About Lenwood California
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation 2,277 ft (694 m). Population 3,543 (2010).
Time zone: Pacific (MST): UTC minus 8 hours. Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7).
Lenwood is a small community located on Route 66, in south western San Bernardino County in the south of California. (Map of Lenwood).
An old Route 66 motel in Lenwood CA
The History of Lenwood, California
Visit our Barstow web page to learn more about the early history of this area.
In 1780, the Mojave Trail was opened, linking California with Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. It crossed the Mojave desert north of the modern I-40 and US 66, following the Mojave River.
Mojave Trail or Mojave Road
The Natives used a trail from Cajon Pass, a gap between the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains in the south, that reached to the Colorado River in the east along the Mojave River and a series of water holes across the Mojave Desert.
Father Garces used the trail during his mission to the Hopi Indians in Arizona in 1776.
Jedediah Smith was the first American to use it westwards, from Utah in 1826, a few years after Mexico became independent from Spain (1821) and California became part of its territory.
By the late 1820s "The Old Spanish Trail" had been opened by Mexican traders in New Mexico and it linked with the Mojave Trail at Soda Lake, the drainage point of the Mojave River.
The US defeated Mexico in the 1846-48 war and California became a state of the Union in 1848.
The Mormons expanded west settling along the "Mormon Corridor" (areas settled from 1850 to 1890 by the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons), and they purchased the San Bernardino ranch in 1851, founding the town. San Bernardino County was formed in 1853.
The US Army Lt. Edward Fitzgerald "Ned" Beale surveyed a wagon trail to California in 1857, which crossed the Colorado River at Ft. Mohave (near Needles) linking up there with the Mojave Trail. A steady inflow of settlers used this Mojave Trail.
Several way stations operated along the Mojave River in the 1870s, one was located near present Oro -Grande, another near Helendale (at that time known as "Point of Rocks") ran by the Saunders. The next one was Cottonwood (present Hodge), ran by the Lightfoots. Barstow was the next one (known then as "Grapevines").
The Railroad in Lenwood
The Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) extended its line from Bakersfield east after silver was found near modern Barstow, then they built the line all the way to Needles, meeting their rival, the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (A & P - which later was absorbed by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad) there.
A&P had built their tracks across Kansas, New Mexico and Arizona, reaching Needles in 1883. In 1884 they threatened to build a line parallel to that of SP and thus forced their competitor to sell them the line from Needles to Barstow.
A&P extended its line to San Bernardino through Cajon Pass in 1885 and followed the Mojave River south, along the Mojave Trail, but no siding was built at Lenwood.
National Old Trails Highway (N.O.T.)
In the early 1900s, the use of the automobile began to grow and better roads became necessary. The National Old Trails (N.O.T.) planned a road from Los Angeles to New York, and they aligned it next to the AT & Santa Fe railroad tracks from Cajon Pass to Needles. The road passed through what would later become Lenwood.
The Automobile Club of Southern California's map of 1912 from Barstow to Victorville shows no sign of Lenwood and only mentions Todd, 8 miles south of Barstow followed by Cottonwood another 8 miles away. The next town is Oro Grande 17 miles to the south, followed by Victorville (5 mi.), which had "Gasoline"
There was another road, through Stoddard Well that would later be the route adopted by I-15.
The next map shows that Oro Grande offered "Gasoline -Oil", and Helen Station had appeared 10 mi. to the north. Hicks appeared on the map too, and Cottonwood had gone.
By 1915 Victorville offered "Meals - Lodgings, Gasoline - Oil. Garage Repairs".
In 1915 the road linking San Bernardino with Barstow through Cajon Pass became California highway LRN 31, neverthelss San Bernardino County upkept it until the mid-1920s.
The N.O.T. guidebook published in the 1920s had nothing to say about Lenwood (the town was established after 1923) it only mentions Oro Grande.
A Town born from speculation
Frank Woods and his wife Ellen subdivided a plot of land of 1,540 acres that they owned, west of Barstow. It worth around $17,000 and to develop it, they established the Lenwood Estates ran by William Barnard, an insolvent character who in turn set up the fictitious Arizona-California Land Company to sell it to gullible investors during the 1920s real estate bubble.
