The exact center of California Monument

Nuggets from the Past

September 16, 2010 

Roger and Loris Mitchell have produced a wonderful book, "Exploring the Sierra Vista National Scenic Byway: A Definitive Guide to the Hidden Heart of the Central Sierra." Anyone who plans to spend a day, or several days, on this Sierra exploration should have this book at ready.

The detailed chapters take the traveler/reader through everything of interest on this fascinating drive.

"Side Trip No. 1 -- Exact Center of California Monument" follows: "Have you ever lain awake at night, mentally pondering where the exact center of some state is? That is relatively easy to determine for states with rectangular borders, such as Colorado or Wyoming.

Simply draw two lines from opposing corners and see where they intersect. With its long curving shape, the solution is not quite so easy for California. Years ago, someone having nothing better to do measured the entire length of Highway 99 from north to south, and determined that the halfway point was near the City of Madera just south of Avenue 11. A palm tree was planted on the south side of the perceived point, and a pine tree planted on the north side.

The Madera Chamber of Commerce made plans to erect a monument on the spot, and to promote its importance. Not so fast, however; cooler heads prevailed and thought a more scientific approach was needed.

In 1972 the Madera County Engineering Department determined the center to be about a mile north of Redinger Dam on the San Joaquin River, just a few miles southeast of North Fork.

The exact spot was marked with a metal stake and promptly forgotten. Somehow, over the years, the marker was removed. In 1993, the North Fork History Group resurrected the search for the exact center of California and they sought assistance, first from the U.S. Forest Service and then from the Engineering and Surveying Department at California State University Fresno.

Using modern and sophisticated geo-positioning satellite technology, they determined the exact center of the state. This time, the site was more properly marked and dedicated by representatives from CSUF, the California Department of Transportation, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service and, of course, many of the residents of North Fork. Crews from Fresno television stations duly recorded the event, and a documentary was aired on PBS.

"To visit the place that was determined to be the exact center of the State of California, turn right on Italian Bar Road (225) and proceed 21/2 miles to where a USFS sign announces you are entering the Redinger Lake Recreation Area. Just beyond, look to the left for some steps leading to a stone monument. You will now be able to say that you have been to the exact center of California."

"Exploring the Sierra Vista National Scenic Byway" is available at the Coarsegold Historic Museum on Highway 41 and Fresno Flats Museum on School Road (427), Willowbridge Bookstore, Miller's Mountain Sports and from the Mitchells, (559) 683-6904.

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