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Ghost Town on Route 66

Chambless Cabins, Store and Road Runner

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Chambless is almost a Ghost Town in the middle of the Mojave Desert has some key attractions: Chambless Camp (Store, lodging and service station), the US 66 shield stencilled on the highway, and very close to them Summit Cafe, Filling Station and cabins (ruins) and the abandoned Roadrunner's Retreat a Restaurant, cafe and service station.

Chambless CA

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About Chambless California

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation 721 ft (220 m). Population n⁄a (2010).
Time zone changes as you cross the California - Arizona state line. Time zone: Pacific (MST): UTC minus 8 hours. Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7).

Chambless is a another small unincorporated community, basically a Ghost Town set in the central-western part of San Bernardino County, in southeastern California, on "old Route 66" which here is known as the "Old National Trails Highway". (Map of Chambless).

The History of Chambless, California

Visit our Needles web page to learn more about the early history of this area.

In 1884 the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (which later was acquired by the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad) purchased the line of its competitor, the SP Railroad from Needles to Barstow and linked its main line from St. Louis to the Californian coastal area.


It established a station and called it Cadiz, its name, like those of all the stations located east of Amboy, all the way to Needles followed an alphabetical order (there were exceptions: the small sidings between those stations, which are shown below between brackets)

Amboy, (Saltus), (Altura), Bengal - also Bristol, Cadiz, (Siam), Danby, (Arimo), Essex, Fenner, (Piute), Goffs, Homer, (Bannock), Ibis, (Klinefelter), Java, Khartoum.

So Cadiz, was the station "C" and it was located in a spot where it could supply water for the steam engines used in those days.

The name: Cadiz

Cádiz is a city and port in Spain, in the region of Andalusia.

A small village sprung up next to the station and was also a rail junction as the line branch line from Phoenix Arizona which crossed the Colorado River at Parker, met the main line here. This line is nowadays the Arizona & California Railroad.

As we explain below (Alignment of Old Route 66 in Chambless), the National Old Trails (N.O.T.) highway that linked Los Angeles with New York, was built following the Santa Fe Railroad in the early 1910s, and therefore passed through Cadiz.

Only later, once that road became U.S. Highway 66 and the new highway was realigned 3 miles north of Cadiz in 1931, did a small comunity appear where the road leading to Cadiz station (named Cadiz Road) met Route 66.

This community adopted the name of Chambless after the family that settled there. Thy had come to Amboy from Oklahoma in the 1920s (see the 1940 Census data) and two of the Chambless, Melvin and Fanny built the local service station and cabins there, on their homestead, to cater to the tourists.

The name: Chambless

This surname has two origins. One is originating from a place name in France: "Chambles" means "bend", and the people from there adopted it as their family name. The other is from an occupation, it is the distorted form of "Chalmers" derived from Old French "de la Chambre" or the chamber attendant. The final "s" was added much later. It entered Britain with William the Conqueror after 1066 AD.

Business boomed in Chambless until I-40 was built further north in 1973, bypassing the whole of Route 66 between Ludlow and Fenner, and also Goffs. The town simply vanished, and is a shadow of its former self.

Where to Stay near Chambless

Lodging close to Chambless: Needles:

> > Book your Hotel in nearby Needles

More Lodging Near Chambless along Route 66

Motels and Hotels close to Chambless, California

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Further East.... In Arizona

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Find a room nearby, in Needles:

>> Check out RV campground near Chambless

Weather in Chambless

Chambless is located in the Mojave Desert and therefore has a "Subtropical desert climate": very dry and hot.

There are 290 sunny days every year.

Summer average high temperature (Jul) is a hot 107.4°F (41.9°C) and the average low is a warm 78.8°F (26°C). During winter, the average high (Jan) is 65°F (18.3°C) and the average low is a cool 37.2°F (2.9°C).

Very little rain falls in Chambless: 10.6 in. (269 mm) yearly, over 34 rainy days each year, the dryest months are April to July. Followed by the "rainy" monsoon season during summer when severe thunderstorms can take place. Snow is extremely rare with a dustiing of 3 in. yearly on average.

During summer make sure you stay hydrated. The hot and dry desert climate can dehydrate you quickly. Drink plenty of water and dress for the heat. Read more.

Weather widget for the town nearest Chambless (Amboy)

Latest Chambless, California weather
Route 66: Chambless, California location map
Location of Chambless on Route 66

Tornado risk

Chambless west of the Rocky Montains, therefore there is virtually no risk of any tornados in this area.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.

