Lost Coast

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Lost Coast
Region of California
Morning on the Lost Coast.jpg
The Lost Coast
USA California location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Lost Coast
Location in California
Coordinates: 40°26′24″N124°24′34″W / 40.4401°N 124.4095°W / 40.4401; -124.4095
CountryFlag of the United States.svg  United States
StateFlag of California.svg  California

The Lost Coast is a mostly natural and undeveloped area of the California North Coast in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, which includes the King Range. It was named the "Lost Coast" after the area experienced depopulation in the 1930s. [1] In addition, the steepness and related geotechnical challenges of the coastal mountains made this stretch of coastline too costly for state highway or county road builders to establish routes through the area, leaving it the most undeveloped and remote portion of the California coast. [2] Without any major highways, communities in the Lost Coast region such as Petrolia, Shelter Cove, and Whitethorn are isolated from the rest of California.


The region lies roughly between Rockport and Ferndale. At the south end, State Route 1, which runs very close along the coast for most of its length, suddenly turns inland at Rockport before merging with U.S. Route 101 at Leggett. At the north end, State Route 211 begins its journey at Ferndale, heading towards Highway 101 in Fernbridge. Section 511 of the California Streets and Highways Code still says that "Route 211 is from Route 1 near Rockport to Route 101 near Fernbridge", but it is unlikely that the portion south of Ferndale will be built. Most of the region's coastline is now part of either Sinkyone Wilderness State Park or King Range National Conservation Area.

Geology and climate

The Lost Coast consists of undivided Cretaceous marine metasedimentary and sedimentary rocks of the North American Plate steeply uplifted by Mendocino Triple Junction interactions with the Pacific Plate and Gorda Plate. The Lost Coast includes Tertiary marine sedimentary formations north of the Mattole River and a portion of the Franciscan Assemblage called Point Delgada at Shelter Cove. [3] The steepness of uplift has created a coastal ridge forming a drainage divide parallel to the coast. The drainage pattern between Usal Creek and the Mattole River is a series of short streams with steep channel gradients. [4]

Like the surrounding coast, the Lost Coast experiences a wet season and a dry season. The wet season ranges from October to April. The King Range mountains collect significant moisture from storms coming in from the Pacific Ocean, making it one of the wettest sections of the California coastline. Local weather stations typically record over 100 in (2,500 mm) annually of rainfall, and during wet years, over 200 in (5,100 mm) can fall along the Lost Coast. Snow can blanket the higher peaks after storms, but will melt quickly.

From May to September, the mountain areas are mostly warm and dry with temperatures reaching 80–90 °F in mid-summer, but the weather is still highly variable, with some days of fog and light rain. [5]

Humboldt County

Coastline near Shelter Cove Lost Coast.jpg
Coastline near Shelter Cove

Much of the land in the area is owned by the federal government, and in 1970, more than 60,000 acres (240 km2) were designated the King Range National Conservation Area. [2]

Because of the rugged and remote location, the small towns of Shelter Cove, Whitethorn and Petrolia are popular with those looking for quiet respite. The area is known for its black sand beaches, which get their color from dark colored sandstone called greywacke and an older compressed shale produced by tectonic activity of one continental and two oceanic plates meeting just offshore. [6]

Mendocino County

Usal Creek on the Lost Coast in Mendocino County. Usal.png
Usal Creek on the Lost Coast in Mendocino County.

Early European settlers of this area began harvesting bark of the tanoak tree for tanning hides into leather. Bark collectors formed the small community of Kenny around springs at the headwaters of the north fork of Usal Creek. A wharf was built at Bear Harbor in 1884 for loading bark onto ships. The Bear Harbor and Eel River Railroad incorporated in 1896 to connect the wharf to a sawmill being built on the South Fork Eel River at Andersonia, California. The location of the railroad shops was named Moody for the proprietor (Louis Alton Moody) of a nearby hotel and saloon. The community of Andersonia, Anderson Gulch, and the Anderson Cliffs of the Lost Coast are named for sawmill owner Henry Neff Anderson, who was killed in a construction accident in 1905. Sawmill and railroad operation languished after Anderson's death, and the facilities were dismantled in 1921. [7]

Usal Redwood Company built a sawmill and 1,600-foot (490 m) wharf at the mouth of Usal Creek in 1889. The company town of Usal was built around the mill and a railroad for transporting logs extended three miles up Usal Creek. A fire in 1902 destroyed the sawmill, schoolhouse, warehouse, and county bridge over Usal Creek. [7] The railroad was dismantled; but a few structures, including a hotel, survived until destroyed by fire in 1969. Steep terrain and unfavorable coastal mooring conditions delayed timber harvesting of Jackass Creek drainage until internal combustion machinery was available for transport. The company town of Wheeler, California, was built for logging operations from 1948 to 1959. Sinkyone Wilderness State Park began acquisition of Lost Coast property in 1975. [8]

Backpackers taking-in the views of California's coastline Lost Coast backpacking.JPG
Backpackers taking-in the views of California's coastline


The geology of the Lost Coast makes it very difficult to establish routes through the area. State Route 1, California's Pacific Coast Highway, was originally planned to continue up the coast through the region. In 1984, admitting that such construction was not feasible, Caltrans re-routed the northern segment of Highway 1 from Rockport to Leggett and renumbered the portion that was built from Ferndale to Fernbridge as State Route 211.

