Following the Trails

Though sparsely populated by East Coast and Western European standards, American Indians had lived along the coast and in the mountainous interior for at least 3,000 years. Before Crescent City was established in 1853, a trail existed down the coast from Pebble Beach to the mouth of the Klamath.

It was used primarily by the Tolowa and Yurok tribes. Jedediah Smith is later said to have used the trail.

The route followed the beach, and was more easily used at low tide. It ran over over Ragged Ass Hill to end at Last Chance.

Some travelers also accessed the beach via Damnation Creek to end at Wilson Creek. The trail was improved from the Klamath area to Crescent City during the mid-1850s when a second trail that led from Fort Ter-Waw to the False Klamath was cut.

About five years earlier, a trail had been cut from Trinidad to the mouth of the Klamath. It also followed the beach at the base of the Gold Bluff hills.

It was used by J.F. Denny after 1862 to transport mail between Arcata and Crescent City via Trinidad and Gold Bluffs. Denny made $1,750 a year to make one round trip per week.

The trail paralleled the beach from Stone Lagoon to Lower Gold Beach, then split. One branch continued down the beach.

The other led up over a ridge north of Major Creek and went east to Boyes’ Prairie on Prairie Creek. It next headed west and rejoined the other trail at Upper Gold Bluff.

It then paralleled the ocean to the mouth of the Klamath River. Peter Louis DeMartin, one of the settlers who lived on Wilson Creek, used mules to pack in when he began living there.

For trips that involved larger quantities of goods to be moved, he rented a boat owned by Jim Isle. It was rowed by six men.

Travel along coastal areas was usually by boat, except when high seas affected their travel. When that happened, travelers generally rode horses and follow the trails to Eureka.

Yurok rowers would ferry travelers across the Klamath. When they negotiated Ragged Ass Hill, travelers dismounted to ease the horse’s way, but held onto its tail to make their own upward passage more easy.

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About Tom Darby

French-born, American-raised, U.S. citizen, husband, father, friend, veteran, and writer.
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