Learn about Helendale
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation Elevation 2,430 ft (740 m). Population 5,623 (2010).
Time zone: Pacific (MST): UTC minus 8 hours. Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7).
Helendale is a community located on Route 66, in south western San Bernardino County in the south of California. (Map of Helendale).
The History of Helendale, California
Visit our Barstow web page to learn more about the early history of this area.
Elmer's bottle Ranch on Route 66
The Mojave Trail was opened around 1780 as a route that linked Spanish California with the other Spanish colonies in Arizona and New Mexico. It crossed the Mojave desert north of the modern I-40 and US 66.
Mojave Trail or Mojave Road
The Native Americacans had used a trail from Cajon Pass (a gap between the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains in the south) to the Colorado River following the Mojave River across the Mojave Desert. During his mission to Arizona, Father Garces used this in 1776.
The first American to trek it, westbound, was Jedediah Smith who came from Utah in 1826, five years after Mexico became independent from Spain, and inherited the Spanish colonies.
By the late 1820s Mexican traders in New Mexico opened the "Old Spanish Trail" which met the Mojave Trail at Soda Lake in the Mojave.
During the Mexican - American war (1846-48), the Mormon Battalion camped at "Point of Rocks", site of present Helendale. After its defeat by the U.S., Mexico ceded these territories to the US. Settlers from the east moved to California and many Mormons settled 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). The Mormons bought the San Bernardino ranch in 1851 and founded the town of San Bernardino.
In 1857, US Army Lt. Edward Fitzgerald "Ned" Beale surveyed a wagon trail from Fort Smith in Arizona to California which after crossing the Colorado River at Ft. Mohave, close to present Needles, where it also linked with the Mojave Trail.
There were many way stations located along the Mojave River in the 1870s: at Oro -Grande and another near Helendale known at that time as "Point of Rocks", which was operated by the Saunders family, followed by another at Cottonwood -nowadays named Hodge.
The Railroad in Helendale
In 1881 the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) extended its line from Bakersfield east after silver was found near modern Barstow at Calico. SP continued its line all the way to Needles to block the entry into California of its rival the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (A & P) a company which later was absorbed by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad.
In the meantime A&P laid their tracks across Kansas, New Mexico and Arizona and after crossing the Colorado River, reached Needles in 1883. They did not stop there and the following year they threatened to build a line parallel to that of SP and forced them to sell the Barstow - Needles railroad. Once in Barstow, A&P turned south and built a line across Cajon Pass into San Bernardino. The line completed in 1885 ran along the Mojave River, following the old Trail.
The railroad built a station as a watering stop for its steam powered locomotives, and named it "Point of Rocks".
Helendale, the name
The station was renamed after the daughter of the railroad's vice-president (Helen Wells): "Helen" in 1897. However it was changed again, 21 years later to "Helendale". (a "dale" is a valley).
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 Helendale.
The 1912 map of the Automobile Club of Southern California's (ACSC) from Barstow to Victorville shows no sign of Helendale, mentioning only Todd, 8 miles south of Barstow followed by Cottonwood (later Hodge) another 8 miles away. These were followed by Oro Grande 17 miles to the south, and Victorville (5 mi.), which did have "Gasoline"
There was another road between Barstow and Victorville through Stoddard Well which would be the route adopted by I-15 when it was built half a century later.
Shortly after in another ACSC map, Oro Grande offered "Gasoline -Oil", and Helen Station (which would later become "Helendale") had appeared 10 mi. north of Oro Grande. Hicks figures on this map but 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.
In 1926, the N.O.T. highway became part of the US highway network and the section west of New Mexico became US 66. In spite of this, Route 66 was known as the "National Old Trails Road" for many years in California.
The "Guide to the Golden State" published in 1939 by the WPA Book does mention the town: "HELENDALE, 21.8 m. (2,424 alt., 150 pop.), is encompassed, oasis-like, by waving alfalfa and corn. Beyond the cultivated circle of the Helendale district, the tawny desert spreads away. SHADOW MOUNTAIN, holding turquoise- bearing porphyry deposits that were worked by desert-dwelling Indians predecessors of the Mojave looms indistinctly on the western horizon (R) of HELENDALE MESA".
After WW II, traffic grew and reached 1.1 million travellers in 1960. All of them driving through Helendale. The highway was becoming overcrowded and the Interstate system created in 1956 would soon bypss both US 66 and US 91 in this part of California.
Travellers started to use I-15 and I-40, bypassing Helendale for good.
Two artificial lakes were built at Helendale in 1969 covering 277 acres (1.120 ha) and a resort community named "Silver Lakes" was developed along their shores. They are located just west of the Mojave River and Route 66.
Where to Stay in Helendale
Lodging in Helendale
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The Weather in Helendale
Helendale has a semi-arid climate, winters are cool and summers are very hot. Rainfall is scarce and snow is extremely rare. The Average temperatures (high) are: Summer (Jul) 98°F (37°C) and Winter (Jan) 61°F (16°C). And the average Low is, in summer (Jul) 62°F (17°C) and (Jan), winter: 30°F (-1°C).
Rain averages 5.5 in. per year (145 mm) with the driest months being May to Oct (less than 0.2 in monthly - 5 mm).
Helendale 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 Helendale
You can reach Helendale along old Route 66 which here is named "Old National Trails Highway". Also from I-40 in the northeast or from I-15 (north, east and south).
