Many people who travel Interstate 5 north and south come upon an interchange with State Route 99 north and south, which takes them through a small unincorporated community called Wheeler Ridge. Wheeler Ridge is in the southwestern San Joaquin Valley in Kern County, is 4.25 miles south-southeast of Mettler, southwest of Arvin and sits at an elevation of 955 feet above sea level. Some street addresses in Wheeler Ridge are addressed as either Arvin, CA which is east of I-5 or Lebec, CA which is west of I-5. Wheeler Ridge post office ran from 1923 to 1972.
So, what is the history of Wheeler Ridge? What make the community so significant? Well, I decided to do some research after doing a story on the 1952 Kern County Earthquake to find out more about this little community and this is what I found.
WHEELER RIDGE – is located at the Wheeler Ridge Interchange which is the junction of Interstate 5 and State Route 99. Before the development of the Grapevine commercial district to the south of I-5, Wheeler Ridge had the last services southbound on State Route 99 and I-5 before the steep 3,000 foot climb up Tejon Pass; before 1964, state highway renumbering old Route 99 passed through Wheeler Ridge.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Wheeler Ridge was also the epicenter of the 1952 Kern County Earthquake (White Wolf Earthquake) which registered 7.3 on the Richter scale; the earthquake was centered on the “White Wolf Fault” at Wheeler Ridge. Wheeler Ridge is just north of the San Andreas Fault which passes through the Sierra Pelona Mountains in the Tejon Pass area; the last major earthquake in the area (before the 1952 Kern County Earthquake) was a magnitude 7.9 earthquake which shook Fort Tejon in 1857 (more on this quake in a later story) and on April 16, 2005, a magnitude 5.2 earthquake occurred on the White Wolf Fault near Wheeler Ridge.