Without any major highways or county thoroughfares in the area, the secluded communities within the Lost Coast are only accessible by land via small mountain roads. Mattole Road runs south from Ferndale to Petrolia, while Shelter Cove Rd. and Briceland Thorn Rd. form the main route connecting Shelter Cove with US 101 to the east.

Shelter Cove Airport in Shelter Cove is a small public airport with only one runway, making it possible to fly in when weather permits. Communities right on the coast are also accessible by boat.

Related Research Articles

State Route 1 (SR 1) is a major north–south state highway that runs along most of the Pacific coastline of the U.S. state of California. At a total of just over 656 miles (1,056 km), it is the longest state route in California. SR 1 has several portions designated as either Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), Cabrillo Highway, Shoreline Highway, or Coast Highway. Its southern terminus is at Interstate 5 (I-5) near Dana Point in Orange County and its northern terminus is at U.S. Route 101 (US 101) near Leggett in Mendocino County. SR 1 also at times runs concurrently with US 101, most notably through a 54-mile (87 km) stretch in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Humboldt County, California County in California, United States

Humboldt County is a county in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 132,646. The county seat is Eureka.

Ferndale, California City in California, United States

Ferndale is a city in Humboldt County, California, United States. Its population was 1,371 at the 2010 census, down from 1,382 at the 2000 census. The city contains dozens of well-preserved Victorian storefronts and homes. Ferndale is the northern gateway to California's Lost Coast and the city, which is sited on the edge of a wide plain near the mouth of the Eel River, is also located near the extensive preserves of coast redwood forests.

King Range (California)

The King Range is a mountain range of the Outer Northern California Coast Ranges System, located entirely within Humboldt County on the North Coast of California.

Honeydew, California Unincorporated community in California, United States

Honeydew is an unincorporated community in Humboldt County, California. It is located 17 miles (27 km) south of Scotia, at an elevation of 322 feet, 15 miles (24 km) from the Pacific Ocean in the Lost Coast, near the King Range. It has a general store, elementary school, post office, and a few houses nearby. Many of the locals live in the hills surrounding the Mattole valley, named after the Mattole River which runs through the valley. The ZIP code is 95545 and the community is inside area code 707.

California State Route 211 Highway in California

State Route 211 is a state highway in the U.S. state of California that connects Ferndale with U.S. 101 in Humboldt County. The highway was originally designed to be the northernmost segment of State Route 1, but after construction of the Coast Highway through the Lost Coast region was abandoned, the route to Ferndale was renumbered to SR 211.

Area code 707 Area code for northwestern California, United States

Area code 707 is a telephone area code in the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) for the northwestern part of the U.S. state of California. It was created by a split of area code 415 on March 1, 1959. It serves part of the northern San Francisco Bay Area, as well as the North Coast. Major cities in the area code include Napa, Sebastopol, Vallejo, Benicia, Fairfield, Santa Rosa, Windsor, Healdsburg, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Fort Bragg, Rio Vista, Crescent City, Eureka, Clearlake, Vacaville, Dixon, and Ukiah.

Mattole River river in the United States of America

The Mattole River is a river on the north coast of California, that flows northerly, then westerly into the Pacific Ocean. The vast majority of its 62 miles (100 km) course is through southern Humboldt County, though a short section of the river flows through northern Mendocino County. Communities, from north to south, closely associated with the Mattole River include: Petrolia, Honeydew, Ettersburg, Thorn Junction, and Whitethorn. The river enters the ocean at the Mattole Estuary about 4 miles (6.4 km) west-southwest of Petrolia and 10 miles (16 km) south of Cape Mendocino.

North Coast (California) Region of California in the United States

The North Coast of California is the region in Northern California that lies on the Pacific coast between San Francisco Bay and the Oregon border. The area is named after the dense redwood forests throughout the region. It commonly includes Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties and sometimes includes two counties from the San Francisco Bay area, Marin and Sonoma.

Petrolia, California Unincorporated community in California, United States

Petrolia is an unincorporated community in Humboldt County, California, 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Cape Mendocino, at an elevation of 121 feet (37 m) above sea level, within ZIP Code 95558, and area code 707. Petrolia was the site of the first oil well drilled in California.