There was an agreement between Barnard and the Woods to subdivide the land, sell it promising improvements, and reap some $200,000 for the three of them. The intention, as proven later in court, was to cheat and defraud investors because they abandoned the scheme without building the promised improvements, defaulting on the building materials supplier and the bank. They lost their case in court, but the town finally survived and prospered, linked to Route 66 which was created shortly after.
Lenwood, the name
The name was the brainchild of Frank Woods, who adapted it from his wife's name (Ellen) and his surname (Woods) so "Ellen Woods" became "Lenwood".
In 1926, the N.O.T. highway became part of the US highway network and the section west of New Mexico became US 66. Nevertheless Route 66 was known as the "National Old Trails Road" for many years in California. Lenwood found itself on a new highway.
In 1939, a "Guide to the Golden State" written by the WPA described the area as follows: "...South of BARSTOW, US 66 runs through billowing desert country; only the cottonwoods and willows on the banks of the Mojave River (R) relieve the tedium of rolling sandscape. LENWOOD, 5.2 m. (2,229 alt., 200 pop.), is encircled by slate-colored elevations blanketed with desert growths. In the surrounding country are a few sprawling alfalfa fields and an occasional chicken ranch.".
Lenwood was too close to Barstow so it remained stunted.
After the war, traffic grew peaking in 1960: over 1.1 million travellers passed through Lenwood that year. A new safer road was needed and it was finally built: I-15 and I-40 the interstate highways replaced both US 66 and US 91 in this area
This hurt many of the Route 66 motels and shops catering to travellers in Lenwood.
Where to Stay in Lenwood
Lodging near Lenwood at Barstow or Victorville
More Lodging Near Lenwood along Route 66
Motels and Hotels close to Lenwood, California
Heading East.... In California
Further East.... In Arizona
Heading West... Hotels & Motels in California...
>> Check out the RV campground in Barstow or Victorville
Weather in Lenwood
Weather widget for the town nearest Lenwood (Barstow)
Lenwood has a desert climate, winters are cool and summers are very hot. Rainfall is scarce.
Average temperatures (high) are: Summer (Jul) 99°F (37°C) and Winter (Jan) 60°F (16°C). And the average Low is, in summer (Jul) 62°F (17°C) and (Jan), winter: 32°F (0°C).
Rain averages 6.3 in. per year (161 mm) with the driest months being May to Sep (less than 0.2 in monthly - 5 mm). Snow is very rare.
Lenwood is located well to the west of the Rocky Montains, so there is no risk of tornados in this part of California.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Lenwood
You can reach Lenwood along old Route 66 which here is named "Old National Trails Highway". Also from I-40 in the northeast or from I-15 at Exit 178 (north, east and south).
Map of Route 66 in Lenwood
Map of Lenwood and US Highway 66, California.
The map below shows the different alignments of Route 66 near Lenwood and the color key is for Lenwood only. It is the following:
(for the other parts of the map, check the color key of the map of the corresponding city)
Pale Blue: the 1928 - 1970s Route 66 through Lenwood.
Red: I-40, where it covers the old roadbed of Route 66 or where it must be driven as the old road is closed.
Black: the 1926 to 1970s alignment west of Dagget that can't be driven as it goes through a U.S. Marines Base (at Nebo).
See Route 66's alignment in California Map
Remove or restore State shading
Route 66's alignment in California: the Historic Route 66 through Lenwood
Route 66 across California
U.S. Route 66 does not have any Byway or Historic designation in California despite having long sections of original roadbed between Needles and Santa Monica (like this one).
Click on the following link for an overview of Route 66 across the state of California.
Below you will find detailed information on Old Route 66 in Lenwood
Sights and Attractions in Lenwood, California
What to Do, Places to See
Lenwood and its Route 66 attractions
Small town in the Mojave
Lenwood is a small town along Route 66 in the Mojave southwest of Barstow. Its attractions are the remains of the Lenwood Radio Auto Camp (from the 1920s), the former motel now the Route 66 Apartments, an Old Service Station, the site and remains of the Barlen Drive In Movie Theater and the remains of the classic Dunes Motel.
