The mission of California State Parks is
to provide for the health, inspiration and
education of the people of California by helping
to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological
diversity, protecting its most valued natural and
cultural resources, and creating opportunities
for high-quality outdoor recreation.
One hundred years ago,
Sinkyone Wilderness State
Park was an industrial
landscape, logged for its
natural resources. Today,
California State Parks supports equal access.
Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who
need assistance should contact the park at
(707) 986-7711. If you need this publication in an
alternate format, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296-0001
For information call: (800) 777-0369
(916) 653-6995, outside the U.S.
711, TTY relay service
Sinkyone Wilderness State Park
Briceland Thorn Road
Whitethorn, CA 95589
© 2011 California State Parks (Rev. 2016)
efforts are underway to
restore its wild beauty for
generations to come.
inkyone Wilderness State Park is
part of a wild and beautiful stretch of
shoreline known as “The Lost Coast.” This
rugged area, about 36 miles southwest of
Garberville, is one of the few places on
California’s long coastline that cannot be
reached by a state highway or paved road.
Fortunately for those who seek peace
and serenity, the remote location of this
rocky place has foiled decades of attempts
by developers who had hoped to exploit
its stunning scenery.
The thick morning fog that develops
as the land meets the sea muffles most
sounds. As the fog threads its way over high
cliffs and settles in among the park’s tall
redwoods, only the thunder of the ocean’s
rolling surf and the faint barking of sea lions
reaches the ear of a silent hiker.
The Sinkyone people lived in the area
now known as Sinkyone Wilderness
State Park for thousands of years
before European contact. At the time
the Europeans arrived, the Sinkyone
population probably numbered as many
as 4,000. The boundaries of Sinkyone
lands extended east to the main stem of
the Eel River and the river’s South Fork,
south beyond what is now Leggett, and
west to the ocean.
The name Sinkyone was assigned by
20th-century ethnographers to classify
separate political groups who spoke the
same dialect of the Athabascan language
family. Each distinct political group
maintained its own geographic area and
self-identity, but all groups formed a
larger economy that delivered goods as
far as the Eastern United States.
This area was probably more densely
populated by Sinkyones before
the European incursion than it is now.
Today, many people of Sinkyone
descent live throughout the
passed down through
generations of Sinkyone
a highly productive
headed by local
Dollar resurrected the lumber company
for a while by use of skillful marketing and
partnerships. Despite good management,
Mr. Dollar shut the mill down in 1901.
In November 1908, the Nelson Lumber
Company of New York State acquired the mill
for $10 in gold.
The land continued to change hands
frequently, with various attempts to revive
logging operations. At the end of World
War II, the Georgia-Pacific Plywood and
Lumber Co. took over. In 1975, the State
of California began acquiring local land to
preserve as Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.
When concerned environmentalists sued to
prevent Georgia-Pacific from clear-cutting
the remaining forest in 1986, the lumber
company sold the property to the Trust for
Public Land. The funds necessary to purchase
3,000 acres of trees came from the Save the
Redwoods League, the Trust for Public Land,
Photo courtesy of Julie Martin, Save the Redwoods League
slide lumber products to
waiting schooners — the
preferred method to load
lumber products onto
ships. He called the gulch
“Anderson’s Landing,” later
Lumberyards shipped wood
to markets into the early 1900s.
Lumber schooners departed
regularly from Usal, Anderson’s
Landing, Needle Rock, and
other local ports. Eventually,
roads and railroad tracks were
built. No longer dependent
Wharf constructed at Bear Harbor for lumber shipping, 1893
on the sea for transportation,
people settled further inland.
tribal groups, using time-tested methods,
The Bear Harbor Railroad was built in
have been instrumental in bringing
early 1890s to haul tanoak from inland
restorative healing to the landscape.
forests to Bear Harbor. Plans to extend
the line from Bear Harbor to a mill near
In the 1850s, early European settlers
Piercy were cancelled
claimed land in the area of today’s Shelter
after a fatal accident
Cove. Beginning in the 1860s, settlers
and the 1906
occupied the land around what is now
called Bear Harbor, where they grazed
remnants may still be
cattle. Soon the landscape was devoted
seen in the park.