Getting to Chambless

Drive to the "town" along old Route 66 which here is named "Old National Trails Highway". You can also reach it from I-40 at Exits 78, 50, 100 and 107.

The Map of U.S. 66 in Chambless, California

Check out Chambless on our California Route 66 Map, with the complete alignment and all the towns along it.

Chambless Map

Chambless' map color key

Pale Blue: the "old 1926 to 1931" alignment of Route 66 to Fenner and Essex from US 95 Arrowhead Junction and Exit 133 of I-40. And for the Needles - to Exit 133, it is the 1926 to 1970s road. West of Essex it is the 1931 - 1973 alignment.
Black: the 1926 to 1931 alignment in Fenner, bypassed later when I-40 was built, and Goffs Rd. moved west to link at Exit 107.
Blue: The post 1931 alignment of Route 66 from Mountain Springs to Essex.

Route 66's alignment in California: the Historic Route 66 into Chambless

Route 66 logo

Route 66 across California

U.S. Route 66 does not have any Byway or Historic designation in California despite the survival of long sections of original roadbed between Needles and Santa Monica.

Click Here for an overview of Route 66 across the state of California.

Below you will find detailed information on Old Route 66 in Chambless.

Sights and Attractions in Chambless

What to Do, Places to See

A Ghost Town on US 66 in the Mojave

Chambless is a ghost town with the remains of a filling station and cabins: Chambless Camp the Summit Gas station and Cafe and the famous Roadrunner's Retreat, restaurant and service station.

Historic context, the classic Route 66 in Chambless

Jack DeVere Rittenhouse wrote his "Guide Book to Highway 66" in 1946 and thanks to his record, we can have a pretty good idea of what Route 66 was like during those boom days following WWII.

Nine miles southwest of Danby, Rittenhouse mentions a now defunct spot: "Summit... A handful of tourist cabins, a cafe and gas station", which he describes as a "desert oasis".

Then, 4 miles west is "Chambless... A wide porched gas station, with a cafe and several tourist cabins.". He points out that it is "one of the few shady spots in the entire desert route" adding that there were no "towns" worth that name between Needles and Ludlow. There was an artillery range used for World War II troop training opposite Chambless. He was refering to the The Mojave Anti-Aircraft Range (later Fort Irwin) which had been established there.

Chambless Camp

Route 66 & Cadiz Rd., Chambless

This is the main sight in town, it is located on the southwestern corner of the junction of Route 66 with Cadiz Rd.

You can't miss it, as it is a large white faced building with a gabled roof, facing the highway, four cabins facing Cadiz Rd. and an office behind the main building.

It was Chambless Camp, built in 1931 by the Chambless family, inspired in the McCarty's Camp at Needles, as a one-stop-serves-all place.

It promoted itself as follows: "Modern, Fireproof, Hollow Tile Cottages. We have the only private Well, funishing plenty of fresh water between Needles Calif. and Newberry Calif"... "On the desert - Free Showers for All".

Originally the building had a large canopy with a gabled roof (shade was critical) over the two lanes of the gas station, it provided plenty of shade (as noted by Rittenhouse above), the park surrounding the camp had plenty of trees too.

The cabins can still be seen, behind the main building.

This photograph shows the Chambless Service Station in "Cadiz" in 1949:

A 1949 photograph of the Chambless Service Station.

Chambless Service station in a 1949 photo, Cadiz California
Chambless Service Station, 1949 California, by

View of the Chambless Service Station nowadays

Chambless Service station today. US 66 California
View of Chambless Service Station nowadays
Lardner/Klein Landscape Architects
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

Route 66 shield on the road

Don't miss the U.S. highway 66 shield painted on the road's tarmac, in front of the old Chambless Camp on the westbound lane and to the east, past Cadiz Rd. on the eastbound lane.

National Trails Highway Route 66 Marker

Across the road, (Here) on the north side of the junction with Cadiz Rd., is a Marker with a plaque that reads:

"Old Route 66. Perhaps no other highway in the U.S. is as fabled as Old Route 66. It has been immortalized in song, literature, and even a T.V. Series as the Main Street of America. Autumobiles came early to the desert, following the railroad with its reliable water sources. in the early 1900's the route was known as the National Old Trails Road. In 1926 it became U.S. Highway 66, and within a decade was paved all the way from L.A. to Chicago. Heavy travel by dustbowl emigrants led John Steinbeck to label it The Mother Road. Chambless, where you now stand, was a typical roadside stop. It was bypassed by Interstate 40 in 1973, and the Route 66 designation was officially dropped in 1985.
Billy Holcomb Chapter
The Ancient and Honorable Order
E Clampus Vitus
May 3, 1992

To the east, along Route 66 are the remains of the Summit Cafe, station and cabins.

