of Legget and north of Garberville that a landslide occurred and people needed to reroute to alternate roads BEFORE getting to the road closure point. But we aren’t known for using intelligence for practical purposes now, are we? geez.

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