to cattle and sheep ranches, in addition to
By 1892, the demand
farms and orchards.
for lumber had
Until then, the only routes into and out
of the area were those used by the native
of acres of virgin coast
people. By the mid-1860s, lines of pack
redwoods. John A.
mules carried a steady supply of local
Wonderly, who had
tanoak bark to San Francisco’s tanneries.
acquired the Usal
Before long, the settlers had to build
Lumber Company in
wharfs and chutes to aid in loading waiting
1888, shut it down
ships with lumber, tanoak bark, and other
because of the lack
profitable cargoes. In 1872, Robert Anderson
of timber. In 1894 San
built a wire chute at Little Jackass Gulch to
Redwood grove on Lost Coast Trail
the State Coastal Conservancy, and other
dedicated donors. These acres were added
to Sinkyone Wilderness State Park in 1986.
Sinkyone Wilderness lies near the junction
of three major tectonic plates — the Pacific,
North American, and Gorda plates. The
“Mendocino triple junction” is one of the
most seismically active places in the state.
The park’s dramatic, sheer coastal bluffs
are just one landform resulting from fault
movement. At the north end of the park just
south of Whale Gulch, fault-related landforms
include a narrow, incised linear valley with
several sag ponds, which are clear indicators
of fault activity.
The park’s beaches are mostly black sand,
with tiny rock fragments derived from the
local Franciscan bedrock. The sands are
made up of dark, iron-rich mineral grains,
and small cobbles and gravels. Sometimes,
unusual purple and pink sand beaches
appear within the park and then vanish.
Brought about by the “washing” action
of the surf, this event occurs when waves
winnow the heavier sand grains back into
the sea, leaving behind a “frosting” of pink
or purplish garnet sand grains that cover the
underlying black sands.
Animals and Plants
Red, pinto, and flat abalone inhabit the
rocky intertidal waters. Steelhead, Coho, and
Chinook salmon live in tributaries, coastal
drainages, streams, and rivers. California
brown pelicans, rhinoceros auklets, and their
close relatives —tufted puffins — can often
be seen diving for fish.
The park’s small herd of
Roosevelt elk roams the coastal
prairies. Once almost countless,
the elk were nearly hunted out
of existence. Originally relocated
from Prairie Creek
Park, the elk were
rescued by the actions
of a group of ranchers who
saved the remaining elk and
species of special
concern, southern torrent
salamanders like cold, wet
places; tailed frogs find
refuge among stands of
and Sitka spruce.
Adult coastal giant
salamanders can be found in the forests, and
their larval stages are more conspicuous
in streams. Foothill yellow-legged frogs
prefer streams with rocky shores, such as
Overhead, raptors — including red-tailed
hawks, Cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks,
golden eagles, northern harriers, peregrine
falcons, spotted owls, and ospreys — descend
from the skies, seeking their prey.
Sinkyone Wilderness has steep slopes
heavily wooded with Douglas-fir forest closer
to the coast. Tanbark oak woodland grows
on the inland slopes. Coastal terraces are
covered with coastal prairie and coastal scrub
vegetation. Some old-growth redwoods along
the Lost Coast Trail survived the logging era.
Left: Roosevelt bull elk
Above: Small herd
of Roosevelt elk
resting at the Needle
Rock Visitor Center
Summer temperatures range from 45
to 75 degrees. Summer fog is usually gone by
mid-morning. Rain is most common between
November and May, when the temperatures
range from 35 to 55 degrees.
Climate change affects all living things
within the redwood forest. Experts
fear that the area’s increase in average
temperature and decrease in thick summer
fog and rain will endanger redwoods and the
other plants and creatures that depend on
the redwood environment.
The former ranch house of Calvin Cooper
Stewart and his family, built in the 1920s,
campgrounds, check in at the
Be extremely careful around the majestic
Needle Rock Visitor Center.
Roosevelt elk — they can be especially
dangerous. During mating season, massive
Trail camps — These firstbulls battle each other for the right to
come, first-served campsites
mate. When calves are born, elk cows
for backpackers are located
become fiercely protective. If you want to
between Bear Harbor and
take elk photos, stay on trails and use a
Usal Beach on the Lost
zoom lens; do not try to get close to the
elk. These fast-moving animals may be
Horse Camping —
found throughout the park.
