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