Wildlife Watching at Klamath Beach and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Day 59 (September 27)
Klamath Beach and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs Beach were at the top of my Redwoods wish list, however during our visit this section of the Redwoods state and national parks is closed for maintenance. Seeking out an equally impressive and unique spot to spend our morning, a helpful ranger at Jedediah Smith State Park (always ask a ranger!) steers us toward Klamath Beach, which he explains is a particularly wonderful place for wildlife watching this time of year.

Harbor Seals on the sand spit in the Klamath River at Klamath Beach, California

Crescent Beach

We head south from Crescent City on Hwy 101 for about 25 miles, stopping a couple of times along the coast to walk beaches whose names I do not make note of. I believe this is Crescent Beach? These are probably the only blue-sky coastline images I have of the Crescent City area.

Crescent Beach near Crescent City, California

Crescent Beach near Crescent City, California

Crescent Beach near Crescent City, California

The clouds and mist hover over this lovely pond whose name I also make no note of. Admittedly, I spend too little time journaling while we are wandering the north coast Redwoods parks. Apologies for the information gaps!

Freshwater Pond along Pacific Coast Highway 101 south of Crescent City, California

Klamath Beach

Today’s southernmost stop on our lovely drive down the coast highway is Klamath Beach, best visited when the tide is low. We take a short .2 mile walk on the beach past ceremonial Yurok structures (please be respectful and do not approach), then via a wooded path to reach a beautiful stretch of beach lined with huge boulders, driftwood, windswept evergreens, and a sizable sea stack just feet offshore in the river. This pristine land is adjacent to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and is managed by the Yurok tribe of Klamath.

Although the sky is somewhat clear when we first arrive, fog rolls in during the hour or two that we spend walking the beach, taking hundreds of photographs, and witnessing the cycle of life and the season. What an amazing experience!

Klamath Beach, California

Klamath Beach, California

Vultures at Klamath Beach, California

Vulture at Klamath Beach, California

Salmon are spawning at the confluence of the Klamath River and the Pacific Ocean. We see at least a hundred harbor seals and sea lions resting on the sand spit in the river, and dozens more swimming, barking, and feeding joyfully and frenetically in the river and the rough ocean surf. Large flocks of pelicans and gulls are also in attendance for the seasonal feast.

 

Sea lions and seagulls feeding at the confluence of the Klamath River and Pacific Ocean

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Sea lion feeding at the confluence of the Klamath River and Pacific Ocean

Sea lion feeding at the confluence of the Klamath River and Pacific Ocean

Harbor Seals on the sand spit in the Klamath River at Klamath Beach, California

Sea lions and seagulls feeding at the confluence of the Klamath River and Pacific Ocean

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Dressed for warmth in three layers, I walk the beach with film camera in hand – a poor choice for the weather conditions. Robert shoots most of the good  pictures at Klamath Beach with our DSLR.

On our way back  to the car I stop to shoot a photo of the three hundredth tsunami evacuation route sign we’ve seen during our weeks on the PNW coast.

Tsunami evacuation route sign at Klamath Beach

These concrete bear statues are remains of the beautiful 1920’s era Douglas Memorial Bridge, which washed away during catastrophic flooding in 1964 that resulted in the complete destruction of and relocation of the town of Klamath.

Bear Statues - remains of the Douglas Memorial Bridge in Klamath, California

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

The Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park visitor center is a charming historic structure. Elk herds graze the prairie adjacent to the visitor center, though this area had recently undergone a prescribed burn so the elk have moved elsewhere for the time being.

Historic Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park visitor center on Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway near Hwy 101

Early afternoon is not the best time of day for sighting elk, however we do luck out and spot a solitary bull elk grazing in the Elk Meadows area, a few miles south of the Prairie Creek visitor center. He is magnificent!

Huge bull elk in Elk Meadow, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

I’m obsessed with these furry, slightly scary looking caterpillars. Can any of you dear readers identify the species? (I cannot.)

Furry, slightly scary looking black and yellow caterpillar in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

We stop for a late lunch in the Elk Meadows picnic area, and take a stroll on a short and uninspiring trail, contemplating taking a side trail that heads up into the deep forest. We reconsider because we detect a strong bear scent but have no bear spray, bear bell, or trekking poles with us.

Making a more sensible choice, we start making our way back north toward Crescent City and stop off in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park for a hike on the Damnation Creek Trail, the subject of my next post.

Click on a park name below to read about our wanderings through more Redwoods parks:

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
Humboldt Redwoods State Park

If you are wondering where else we’ve wandered, check out our Parks List!

13 Replies to “Wildlife Watching at Klamath Beach and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park”

    1. Thanks for the identification. “Wooly bear caterpillar”, what an awesome name 🙂

      I was born in and lived in San Diego until I was six, so I fell in love with seals and sea lions at a young age from seeing them in the shows at Sea World. I went almost thirty years before seeing them again, and it’s so much better to watch them in their natural environs. What a funny coincidence about your fellow camper talking about Jedediah Smith SP!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! We took about 100 pictures of that elk, many of them throw-aways 🙂 Very good point about being in the moment. Too often many of us spend too much time shooting pictures and writing and don’t just enjoy the “being” part. Thanks for the reminder!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed seeing our morning at Klamath Beach! I used to just think of vultures as vile creatures (which they kind of are), however now I find myself watching them sometimes, although when they are not feeding, haha. It is my understanding they are quite intelligent, and as you said, though not exactly lovely to look at, quite needed 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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