Rarely, bears have been seen in the
is permitted at Usal Beach
areas; more elusive mountain
and Wheeler campgrounds.
lions roam at dawn and dusk.
Group Camping — Groups
Besides the abundance of birdlife and
of nine or more can be
the Roosevelt elk, you may spot various
accommodated at the Usal
Needle Rock Visitor Center
marine species. Watch migrating whales
Beach horse campground.
offshore from mid-January to mid-April.
Call (707) 986-7711 in
Marine mammals such as northern
now houses the Needle Rock Visitor Center.
advance for a Group Use Permit.
elephant seals, sea lions, or harbor seals
Needle Rock was once a small settlement
Hiking — The 22-mile Lost Coast Trail
may be seen hauling out along the
and a shipping point for Stewart’s ranch
parallels the coastline, traversing steep
operations. The center also displays
mountains and sloping prairies. Views from
Do not — under any circumstances —
the trail depend on the thickness of the
approach a marine mammal. Report a
Camping — Wilderness camping is the only
fog cover, especially during the summer
distressed marine mammal by calling
type available. Primitive campsites have
months. The fog-muffled sounds
the North Coast Marine Mammal
tables, fire rings, a nearby pit toilet, but no
and fragrances produce an aura
Center at (707) 465-6265.
developed water source. Bring your own
of great mystery.
Usal Beach Campground — The only
At this largely undeveloped
The park’s variety of marine,
drive-in campground in the park, the
wilderness park, there are
freshwaters and terrestrial
Usal Beach sites are in a meadow
currently no wheelchairhabitats support richly
area near the beach. Narrow
diverse wildlife. The offshore
rural roads are often
however, accessibility is
rocks, under the jurisdiction of
impassable, and RVs or
continually improving. For
the Bureau of Land Management,
trailers are not advisable.
or updates, visit
are managed by California State
Needle Rock and Bear
Parks and the California Department of
Harbor — To use
Fish and Wildlife.
• All of the park’s natural and cultural
resources are protected by state law, and
may not be disturbed in any way.
• Hunting and firearms are prohibited
anywhere in the park.
• Dogs must be kept on a leash no more
than six feet long, under human control at
all times. They must be confined to your
tent or vehicle at night. Except for service
animals, pets are not allowed on trails.
• Do not collect dead or down wood.
Purchase firewood at the visitor center for
campfires, or bring your own wood.
• Fires are permitted only in facilities
provided. Use portable stoves only in
designated areas. Fireworks are never
permitted in the park.
• Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Noise that may disturb others is not
permitted. Generators may be operated
only between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
• Pay in advance for campsite use. No
more than 8 people per site. Checkout
time is noon.
• Vehicle speed limit is 15 mph.
• Off-road vehicle usage is not allowed.
• Please clean up after yourself and your
pets. Store food in airtight containers.
• Stay on trails to avoid ticks. Wear lightcolored clothing in order to see them; tuck
pant legs into your socks and use repellent.
Check for ticks after hiking.
• Dispose of trash properly. Practice the
“Pack it in — pack it out” rule.
NEARBY STATE PARKS
• Humboldt Redwoods State Park
17119 Avenue of the Giants
Weott 95571 (707) 946-2263
• Richardson Grove State Park
1600 U.S. Hwy. 101, #8, Garberville 95542
• Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area
1.5 miles north of Leggett on Hwy. 101
Alder trees line a creek.
to Hwy. 101
N AT I O N A L
C O N S E R V AT I O N
B r i ce l an d
Trail: Hike & Horse
Jones Beach Camp
Bri c e l a
Jones Beach Trail
© 2011 California State Parks (Rev. 2016)
S TAT E PA R K
Bri c e
Note: Most roads
into the park are
to rough driving
trailers and RVs are
at any time.
Bear Harbor Camp
This park receives support in
part through a nonprofit group.
For more information, contact:
PO Box 276, Weott, CA 95571
L i tt
Hendy Woods SP
Big White Rock
Russian Gulch SP
Van Damme SP
Little Jackass Creek
Richardson Grove SP
King Range National
to Hwy. 1
ka s s