Van Damme

State Park - California

Van Damme State Park consists of about 1,831 acres (7.41 km2) of land in Mendocino County, California, near the town of Little River on State Route 1. It was named for Charles Van Damme (1881–1934), who was born in the area and purchased the land that is now the park with profits from a San Francisco ferry business. On his death, the property became part of the California state park system.



Vintage 1957 USGS 1:250000 Map of Ukiah in California. Published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).Vintage USGS - Ukiah - 1957

Vintage 1957 USGS 1:250000 Map of Ukiah in California. Published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Van Damme State Park consists of about 1,831 acres (7.41 km2) of land in Mendocino County, California, near the town of Little River on State Route 1. It was named for Charles Van Damme (1881–1934), who was born in the area and purchased the land that is now the park with profits from a San Francisco ferry business. On his death, the property became part of the California state park system.
Russian Gulch Mendocino Headlands Van Damme State Parks Our Mission 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. Roaring sea caves, a rare pygmy forest, ocean views from Victorian windows — welcome to Mendocino area state parks. California State Parks supports equal access. Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who need assistance should contact the park office at (707) 937-5804. If you need this publication in an alternate format, contact 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 Russian Gulch, Mendocino Headlands, and Van Damme State Parks Along Highway 1 • Mendocino, CA (707) 937-5804 © 2003 California State Parks (Rev. 2017) O n the Mendocino coast, the air smells of salt, and the crashing waves create a continuous resonance. The tall bluffs at this spot north of San Francisco resemble the rugged shores of the east coast, but with an unmistakable California flair. Victorian-era communities that overlook the sea reflect the New England roots of their builders who, in the ordinary course of life, added volumes to California’s colorful history. The Russian colony had failed by 1841. The Fort Ross property had various owners until 1906, when the fort and acreage were acquired by the State for restoration, reconstruction, and interpretation. Little River, Van Damme State Park MENDOCINO AREA STATE PARKS Two miles north of Mendocino, Russian Gulch State Park’s collapsed sea cave cuts 200 feet into the headlands to form the boiling surge known as the Devil’s Punchbowl. Mendocino is embraced on three sides by unmatched views from Mendocino Headlands State Park. Van Damme State Park, beginning at the mouth of the Little River, has a protected cove for divers, a fern canyon for hikers, and a unique forest of Mendocino pygmy cypress. The climate here is temperate year-round. Winter rains and cool summer fogs that usually burn off by mid-morning provide the moisture necessary for the thriving coastal redwood trees. of plenty, native groups often gathered to share the bounty. When Russian and Aleutian fur trappers arrived here in the early 1800s, they were likely the Pomo’s first contact with non-natives. When the Pomo were drawn into the mission system in the early 1800s, their way of life was forever altered. Within a generation or two, direct conflict and exposure to European diseases nearly decimated them. Today about 5,000 Pomo descendants, who still occupy parts of their ancestral lands, gather the raw materials to make some of the world’s finest Native American baskets and to pass on this ancient skill to the next generation of artisans. MENDOCINO HISTORY Native Americans The Pomo date back about 3,000 years on the North Coast. They built their main village of redwood bark houses at the mouth of Big River. The Pomo hunted large and small game, caught fish and shellfish, and gathered seaweed, acorns, and various seeds. Whatever they could not obtain locally, they acquired in trade with other groups; in times European and American Settlers Settled by emigrants from all over the world, the Mendocino area has a long history of entrepreneurial exploitation. In 1812 a ship owned by the Russian-American Company entered a cove beneath the bluffs of what would become North America’s southernmost Russian settlement, Fort Ross. In the 1830s, the American and Hudson’s Bay trappers passed through seeking mammal pelts. The Lumber Mills The brig Frolic sank off Point Cabrillo with its San Francisco-bound cargo in 1850. Attempts at salvage were largely unsuccessful. However, would-be salvagers, who had hoped to find treasures for the taking, looked around at the enormous stands of redwoods nearby and realized that they had found their fortune. Within two years, they had built