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1. Trail from Trinidad to the Klamath Diggings*

The principal mining districts in northwestern California, during the period 1850-1853, were grouped in two areas—the Trinity River mines, of which Weaverville was the center, and the Klamath and Salmon River diggings, of which Orleans Bar was the focal point. It was from the diggings on the Trinity that the Gregg party started on the expedition resulting in the rediscovery of Trinidad and Humboldt Bays. Had the towns of the Humboldt Coast been dependent solely upon the trade with the Trinity River mines, they would have been far less prosperous in the 1850s. But, fortunately for them, adventurers in June 1850 discovered gold on Salmon River and two months later made a strike on the Klamath. The coastal towns were situated to exploit this trade. [1]

*See National Register Forms, pp. 267-279.

Within weeks after the establishment of the towns on the Humboldt Coast, trails were cut through the redwoods and across the mountains to the mining regions. Trinidad and Uniontown (Arcata) took the lead, as both were well situated by geography to act as supply stations for the diggings of the Klamath and Salmon River Districts. Trinidad, the first town established on this reach of the coast, was for a few years the leader in the packing trade, because it was located closer to the Klamath diggings than the others. During the summer of 1850, the packers, utilizing old Indian trails, opened a route from Trinidad up the coast to Big Lagoon, then across the divide to Redwood Creek. Redwood Creek was forded at "Tall Trees," and the trail ascended the Bald Hills to Elk Camp. It then passed along the crest of Bald Hills to French Camp, where the trail forked, one branch leading to the Klamath at Martins Ferry and the other into Hoopa Valley. [2]

The Trinidad trail followed a route dictated by the topography, and intersected the route leading up the Klamath from Klamath City to Martins Ferry. From Uniontown another trail led to Orleans Bar via the Bald Hills intersecting the Trinidad trail near the mouth of the Trinity. [3]

The period of greatest excitement at the Klamath and Salmon diggings was during the summer and autumn of 1850 and the ensuing winter. Consequently, during these months the packing trade was of the greatest importance to the coastal towns, and Trinidad, which was the chief supply depot, enjoyed its greatest prosperity. A large number of mules had been driven to that place over the trail from Sonoma in May 1850, but the demands of the packing trade made it necessary that more be shipped by sea during the winter. [4]

High prices were asked and paid for transporting freight. Two dollars a pound was asked and received for the trip from Trinidad to the Salmon mines. This raised the price of all imported items to an all-but-prohibitive figure, but such were the times that the miners were prepared to pay the price asked. In November 1851 Indian Agent McKee paid $20 for a hundredweight of flour at Durkee's. Ferry and reported that that was ten dollars under the market price. [5]

John Daggett was one of the adventurers who reached the Klamath diggings, in 1852, via the Trinidad trail. He recalled that from Trinidad they found it necessary to "furnish our own transportation, carrying blankets on our own backs," as there were few if any inns on this route to the mining district.

"We passed first through the grand belt of old redwood trees, a sight long to be remembered, thence over the bald-hill country, abounding at that time in elk." [6]

During the Red Cap War of 1855, pack trains were attacked and traffic over the trail was cut. Supplies at the Klamath and Salmon River diggings ran short. With the return of peace, traffic improved. To guard the Trinidad trail and to protect the ranches that had been established on the Bald Hills, troops were posted at Elk Camp in 1862 and 63. These soldiers were supplied by pack trains from Trinidad. The section of the Trinidad trail leading from Big Lagoon, crossing Redwood Creek at "Tall Trees," and ascending the Bald Hills to Elk Camp was abandoned after the construction—in the final decade of the 19th century—of the Bald Hills road, connecting Orick with the Bald Hills. The trail from Elk Camp down to Redwood Creek and the "Tall Trees" was reopened by the Arcata Redwood Company within the past five years. This was done as a public relations project by Arcata foresters. [7]

Over 100 years before the team from the National Geographic Society in 1964 measured the Howard A. Libbey Tree and ascertained that it was the "world's tallest tree," packers and travelers on the Trinidad-Klamath Trail were aware of the great height of the redwood groves on Redwood Creek. As the trail crossed the stream close to the grove, the packers undoubtedly marveled at its size.