Is only a 5.5 mile drive away from downtown Barstow to Lenwood (Lenwood St. and Route 66), along Main Street. See map with directions and for this reason it never grew into a full blown town. But it has its share of Route 66 sights:
Head west along Main Street, from Barstow and after passing under State Hwy 58 along Main St. underpass, you will reach Lenwood. Ahead, to your left, after Western Rd. you will see what remains of the famous Lenwood Radio Camp:
Lenwood Radio Auto Camp
25615 Main St, Lenwood
It was a well known stop at Lenwood, now gone: the "Lenwood Radio Auto Camp", which offered cabins, camping and a cafe with a grocery shop and beer garden (before the Prohibition).
It was 5 miles west of Barstow and it promoted itself as the "Coolest spot on the Desert - Free Lunch Tables".
All that remains is this building which can be identified by the twin gabled roofs:
Lenwood Camp in a vintage postcard
These same buildings today:
Just ahead, 300ft away (90 m), also to your left is Plata’s Mexican Food (25569 Main St.) located in a colorfull red building.
Old Service Station
Townsend Rd. and Main St.
Keep westbound and on the corner of Route 66 and Townsend St. (to your right) you will see a 1960s (?) service station. It has a three bay garage and a flat top canopy over a four pump filling area. It is no longer a service station.
Service Station in Lenwood:
In the next block, to your right is a former "Motel":
Route 66 Apartments
25004 Main St. Lenwood
To your right is an apartment complex which has the layout of a typical motel but is currently rented as apartments.
Keep westbound and after two blocks you will reach the junction of Lenwood Rd and Route 66 (to the left the road leads to I-15, site of most activity in modern Lenwood). But this junction on Route 66 is the site of an old "Drive In Movie Theater":
Barlen Drive In Movie Theater
Route 66 and Lenwood Ave.
The The Barlen Drive-In was part of Western Amusements Group in 1955 and it remained open until the mid 1960s. It was dismantled and its screen is gone, but you can still make out the circular segment that the drive in theatre once occupied amd the concentric rings where the cars parked to view the movies.
Its name combined the names of the closest towns: "Bar" from Barstow and "Len" from Lenwood.
The Lenwood drive-in theatre were outdoor cinemas with a large movie screen and a projection booth. Some had playgrounds for children and picnic tables. There was a concession selling soft drinks and fast food. The customers viewed the films from their cars, and heard the audio by means of loudspeakers located at each parking spot. Later AM or FM radio broadcasting was used and the soundtrack was picked up by the car's radio.
Color TV, VCRs and the rise in real estate costs led to this mostly summertime business to fade away and drop its market share from a peak of 25% of the market to barely 1.5% nowadays.
This map, from 1956 shows the location of the Drive-In theatre at Lenwood:
1956 USGS Map showing the Drive-In theater
A thumbnail -click to enlarge:
Click on the image for a larger view, Barlen Drive In, by Mojavegirl.
Satellite view of the Barlen Drive-IN
Keep west along Route 66 and after 2.9 miles, to your left is the "Dunes Motel":
The Dunes Motel
23135 National Trails Hwy
See this Map with directions.
The complex has an "oasis" style, with palm trees and the Mojave Desert as a backdrop. It probably dates back to the 1950s and had four separate blocks with units lined up facing the highway. Now it is abandoned.
Dunes Motel nowadays, in Lenwood CA:
Tours & Itineraries
The Alignment of Old Route 66 in Lenwood
From Barstow to Lenwood
As mentioned above, the first road through Lenwood was the National Old Trails (N.O.T.) road which was a highway that was projected to link New York and Los Angeles in the early 1910s. This road ran close to the Santa Fe Railroad between Victorville and Needles.
Just head west along Main Street, it curves towards the southwest and runs straight into Lenwood. It is a 5.5 mile drive.
> > See the previous segment Ludlow to Barstow (east)
> > See this segment Barstow to Victorville (west)
> > See the next segment San Bernardino to Victorville (west)
Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api Updated Dec. 31, 2014.
A Guide to the Golden State, by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration, Hastings House, New York, 1939.