One of only eight rivers in the U.S. originally designated by congress as a “National Wild and Scenic River”, the Rogue River empties into the Pacific in Gold Beach, Oregon. Her headwaters are none other than those of Crater Lake, from there, she twists, roars, flows and sweeps for 84 miles through the Cascade, Siskiyou and Coastal mountain ranges. The lovely stretch from Gold Beach up through Blossom Bar is accessible via jet boat tours offered by two local companies. A must see attraction for tourists, aside from the exhilarating boat ride, wild life viewing abounds. For bird watchers, you may see Snowy Egrets, Blue Herons, Osprey, Canadian Geese, Great Horned Owls, Grouse, Partridges, Pheasant, Quail and Bald Eagles. Mammals that inhabit the river valley include black bears, Elk, deer, mink, muskrats, foxes, mountain lions and bobcats. Included in the river and sea life are Salmon, Steelhead, Brown and Golden Trout, Catfish, sturgeon, River Otters, beavers, sea lions and whales. Enjoy fishing, rafting, water skiing, kayaking and canoeing. Between June and October, the wild and scenic section of the river is accessible by permit only.
SMITH RIVER NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
The Northern California and Southern Oregon area offers wild and scenic vistas that enhance the jewel that is Brookings/Harbor. A few of them are jewels in their own right, the Smith River National Recreation area being one of them. The Smith River drains the western slopes of the jagged Siskiyou Mountains in the far northwestern corner of California. The recreation area is exquisitely set just east of Crescent City, a breathtaking yet easy drive from Brookings. The last of California’s free flowing rivers, more than 300 miles of the Smith and its North, South and Middle forks have been designated as wild and scenic. The Smith River watershed contains some of the most beautiful scenery and exciting recreation opportunities our area has to offer. Kayak, canoe, boat fish or swim the river while enjoying the sights and sounds of a pristine wilderness. The parks 300,000 acres include 65 miles of hiking and nature trails, and one of a kind vistas in a remote setting. Campgrounds offer both primitive and more developed overnight camping experiences. Make sure you give yourself enough time to explore this area thoroughly, you’ll be glad you did.
JEDIDIAH SMITH REDWOODS STATE PARK
Named for the first white explorer to venture into California’s interior in 1826, Jedediah Smith State Park can be found at the junction of highways 199 and 197. 10,000 acres of old growth redwoods shade the Smith River, nearly the entire park acts as its water shed. The park contains almost half of all the old-growth Redwoods left in California. In addition to the Redwoods the park is dotted with Western Hemlock, Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir and the increasingly rare Port Orford Cedar. Understory growth includes Tan Oak, Red Alder, California Bay, Madrone and Maple. Visitors to the park can avail themselves of the nearly 20 miles of hiking and nature trails and do a little bird watching. Species living in the park include Bald Eagles, Marbled Murrelets and the infamous Spotted Owl. There is plenty of river access and if fishing is your pleasure, you can cast for King Salmon and Steelhead trout during their fall and winter runs.
Guests can fan out from the Visitor’s Center to make use of over 100 campsites. Although reservations are not required, they are highly recommended during the busy summer season. There is also a group campground that can be reserved for special occasions, it can accommodate up to 50 people. Temperatures vary with your location in the park so the best idea is to dress in layers. Summer temps range from 45-85 degrees, winters are cooler at 30-60 degrees.
“Look up, up, up and all becomes festival.” A 900-year-old poem suggests what is waiting for you at Stout Grove at the end of one of the most rewarding bad roads in Northern California. Howland Hills Road, which follows the historic stagecoach route to Oregon, is a narrow dirt lane winding between the massive trunks of old-growth Redwood trees, as it follows the course of the Smith River’s south fork. Passenger cars and trucks will have no problem navigating this old stagecoach route which once liked Crescent City to Grants Pass. If traveling north on the 101, take 199 east, if you are coming from the north, you’ll head east 14 miles sooner on the 197. Take South Fork Road south between Hiouchi and Gasquet, then turn right on Douglas Park Road, which becomes Howland Hill. This ancient grove contains Jedediah Smith Parks largest Redwood, 340 tall and 22 feet in diameter. It takes seven people holding hands to encircle its girth. You’ll find Stout Grove’s trailhead here, take the 30-minute walk, it’s well worth it and easy enough for novices. The trail is even wheelchair accessible. Some of these trees are over 2000 years old; looking up into the canopy gives you the same sensation as gazing at stars. Go to Stout Grove and look up, up, up. Be a part of the festival.
BATTERY POINT LIGHTHOUSE
On December 10, 1856 when the Battery Point Lighthouse was first lit, it became the 9th lighthouse on the California coast. Accessible only at low tide the lighthouse is located at the west end of the harbor, at the bottom of A Street. The last light keeper departed the tiny island in 1953 when the light was automated. It is now run as part museum, part navigation tool by the Del Norte County Historical Society.
Following is an account of the Tsunami strike of 1964, by Peggy Coons, who was living in the lighthouse as one of the curators at the time.
“The water withdrew as if someone had pulled the plug. It receded a distance of three-quarters of a mile from the shore. We were looking down, as though from a high mountain, into a black abyss. It was a mystical labyrinth of caves, canyons, basins, and pits, undreamed of in the wildest of fantasies.
The basin was sucked dry…In the distance, a black wall of water was rapidly building up, evidenced by a flash of white as the edge of the boiling and seething seawater reflected the moonlight.
Then the mammoth wall of water came barreling towards us. It was a terrifying mass, stretching up from the ocean floor and looking much higher than the island. Roxey shouted, “Let’s head for the tower!” – but it was too late. “Look out!” he yelled and we both ducked as the water struck, split and swirled over both sides of the island. It struck with such force and speed that we felt we were being carried along with the ocean. It took several minutes before we realized that the island hadn’t moved.”
South Beach in Crescent City was once a surfing Mecca, rumor has it the wet suit for surfing was invented here, where the water temperature doesn’t rise much above 59 degrees. Located next to the Port, there’s fun to be had in the lovely, coastal spot. Enjoy swimming, boating or sight seeing, stop into a local restaurant for dinner or hop a charter fishing boat. Ocean World Aquarium is just up the highway, stop in and pet a shark or meet a friendly sea lion. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it in the beachfront park that separates down town from the harbor area, or simply take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the sea lions and sand.