Historic Photo of Yreka Auto Park Courtesy Claudia East Collection.
Between the advent of the popularity and affordability of the automobile with the improvements made in roadways and “highways,” especially the Pacific Highway which opened in 1913 (later rebuilt in newer sections and dubbed Highway 99), travel by car became a very popular past time for individuals and families. Yreka, the County Seat of Siskiyou, was happily situated on the main route since the road traveled right through the center of town.
Most of the main roads or routes went from town to town as travelers would have a better opportunity to meet up with needed services. Many towns including Yreka had “welcome arches” proclaiming the name of the city often in electric lights so travelers would know they had arrived! (See photo below of Yreka’s present-day sign.) Taking along camping gear was also a “convenience” issue as folks knew breaking down was a possibility away from towns. It was very convenient as well as an adventure! Many travelers thought themselves as pioneers and were able to camp on the outskirts of towns or anywhere along the road; it was inexpensive and many vacation destinations offered little in the way of accommodations.
In 1916 an editorial type article was written in The Siskiyou News stressing the need for an Auto Park in Yreka. The beginning of the article stated: “Yreka is acquiring a reputation among tourists for its lack of hospitality!” The article went on to argue that most towns along the state highway had a small piece of land for this purpose. The town businesses profited from sales of groceries, gas, auto repair and other needs of the traveler.
Within a short time Yreka did have an auto camp, and eventually more than one that met the needs of the camping enthusiast. An interesting recount of staying in Yreka in 1922 by a family that wrote in their local paper (from Estherville, Iowa) said of their experience:
“We camped for the night at Yreka, a pretty little place in the foothills of the Shasta Mountains, where we were provided with free camp grounds with free water, electric lights, shower baths, comfort station and brick ovens for cooking.”
Later on these free Auto Camps turned into places offering small cabins for the traveler and more comforts and convenience. There are a few of these later enhanced auto parks that have remnants of earlier days still visible here in Yreka, but they are quickly fading.