Mr. H. Vanderpool, in the late spring of 1853, wrote the editor of the Sacramento Daily Union that near Trinidad Bay there was "a magnificent redwood forest, in which there were a number of trees of very extraordinary size." The largest of these trees was on Eel Creek and "measured 2 feet from its base, the almost incredible circumference of one hundred and twenty feet!" A second tree on the Trinidad-Klamath Trail, between Elk and Redwood camps, which had fallen, "accommodated 17 persons and 19 cargoes or mule packs with abundant room for shelter for three weeks, during the rainy season of 1851." A third tree in the same area measured 91 feet in circumference, one yard from its base, while a fourth, "which was prostrate, was from 70 to 80 feet in circumference, 291 feet in length," with a portion of the top broken off in the fall.

Vanderpool championed these trees "as having no parallel for size in the known history of the world." [8]

2. Trail from Trinidad to the Mouth of the Klamath

A trail was opened from Trinidad up the coast to the mouth of the Klamath in the spring of 1850. This route facilitated communications between the shortlived boomtown of Klamath City and Trinidad. It was the route over which most of the adventurers reached the Gold Bluffs. Superintendent Buell and Lieutenant Hardcastle conducted the Mad and Eel River Indians who had escaped the massacre of February 1860 up this trail to the Klamath River Reservation. In 1862 the Postmaster-General established a mail route from Arcata to Crescent City, via Trinidad and Gold Bluffs. J. F. Denny was awarded the contract to carry the mail. For $1,750 per year, beginning July 2, he would make one round tripper week with the mail. His route between Trinidad and the Klamath was this trail. [9]

As on many early western trails, a man traveling between the Klamath and Trinidad had to be on his guard. Pat McGrath, in the winter of 1875, left Baker City, Idaho Territory, en route to Eureka. About midway between the Klamath and Gold Bluffs, Pat was stopped by nine Indians, who asked for money. After relieving Pat and his traveling companion of their money, they tied them up and stripped them of their packs and clothing. While the Indians were directing their attention toward Pat, his friend kicked loose his bonds and fled. Pat now cried that "Soldiers were coming," and the redmen dropped everything and raced to their canoe, which was hidden in a slough. [10]

After freeing himself, Pat made his way to Mrs. Johnston's. To show him how lucky he was, Mrs. Johnston took Pat to the beach and pointed to a freshly dug grave. Here rested a white man, whose body had been found several days before in the surf. He had met his death at the hands of Indians. Several Indians had been heard to boast that they would take the lives of five whites in revenge for an injury done one of their people accused of stealing a horse in Arcata. One of the men presumed marked for death was Henry Orman, the manager of the Gold Bluff diggings. [11]

The Trinidad-Klamath Trail paralleled the beach from Stone Lagoon to Lower Gold Bluff. It then forked. While one branch continued up the beach fronting the bluffs, the main trail ascended the ridge north of Major Creek and led eastward to Boyes' Prairie on Prairie Creek, then swinging to be west, it rejoined the other trail at Upper Gold Bluff. The trail then parallelled the Pacific as far as the mouth of the Klamath. [12]

3. Crescent City-Klamath Trail

Even before the establishment of Crescent City in 1853, there was a trail of sorts leading down the coast from Pebble Beach to the mouth of the Klamath. This trail had been used by Tolowa and Yurok trading and war parties, while Jed Smith and his mountain men had followed portions of it in 1828. Ehernberg and his companions in 1850 had advanced down this trail. This route followed the beach where ever feasible, travelers awaiting a low tide. Today's Endert's Beach could be reached without difficulty, provided the traveler watched his tides. From there the trail led up over Ragged Ass Hill, coming out at Last Chance. The Indians and whites traveling afoot often went from Damnation Creek to Wilson Creek by way of the beach, when the tide was out, but the jagged rocks made this route impassable to horsemen. [13]

With the establishment of the Klamath River Reservation in 1855, Subagent Whipple turned out a crew improving the trail to Crescent City. When Lieutenant Crook and Company D, 4th Infantry, marched from Crescent City to the Reservation in October 1857, they traveled via this trail as far as Rekwoi. Crook in the fall of 1859 organized and sent fatigue parties to improve the trail. Earlier he had had a trail cut from Fort Ter-Waw to the False Klamath. In June 1862 when Company G, 2d California, abandoned Fort Ter-Waw, the soldiers marched from Rekwoi to Smith River via this route. Beginning on July 2 of that year, Denny carried mail over the trail.

