The Tolowa and Yurok are the original inhabitants of the area now known as Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. The Tolowa derive from Athabascan-speaking peoples whose aboriginal lands extend north into Oregon and east along Mill Creek and the Smith River. The Yurok language has Algonquian roots; their aboriginal lands extend south to the Little River and east along the Klamath River.
Both the Tolowa and Yurok utilize the bountiful ocean. They also hunt and gather from inland mountain ranges and free-flowing rivers. Their important foods include salmon, steelhead, smelt, clams, deer, elk, berries and acorns. The region’s native people suffered enormous losses from genocide and disease upon the arrival of Euro-Americans in the 19th century. Today’s Tolowa and Yurok descendants flourish in a thriving society—continuing their cultural life ways, language programs, and tribal governments.
A Legacy of Logging
This area once contained some of the world’s oldest, tallest trees. The Del Norte coast’s redwoods are part of the largest remaining contiguous section of ancient coast redwood forest. Abundant natural resources on the remote Del Norte coast drew new settlers in the 1850s. Logging quickly became the foremost industry; by the 1930s, many old-growth redwoods had been cut down. Parts of the Mill Creek watershed were logged off by a succession of mill owners. Hobbs, Wall & Company established a mill on Mill Creek’s upper watershed in the 1920s. They built the Del Norte and Southern Railroad to transport logs to mills in Crescent City. Constructing a railroad through the mountains was considered the North Coast’s most ambitious undertaking.
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park was established in 1925 with approximately 125 acres of protected land to create the park. Save the Redwoods League collaborated with funding partners to acquire 25,000 acres of the Mill Creek watershed in 2002, bringing the park’s total acres to 31,000 acres and making it California’s fifth-largest state park. The League's efforts to remove roads and restore Mill Creek’s forests and streams are returning the watershed to its former glory.
Redwood National and State Parks
Four North Coast redwood parks preserve more than 105,000 acres of old- and second-growth forest for posterity. Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Jedediah Smith Redwoods and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks and Redwood National Park have joined forces, cooperatively managed as Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) by California State Parks and the National Park Service. In 1980, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listed RNSP as a World Heritage Site; UNESCO named RNSP an International Biosphere Reserve in 1983.