|In the 1920s, when they built the Coast Highway in Northern California, engineers decided a stretch of coast from Northern Mendocino County through the King Range in Humboldt County was too rugged for a road. Thus, this expanse of magnificent coastline was soon isolated and became known as the Lost Coast . The small community of Shelter Cove, on the sea in far Southern Humboldt County just below the King Range , lies at the core of the Lost Coast .
Being cut off from the rest of California has helped Shelter Cove become what it is today: A peaceful seaside resort with peerless scenery that is nirvana for outdoor enthusiasts. A relatively flat point set amidst a long stretch of sheer ocean cliffs, Shelter Cove gets its name from a gulf formed by Point Delgada to the south. Getting to Shelter Cove can be an adventure. It's a winding 23-mile drive from Redway, off Highway 101. But the drive is well worth it for those who like to fish, crab, dive for abalone or watch for whales. Photographers, hikers and nature lovers have plenty to do as well.
Shelter Cove, which lies inside the King Range National Conservation Area, is in California's redwood country and the thick forests surrounding the village are home to bald eagles, Roosevelt elk, black tail deer and, if you believe the legend, Bigfoot. The rocky shoreline makes Shelter Cove a refuge for seals and sea lions and boasts some of the world's richest tide pools. There are picnic areas that offer access to the beach or the rocks below the bluffs. Black Sand Beach (see photo top left) to the north is deserted and picturesque, with stunning views of the King Range . Hikers who want to trek the 24-mile long Lost Coast Trail can start their journey here. For much of the Lost Coast , the mountains dive directly into the sea, a geographic barrier to development. Thus, this region is wilderness-like and lightly populated. There are no street lights in Shelter Cove so the nights are dark and the moonlight shimmers on the waves without any competition but the stars. One way to spend a romantic evening in Shelter Cove is to order a takeout pizza or pasta dish and carry it down to the beach with a bottle of wine. Shelter Cove features amenities for the traveler such as a campground and RV park, several inns and motels, restaurants, a cocktail lounge, a coffeehouse, markets and a daylight landing strip.
Shelter Cove History
The Sinkyone Indians, who inhabited Shelter Cove for thousands of years before Euro-American settlers arrived, called their home on the sea “Tangating.” The Sinkyone in Shelter Cove thrived by harvesting the wealth of the ocean. They fished with nets, spears and hooks. They gathered seaweed and snatched limpets off the rocks. They clubbed and speared seals and sea lions, and they ate marine birds, including the cormorant. There are no preserved Sinkyone villages at Shelter Cove. These native people quickly died out or dispersed when settlers began arriving in the 1850s. But some remnants of their existence remains. At Abalone Point, off lower Pacific Drive , the shell bits underneath the grass are evidence of the Sinkyone's once-thriving society. Lost Coast
The Kings Range National Conservation Area is unlike any other place in the continental United States . Here, in this 35-mile long, 64,000-acre stretch of coastal wilderness, the mountains rise directly out of the sea. King Peak tops out at 4,087 feet. They extend between the Mattole River in Humboldt County to the northern border of the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park in Mendocino County . Because of its remoteness and relative inaccessibility — only a few back roads lead into the range — this Douglas-fir-clad wilderness attracts hikers, backpackers, campers, equestrians, mushroom collectors, surfers, anglers, beachcombers and abalone divers seaside. Seals, sea lions and a complexity of sea birds inhabit the rocky shoreline; tide pools and kelp beds are their homes. California grey whales pass close to shore during the spring northern migration. Streams that pour down from the mountains are spawning waters for salmon and trout. A herd of Roosevelt elk roams the area.
Some 300 species of migratory birds have been found in the King Range, including the northern spotted owl, bald eagle and Cooper's hawk. Black bear and mountain lions also prowl these mountains and the shoreline. The King Range lies at the base of a tectonic anomaly known as the Mendocino Triple Junction, where three of the earth's plates come together. Thus, the mountains here are rising faster than just about anywhere else in the world. The dominant rock is greywacke, a dark grey sandstone that crumbles easily. Hence, the beaches are black sand. Also found here are archeological remnants of the original human inhabitants, the Mattole and Sinkyone tribes. Village sites and other cultural remains can still be found here.
The King Range became the nation's first national conservation area in October, 1970. It is managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. The BLM maintains miles of trails in the conservation area, most of which intersect the legendary Lost Coast Trail, which runs 25 miles along the shore at the base of the mountains from the mouth of the Mattole to Shelter Cove. There is a wide selection of automobile and backcountry campgrounds in and around the conservation area.
Accessing the King Range can be an adventure in itself. Hikers can take the Lost Coast Trail north out of the village of Shelter Cove . Unpaved back roads, most suitable for 4-wheel drive vehicles with high ground clearance, intersect Shelter Cove Road on the south and Wilder Ridge Road on the east. On the north end of the range, access is near the mouth of the Mattole River on Lighthouse Road , off Mattole Road . For information on trails, camping, day hikes, backpacking, horseback riding, fishing, abalone diving and hunting, call the BLM King's Range management offices in Whitethorn, (707) 986-5400, or in Arcata.