a sawmill at the mouth of the Big River. In 1984 an archaeological team from San Jose State University discovered fragments of Chinese porcelain in housepits of a former Pomo settlement. This was the first indication that the Frolic’s cargo may have been partially salvaged by local native people. San Francisco engineer Harry Meiggs built the sawmill at Big River in 1852. By the early 1900s, Big River had become an important lumber town. In 1864 Little River was founded as a mill town to supply lumber to build San Francisco. Heavy logging diminished local timber resources; by 1893 the Little River Mill had closed, so businesses, services, and the school were abandoned. Near Russian Gulch, several small, short-term mills operated until the area became “logged over,” but the mills’ pier was used
Van Damme State Park ! Wel come Russian Gulch and Mendocino Headlands State Parks (707) 937-5804 OCCUPANCY Eight people are allowed per family campsite. FIRES AND FIREWOOD Please be cautious when building fires—wildfire danger is especially high during the summer. Fires are allowed only in established fire rings or camp stoves. Do not build ground fires outside the fire rings or leave campfires unattended. Do not gather firewood in the park—the nutrients must be allowed to recycle back into the ecosystem. You may purchase firewood at the Entrance Station and Camp Host Site. The sale of firewood provides funds for the Mendocino Area Park Association. These funds support interpretive programs in the park. VEHICLE PARKING You may have only three licensed pieces of equipment (including trailers and vehicles) in each campsite. All motorized vehicles are subject to fees. Call for information on the extra vehicle charge. For parking purposes, trailers are considered vehicles. CHECKOUT TIME Checkout time is noon. Please vacate your site by that time. DOGS Dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet and under control at all times. They are not permitted in buildings or on most trails. Dogs must be confined to a vehicle or tent from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. SPEED LIMIT Though the maximum speed limit is 15 mph, when pedestrians, bicyclists and children are present, even 15 mph might be too fast. Use good judgement. 64 62 60 58 63 61 65 68 56 67 59 55 57 70 69 54 52 71 51 53 31 50 Campground 49 47 72 Host 48 46 73 43 42 45 74 44 38 40 41 39 33 34 35 37 36 32 To Mendocino 66 Van Damme State Park Bog Little River 1 1 2 3 4 5 6 13 12 7 10 8 9 11 Visitor Campground Center Host Day-Use 14 15 16 17 21 18 19 20 To Little River Inn Phone Showers Restrooms 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 (maps not to scale) © 2002 California State Parks (rev. 11/2007) LEGEND Ranger Station To Fern Canyon Trail Parking RV Sanitation Accessible Features Hiking Trail Hike/Bike Campsite Campfire Center Picnic Area Vista Point Locked Gate Road Group Camping En Route Camping QUIET HOURS Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. To ensure an enjoyable experience for everyone, please do not disturb other campers, regardless of the time of day or night. NOISE Radios and other soundproducing devices must not be audible beyond your immediate campsite, regardless of the time of day or night. Engine driven generators or other devices are not to be operated between the hours of 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. MOUNTAIN BIKES Use designated paved roads, dirt roads and trails. All other areas are closed to mountain bikes. For emergencies call 2 ANIMAL WARNING Raccoons and foraging birds may come into the campground at any time of the day or night. Please lock all food in your food locker. If the site does not have a locker, put all food in your vehicle and cover it with a Mendocino blanket or towel. Headlands Do not keep State Park food in your 1 d tent or sleeping oa e R 08 k a 4 area, in exposed ice le L TY Litt OUN chests, or on storage shelves. C Place all garbage in dumpsters as soon as possible—do not allow it to Jackson accumulate. green Ever ing cO cean © 2002 California State Parks (rev. 11/2007) N Ri o. Bi r Rg d. ve ouse Ford H Blow Hole 4 8 10 5 6 7 9 Recreation Hall To Picnic Area & Headland Lans . er Dr Hees n Kaste Heeser Dr. t Goand Isla c i fi Campground 19 20 24 To Waterfall 21 22 Host 18 23 17 25 26 27 Russi 13 14 15 16 an G 28 29 30 ulch Creek 1 3 11 12 t Stree Main Portuguese Beach Pa 1 911 Day Use Only (No camping) Lake Little Ukiah Russian Gulch State Park Big River Beach Big River CAMPING RESERVATIONS You may make camping reservations up to seven months and no less than 48 hours in advance by calling 1-800-444-7275 (TTY 1-800274-7275). Reservations may be charged to your VISA®, Discover® or MasterCard®. To make online reservations, visit our Web site at

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