Travel from Crescent City to the Klamath was described by an early resident:

I left Crescent City at 8 a.m., and in one hour and fifteen minutes I was at the summit of Ragged Ass Hill. The brush-lined trail winds down the coast for a distance of about four miles, and then turning to the left at the end of another mile, crosses Damnation Creek, from whence it is three miles to the upper end of Damnation Ridge. It is then about four miles through the redwoods [to Wilson Creek]. [14]

When Peter Louis DeMartin settled on Wilson Creek in 1877, he was compelled to pack in by mules. If he had any produce to market or needed supplies in large quantities he rented Jim Isle's big boat. This craft manned by six Indians was used for trips to and from DeMartin's place on the False Klamath and Crescent City. [15]

Travel to coastal points was usually by boat, but when high seas prevented steamers and schooners from landing or taking on passengers at Crescent City, persons in a hurry to reach San Francisco would secure horses and ride down the trail to Eureka, where their chances of securing passage south were more favorable. A man who was a member of one of these groups reported that in November 1881, he and his companions left Crescent City at 5 a.m., the 13th. They made good time for the first five miles, but progress slowed as they climbed Ragged Ass Hill. About 10 o'clock, they were able to look back and see Crescent City. "The sun shone out on the ocean, and the lighthouse and town seemed not more than two miles off." After being ferried across the Klamath by the Yurok, they proceeded along the beach to Johnston's, where they fed their horses and ate. Leaving Johnston's, they climbed a steep cliff, after first dismounting and holding onto the tails of their horses. Descending onto the beach, they pushed onto the Lower Gold Bluff, where they arrived at 7 p.m. The next day, they rode to Savage's where they were able to secure a buggy to drive them into Trinidad, where they arrived at 3 p.m. [16]

4. The Kelsey Trail*

To facilitate travel to the mining camps on the middle Klamath, Ben Kelsey was hired to cut a trail from Crescent City to the Klamath. The people of Yreka raised the money to complete their end of the road. The Kelsey Trail was used for almost a quarter century to supply the mining camps of the middle Klamath, and western Del Norte and Siskiyou Counties. Kelsey was paid $4,200 for this project. [17]

The Kelsey trail on leaving Crescent City crossed Howland Hill and Mill Creek. [18] Two miles beyond Mill Creek, the Kelsey Trail was joined by the Bense Trail from Crescent City. It then ascended Bald Hill and bore away to the southeast, following the ridge paralleling South Fork of Smith River. [19]

*See National Register Forms, pp. 281-294.

5. Cold Spring Mountain Trail

The first trail opened by white packers from Crescent City to Oregon Territory was the Cold Spring Mountain Trail. On leaving Crescent City, this trail crossed Elk Valley, passed over Howland Hill, descended Mill Creek, crossed Smith River at Catching's Ferry, and ascended the ridge separating the watersheds of Rock and Myrtle Creeks. The trail continued on to the Oregon diggings at Sailors Creek by way of Cold Spring Mountain. [20]

This trail was an instant success, as many as 500 mules a week being packed out of Crescent City for the Sailors Creek diggings. In June 1854 the Crescent City Herald announced, "Our present trail [to Oregon] needing some repairs in different places;" the sum of $1,700 was subscribed by the citizens in a few hours, "to be applied to that purpose," and seven men were sent to repair the Cold Spring Mountain Trail. [21]

6. Ah Pah Trail

By 1882 a trail had been opened from Boyes' Prairie to the Klamath. Near the southeast corner of Section 32, Township 12 North, Range 2 East, the trail forked, one branch reaching the Klamath at the mouth of Ah Pah Creek and the other striking the river opposite the Yurok village of Serper (Suppar). [22]

In the early 1900s, C. W. Ward's Ah Pah Ranch was a sportsman's mecca, which featured "the grandest salmon known on the Pacific Coast for the daily bill of fare." At the ranch two expert Indian guides and trackers, Henry McDonald and Charles Frye, could be hired. To reach the ranch, it was necessary to rent horses at Boyes' and take the Ah Pah Trail. [23]

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Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004