US 395: Topaz Lake, Sonora Junction, Bridgeport Reservoir


There’s a lot to see, but very few reasons to stop, as you drive down US Highway 395, crossing from Nevada into California.  Most of the highway is 2-lane and heavily traveled, so you’ll likely spend much of your time trying to decide if there’s any way to pass the truck in front of you.  You will, however, find an excuse to pull off the road near the state line, to admire Topaz Lake.

Back in 1922, engineers expanded tiny Topaz Lake into a reservoir, by diverting water from the West Walker River.  Today, it’s stocked with trout and popular with boaters.

A small sign welcomes you to California, followed by a produce inspection station.  Bananas, I learned, were acceptable to carry across state lines.  I forgot to mention my apples, so hopefully I didn’t destroy the state’s agriculture industry.

Once Topaz Lake has been in your rear-view mirror for a while, US 395 enters an enjoyable canyon, paralleling the West Walker River.  After struggling to pass a tractor-trailer, I found a good place to stop for pictures — and watched the truck pass me.  We did this dance several times before I finally let him get ahead of me for good, later on in Bridgeport.

The landscape opened up a bit, as I approached Sonora Junction.  This is the area where California Route 108 connects with US 395.  Route 108 crosses the Sierra Nevada a few miles north of Yosemite National Park.  Even though there was barely any snow visible at the junction, Route 108 was still closed by snowdrifts.  Sometimes, these mountain passes don’t open until the middle of summer.

After passing Sonora Junction, US 395 turns east for a brief moment, giving me a southern view out my passenger window.  It’s quite something to look at those mountains, and know that the wonders of Yosemite are somewhere in the middle of them.

Bridgeport Reservoir

The town of Bridgeport is still a few miles away, when the road suddenly levels out.  In the distance, and nearly invisible in this picture, is Bridgeport Reservoir — a popular spot for trout fishing.  It’s one of several lakes nearby, making Bridgeport a center for tourists who come to fish.

Most of the ranchland around Bridgeport is flat and empty, but all of it has great views of the snow-capped mountains in the distance.

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