The Map of U.S. 66 in Helendale, California
Static Map showing Route 66 alignment through Helendale, CA
Display Helendale Route 66 Map
Click Map will appear below
Route 66's alignment in California: the Historic Route 66 in Helendale
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 town/p>
Sights and Attractions in Helendale
Helendale and its Route 66 attractions
Some Route 66 classics
Helendale's main landmark is the world famous Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch, and the Route 66 icons:Burden's Store and Post Office, Polly Gas Station Sign, Watson's Richfield Station and the Sage Brush Inn. Visit the site of Potapov's Service Station and auto court too.
Start your tour of Route 66 in Helendale at the turnoff into Helendale - Silver Lakes, at the junction of Vista Road and Route 66. Head north foro 0.8 miles (as shown in this Map with Directions), to visit Burden's sotre and Post Office:
Burden's Store and Post Office
It is on your right (eastern side of the road). It was built in 1926 in what used to be the center of Helendale on Route 66. The old schoolhouse was on the opposite side of the road, but was demolished long ago.
The old Burden's Store in Helendale:
Turn around and head back to Vista Rd., pass it and 0.2 miles south of it is a real Route 66 classic sign: "Polly Gas Station Sign":
Polly Gas Station Sign
It is to your right (west). See this Map with Directions.
The site of the former Polly Gas Station is marked by the concrete foundations of the building. It is to the south of what is now a store and bar known in the past as the Gables. The post office operated here between 1957 and 1986.
As the parrot on the sign indicates, Polly was a parrot and the symbol of the gasoline brand owned by Wilshire Oil Co., which was based in Los Angeles and sold gasoline in southern California between 1914 and 1960. The company was acquired that year by Gulf and Wilshire brand disappeared in the mid 1960s.
Polly Oil was incorporated ca. 1920 and acquired by Wilshire in 1929. It was sold at Wilshire filling stations until the mid 1950s.
The Polly gas station at Helendale was owned by a Dr. William Watson went broke when I-15 opened but, fortunately the original sign was restored and is still there, displaying oil prices of the 1950s.
Polly the parrot
Polly is the diminutive of "Poll", which in turn is derived from "Moll", a familiar form of Mary. And Polly is the name traditionally given to parrots. The oldest use on record dates from 1616 in Ben Johnson's "Epigrams".
Polly Gas Sign in Helendale
Keep southbound towards Victorville and 0.9 miles south of Vista Rd., to your left is another classic Route 66 service station, Watson's Richfield Station:
Watson's Richfield Station
25779 Nat. Trails Hwy
It has a flat canopy over a single filling area with a glassed office facing the highway. Simple lines, perhaps from the late 1940s. It had the garage bay in the rear part of the office building.
The sign is gone but would have been located on top of the canopy, lengthwise.
Watson's Richfield Gas Station in Helendale:
The place was a garage and a gas station and it was built by Dr. Watson (who also owned the Polly Gas station) and his wife, Annette. It too closed when traffic dropped after the freeway openened between Barstow and Victorville.
Continue towards the south, and 2 mi. from Vista Rd., on the right side of the road is the former Sage Bush Inn:
Sage Brush Inn
It was also a roadhouse (tavern, dance hall, club), as it was located beyond Helendale's city limits which some say was also a brothel, which is not true.
George Sibert moved to the area in 1930 and opened the Sage Brush filling station. It was built by a local, Guy Wadsworth in stone. Wadsworth was a veteran of the 1898 Spanish American war. During the prohibition he was a bootlegger. He was born about 1877 and was still alive in Oro Grande during the 1940 census.
Siebert added a bar - café and dance hall to the service station in 1934. He sold cold beer.
The place became known as the Sage Brush Inn (Sagebrush is a shrub, of the daisy family that grows in the dry areas of western North America).
The building survived, but is now private property.
Sage Brush Inn on Route 66
Keep southbound along US 66 and visit the world famous Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch.
Bottle Tree Ranch
24266 National Trails Hwy, on your right. see map with directions.
Elmer Long created this "bottle tree ranch" using his deceased father's collection of bottles. It consists of some two hundred scrap metal trees with bottles on the welded branches.
It is a homage to the now closed and gone "Hulaville" (or Mahan's Half Acre) formerly on I-15 near Hesperia, which also had wine and beer bottle sculptures created by Miles Mahan (1896-1997). Some of its works of art (the Hula Girl, the Howdy cowboy) were saved and are on exhibition at the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville.
Elmer Long's forest of scrap metal pipes and bottle "leaves" is a classic Route 66 icon. A must see sight. Which is pictured at the top of this page.
Barely 0.2 miles south (See map) is the last landmark at Helendale, the site of the former Potapov's Service Station:
The Potapov's Service Station
A large Joshuea tree marks the spot where Potapov's Service Station and auto court once stood. It had been built around 1931, by Guy Wadsworth (it was another of his stoner creations), but was torn down in 2007 due to safety concerns. A bit of rubble remains at the spot.
The Joshua Tree marks the exact spot. This plant belongs to the genus Yucca, and got its name from the Mormon settlers in the mid 1800s. The tree's shape reminded them of Joshua reaching up to heaven in prayer.
Tours & Itineraries
The Alignment of Old Route 66 in Helendale
From Barstow to Helendale
As mentioned above, the first road through Helendale 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.
It is a 22.3 mile drive from Barstow to Helendale along the old Route 66. This is the Map with directions.
> > See the previous segment Ludlow to Barstow (east)
> > See this segment Barstow to Victorville (west)
> > See the next segment San Bernardino to Victorville (west)