Summit Cafe, Filling Station and cabins

3.5 mi. East of Chambless (See map with directions).

On the north side of the road (left) you will see the ruins of a complex built on the Iron - or Bristol - Mountains from the 1930s-40s. They were mentioned by Rittenhouse (see above) but the place is in ruins.

A 1949 photograph of the Summit Service Station, café and cabins.

Summit Service station in a 1949 photo, near Chambless California
Summit Service Station and Cafe, 1949 California, by

View of the Summit Service Station nowadays

The old service station, cafe and lodging at Summit near Chambless Ca, Route 66
View of remains of the Summit Cafe, Cabins and Service Station nowadays, Google Street View, Click image to see

The ruins shown above are those of the garage - shed shown on the far right side of the 1949 photo. Time is unforgiving.

Head back west, pass Cadiz Rd., an after 1.5 miles you will reach the abandoned Roadrunner's Retreat.


Roadrunner's Retreat

1.5 mi. west of Chambless on the south side of the road (See map with directions).

There are two buildings, one is a Service Station, with a large flat roofed canopy and the other is the former "Roadrunner's Retreat", a Restaurant and Cafe with its famous tall sign. Which closed in 1995.

Roadrunner café and filing Station.

Roadrunner's Retreat Cafe and Service station, near Chambless California
Roadrunner's Retreat, Station and Cafe California, by
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

Tours and Nearby places to visit

The Alignment of Old Route 66 in Chambless

From Danby to Amboy

route 66 shield California

As mentioned above, the first road through this area near Chambless -the Cadiz railway station- was the National Old Trails (N.O.T.) road (Los Angeles to New York highway) built during the early 1910s.

The first road crossed to the eastern - southern side of the Santa Fe railroad at Danby and kept on that side of the tracks through Cadiz and Amboy, all the way to Ludlow. The section from Danby through Siam to Cadiz had "heavy sand".

The Automobile Club of Southern California's Road Map of 1915 did not show Chambless as the town did not exist at that time. It did record the road from Danby to Amboy had now moved to the north of the Santa Fe Railroad, it also indicated the station of Siam (with water) and also Cadiz with water and gas, which was 3.5 miles to the south of the N.O.T. road. The next stop on the road was Amboy with Gasoline and Oil.

The map of 1922 does not show Chambless either. Even later, in 1939, the SoCal map only mentions Cadiz. It was perhaps at this time that the Chambless family moved in and built their Cabins, service station and store.

In 1926 Route 66 was aligned along the N.O.T. road. The terrain to the southwest, from Danby along Route 66, is that of a broad desert valley and the road runs with a straight course across it, heading towards Bristol (also known as Iron) Mountains. There is evidence of volcanic activity in the area with lava and tuff.

The road reaches the Iron or Bristol mountains and crosses it passing by Summit (a now defunct stop). The range is a narrow but prominent one which the railway opted to bypass, heading around its southern end and then curving back towards the NW, into Cadiz.

Actually the road dropped slightly towards Summit from Danby, then climbed slightly to cross it and then dropped considerably into Chambless.

West of Cadiz - Chambless, the road and the tracks run between wide basins and mountain ranges and it raches the lowest part of the basin near Amboy. The road ran in a perfectly straight line into Amboy, where it crossed to the southern side of the railroad.

This is the Map from Danby to Amboy through Chambless.

Read the description and see the map of US 66 from Needles to Essex (our Goffs Page, has even more details).


> > See the previous segment Topock AZ to Needles

> > See the next segment Amboy to Ludlow

Outdoors, National and State Parks

Mojave National Preserve

Kelso Dunes in Mohave Preserve California

Kelso Dunes in Mohave Preserve California, Michael L. Baird

The Mojave National Preserve protects almost 1.6 million acres of desert habitat; it is a scenic National Park located just west of Needles, east of Barstow, between I-15 and I-40 and the California - Nevada state line.

Observe wildlife like the Desert Tortoise or Bighorn Sheep. Visit the "Hole in the Wall" area, the Cinder Cones, Cima Dome and Kelso Dunes.

Visit the Official National Parks website for more info.

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Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.

Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.