The North Coast and the Redwood Empire
The North Coast of California, as I define it here, lies between Bodega
Bay and the Oregon border. It includes the counties of Del Norte, Humboldt,
Mendocino, and northern Sonoma. This area is very different from the rest
of California. It gets more rain than any other region in the state. Because
of that, the rivers here are many and huge. These rivers are filled with
runs of large salmon and steelhead, attracting sportsfishermen and supporting
a major fishing industry. The abundance of water produces dense rain forests
with the tallest trees in the world. Because of these trees, the coast
redwoods, the region's major industry is logging, which is why this area
is also called the Redwood Empire. These trees are also one of the main
tourist attractions of the area, which pits those who want to turn these
trees into lumber against those who want to preserve them for their awesome
beauty and environmental value.
The coastline here is rugged, windswept, and dramatically beautiful. Warm sunny ocean beaches are few and far-between. Swimming in the cold, shark-filled ocean is only for westuit-protected divers, who are brave these conditions primarily for hunting the rare and delicious abalone. The terrain here is steep and mountainous. One whole section of coast along the King Mountain Range, called the Lost Coast, is so rugged and unstable that it was impossible to build the Pacific Coast Highway through it. The highway skirts inland around it, and few roads lead into this wild and mostly undeveloped area.
North Coast is a sparsely-populated region, with no large cities. The largest
metropolis in the area is Eureka, with a population of 27,000. Other coastal
towns, from south to north, are Bodega Bay, Jenner, Fort Ross, Gualala,
Point Arena, Elk, Albion, Mendocino, Caspar, Fort Bragg, Cleone, Westport,
Union Landing, Rockport, Arcata, McKinleyville, Trinidad, Klamath, and
Crescent City. Tiny Shelter Cove is the only coastal town on the Lost Coast.
Inland along Highway 101 north of the Russian River are the towns of Healdsburg,
Ukiah, Willits, Longvale, Laytonville, Leggett, Rivendale, Piercy, Andersonia,
Cooks Valley, Benbow, Garberville, Myers Flat, Burlington, Weott, Redcrest,
Glynn, Scotia, Rio Dell, Metropolitan, Rohnerville, Fortuna, Fernbridge,
Loleta, Table Bluff, and Beatrice. The most popular coastal tourist towns
are Bodega Bay, Mendocino, Fort Bragg, Eureka, and Crescent City. They
have the most facilities for tourists.
The main routes through this region are Highway 101 and Highway 1. 101 runs mostly inland, while 1 runs mostly on the coast. North of Leggett, they merge to skirt the Lost Coast, then run along or near the coast from Eureka north. The old highway 101 route through Humboldt Redwoods State Park is called the Avenue of the Giants. The 33-mile route along the Eel River is the most famous scenic drive in the area, passing by small resorts and many giant redwoods, some of which have been developed into tourist spots. To get to the popular Mendocino/Fort Bragg area from San Francisco, you can either take the long, winding, but incredibly scenic route along Highway 1 all the way, or the faster route along Highway 101 to Highway 128. 128 runs northwest from Cloverdale, through the pastoral wine-growing area of the Anderson Valley, then follows the Navarro River through the redwoods to the coast south of Mendocino.
Canoes by the Big River Bridge, Mendocino