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Headwaters Forest Reserve

Once the setting for a thriving mill town of 400 people, the Headwaters Forest Reserve is now inhabited only by wildlife and fish. The 7,472-acre property was purchased by the Department of the Interior in 1999 to conserve and study the land and its inhabitants and to provide access to the public for recreation. Stands of old-growth redwood...
Once the setting for a thriving mill town of 400 people, the Headwaters Forest Reserve is now inhabited only by wildlife and fish. The 7,472-acre property was purchased by the Department of the Interior in 1999 to conserve and study the land and its inhabitants and to provide access to the public for recreation. Stands of old-growth redwood and Douglas fir are habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl, and threatened coho and chinook salmon can be found in the reserve's streams.

The mill town, called Falk for its developer, Noah Falk, slowly died out after the mill closed in 1937, and by 1979 most of the buildings had been razed. Except for some sparsely scattered ornamental plants, such as rose, quince, and lilac, that once adorned the houses, there's virtually nothing visible to remind you that the employees of the Elk River Lumber Company and their families once lived here, although a brochure describing a self-guided "quest" brings this history to life.

The reserve has two trails, Elk River and Salmon Pass, but the latter is open for guided hikes only (May 15-Nov. 15, reservations required) and has no wheelchair access.

Trail/Pathway Details

Elk River Trail

Trailhead: Parking lot at the foot of Elk River Rd.

Length: 1-2 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

The self-guided Quest Trail is less than three feet wide.

Typical Grade: Gentle

Terrain: Hard

Driveway to the education center is large-sized gravel and the spur trail is firmly packed dirt and gravel

Obstacles: Approach to the Quest Trail has steep cross-slope but was not a problem in my motorized wheelchair

Description

The trail follows the South Elk River on an old logging road. Only the first mile is paved; after that the surface is packed gravel, and on my visit a washout a short distance beyond the paved section prevented further wheelchair access. It's evident from the trees' size that the forest has been logged, and while several large...
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Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

The Headwaters Education Center is .6 mile from the trailhead in a building used 100 years ago by the Falk Mill to store the locomotive that hauled lumber to the mill. In 2008 the building was dismantled and moved here from its former location across the South Fork Elk River. It is primarily open for school visits, but with sufficient funding may be open to the public June through August. Interpretive panels describe the reserve's ecology and history. For the accessible entrance, go past the building to the dirt and gravel driveway. Paver stones may be problematic for van ramps At trailhead and next to education center, about half a mile from trailhead
One table at trailhead and one just beyond the education center. Both are adjacent to the trail, but the setting by the education center is nicer.
Bird spotting on trail
Bird spotting on trail (Bonnie Lewkowicz)

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Features icon key

  • hiking
  • picnic

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: Bureau of Land Management
Address: Elk River Rd., Eureka
Nearest City: Eureka
Phone: (707) 825-2300
Hours: Daily, sunrise to sunset
Fees: None
Dogs: In restricted areas
Only allowed on the Elk River Corridor and must be under voice control of the owner at all times, or on leash

Did You Know?

In response to damage, a redwood tree can sprout exact genetic copies of itself.

Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, September 17, 2012
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

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Wheelchairs Available
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