– Jen Savage –
We know Humboldt County offers seemingly endless opportunities to explore wild places, but our neighbor to the north sometimes gets overlooked. Del Norte County is well worth a day trip, or even a weekend – or, if you’re lucky enough to have the time, several days of visiting the redwoods, beaches, dunes and other special places including the Pyramid Point State Marine Conservation Area. Located a half-mile from the Oregon border and 21 miles north of Crescent City on U.S. Route 101 near the town of Smith River, this marine protected area (MPA) represents the northernmost tip of the iconic California coastline.
Since time immemorial
It also lies within the territory of the Smith River Rancheria, an indigenous nation of Dee-ni’ known today as the Tolowa Dee-ni’. In their language, Pyramid Point is known as Tr’uu-luu-kwvt, which translates to “one line fishes upon there,” reflecting the tribe’s deep relationship with the land and sea, an understanding that if we take care of the ocean, it will take care of us.
Modern science agrees – by establishing these protected areas, California’s state waters conserve marine habitats and diversity, allow marine life to thrive, and make great places for education, research and fun.
Things to do
Pyramid Point is connected to Pelican State Beach, home to sunny dunes, washed up driftwood and beautiful ocean views. Shore angling, beachcombing, surfing and kite flying are all fantastic ways to explore this largely undeveloped stretch of coastline. So if you don’t have a kite of your own, stop in at Tidal Wave 101, located across from South Beach at 1100 Hwy. 101. If the day is calm, pop into South Beach Outfitters, 128 Anchor Way, to ask about surf conditions, and to rent a board and wetsuit if they think paddling out sounds like a good idea.
Stock up on sandwiches, drinks and snacks at Vita Cucina, 1270 Front St., or Wild Rivers Market, 450 M St., then continue north on 101 until you reach Pelican Beach.
So many creatures!
Pyramid Point’s many offshore rocks make for not only stunning photos, but are used by a variety of both migratory and resident birds, including Aleutian Canada geese. The rocks support some of California’s only breeding Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels and Tufted Puffin, a large rookery of Great Blue Heron, and Black-crowned Night-Heron. Snowy Egret are also found here, with Pyramid Point providing the northernmost habitat for these birds in the western U.S.
Where to eat, where to stay
Finish your day with an off-the-beaten-path meal at Sea West, an unassuming, but surprisingly excellent Thai restaurant at 6655 Lake Earl Dr., Fort Dick. To stay the night nearby, check into the new and comfortable Howonquet Lodge, N Indian Road, Smith River, run by the Smith River Rancheria and Tolowa Tribe. If heading back south, the Oceanfront Lodge, 100 A St., Crescent City, is your nicest option, right on the beach and steps away from the historic Battery Point Lighthouse. Or you can go thrifty and stay at Anchor Beach Inn, 880 Hwy. 101, Crescent City. It’s also next to the ocean, pet-friendly and near the newly renovated Crescent City Harbor, plus walking distance to Crescent City’s finest eatery, Porcini, 110 Anchor Way.
Tolowa Dee-ni’: tolowa-nsn.gov/who-we-are
California’s marine protected areas: yournec.org/coastalprograms/marineprotectedareas
Fishing regulations: dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/ncmpas_list.asp