Cape Mendocino Light Lighthouse in California, United States

Cape Mendocino Light was a navigation light at Cape Mendocino, California. The former lighthouse was relocated to Shelter Cove near Point Delgada, California in 1998, and the historic Fresnel lens to Ferndale, California, in 1948. An automated beacon operated for a number of years but was removed in May 2013.

Shelter Cove, California census-designated place in California, United States

Shelter Cove is a census-designated place in Humboldt County, California. It lies at an elevation of 138 feet. Shelter Cove is on California's Lost Coast where the King Range meets the Pacific Ocean. A nine-hole golf course surrounds the one-runway Shelter Cove Airport at the center of Shelter Cove's commercial district. Utilities are provided by the Humboldt County Resort Improvement District #1 and boating access to the sea is managed by the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation & Conservation District. The population was 693 at the 2010 census.

Whitethorn, California Unincorporated community in California, United States

Whitethorn is an unincorporated community in Humboldt County, California. It is located 9.5 miles southwest of Garberville, at an elevation of 1,024 feet, with a population of 817. Whitethorn shares a ZIP Code, 95589, with Shelter Cove, California. It is located along California's Lost Coast.

Fernbridge is an unincorporated community at an elevation of 39 feet (12 m) in Humboldt County, California, named for a historic bridge, 3 miles (4.8 km) west-northwest of Fortuna.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is a state park in Mendocino County, California. The wilderness area borders the Pacific Ocean to the west and the King Range National Conservation Area to the north. The nearest settlement is the unincorporated town of Leggett. The lack of major road and highway access has led to the Sinkyone Wilderness area being referred to as the Lost Coast.

King Range Wilderness

The King Range Wilderness is a 42,585-acre (172 km2) federally designated wilderness area within the King Range National Conservation Area in northern California, United States. The area was set aside with the passage of the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act of 2006. The Bureau of Land Management is the responsible agency and is currently working on a Management Plan for the King Range Wilderness. This section of California's coastline is known as the "Lost Coast", a landscape too rugged for highway building, which forced the construction of State Highway 1 and U.S. 101 inland. The King Range Wilderness is the longest undeveloped coast, outside of Alaska, in the United States.

Rockport, California Former settlement in California, United States

Rockport is a former settlement in an unincorporated area of Mendocino County, California. It is located 7.25 miles (12 km) north-northwest of Westport, at an elevation of 30 feet.

Camp Grant, California

Camp Grant is a ghost town in Humboldt County located on the South Fork Eel River 2 miles (3.2 km) northeast of Weott and 3 miles (4.8 km) east of Dyerville. It was originally settled by Northern Sinkyone people, followed by a Union Army camp and later a logging and railroad support settlement for the construction of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad.

Andersonia, California Unincorporated community in California, United States

Andersonia is an unincorporated community in Mendocino County, California. It is located near U.S. Route 101 on the South Fork of the Eel River 1 mile (1.6 km) north-northwest of Piercy, at an elevation of 541 feet.

Usal Creek

Usal Creek is the southernmost drainage basin unbridged by California State Route 1 on California's Lost Coast. The unpaved county road following the westernmost ridge line south from the King Range crosses Usal Creek near the Pacific coast, but the bridge may be removed during winter months. Usal Creek, 9.7 miles (15.6 km) long, drains about 28 square miles (73 km2) on the Mendocino Coast and empties into the Pacific Ocean near the former company town of Usal.


  1. Gudde, Erwin G.; Bright, William (2004). California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names (4th ed.). University of California Press. ISBN   978-0-520-24217-3.
  2. 1 2 "King Range National Conservation Area". Bureau of Land Management. Archived from the original on 2012-07-02. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  3. Strand, Rudolph G. Geologic Map of California:Redding Sheet (1962) State of California Resources Agency
  4. Jennings, Charles W. and Strand, Rudolph G. Geologic Map of California:Ukiah Sheet (1960) State of California Resources Agency
  5. "King Range National Conservation Area: Weather". Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior. 2013-06-25. Archived from the original on 2014-05-22. Retrieved 2014-05-22.
  6. Lost Coast Black Sands information sign at Black Sands beach head parking lot, northernmost set of two information panels near Shelter Cove, California, published by the Bureau of Land Management – Kings Range National Conservation Area, seen September 3, 2012
  7. 1 2 Carranco, Lynwood (1982). Redwood Lumber Industry. Golden West Books. pp. 208–209. ISBN   0-87095-084-3.
  8. Sinkyone Wilderness State Park Preliminary Impact Plan and Draft EIR, California Department of Parks and Recreation, June 2006.