Humboldt County is located on the far North Coast of California. In the 2000 census, the county had a population of 126,518. The majority of residents live in or near Eureka, the county seat, and the smaller college town of Arcata, home to Humboldt State University. Both cities are located adjacent to Humboldt Bay, California's second largest natural bay. Area cities and towns are known for hundreds of ornate examples of Victorian architecture.
Humboldt is a densely forested, rural county situated in Northern California's rugged Coast (Mountain) Ranges. With nearly of combined public and private forest in production, Humboldt County accounts for twenty percent of the total forest production for all of California. The county contains over forty per cent of all remaining old growth Coast Redwood forests, the vast majority of which is protected or strictly conserved within dozens of national, state, and local forests and parks, totaling approximately 680,000 acres (over 1,000 square miles).
The original inhabitants of the area now known as Humboldt County include the Wiyot
, and the southern Athabascans, including the Mattole
. Humboldt County was formed in 1853 from parts of Trinity County
. The first recorded entry by people of European
origin was a landing by the Spanish in 1775.
The county derived its name from Humboldt Bay. The first recorded entry of Humboldt Bay by non-natives was an 1806 visit from a sea otter hunting party from Sitka employed by the Russian American Company. The hunting party included Captain Jonathan Winship, an American, and some Aleut hunters. The bay was not visited again by people of European origin until 1849 when Josiah Gregg's party visited. In 1850, Douglas Ottinger and Hans Buhne entered the bay, naming it Humboldt in honor of the great naturalist and world explorer, Baron Alexander von Humboldt.
The area around Humboldt Bay was once solely inhabited by the Wiyot Indian tribe. One of the largest Wiyot villages, Tolowot, was located on Gunther Island (AKA Indian Island and AKA Bloody Island) in Humboldt Bay. Founded circa 900, it contains a shell midden 6 acres (24,000 m²) in size and 14 feet (4 m) deep. It was the site of the February 26, 1860 massacre of the Wiyot people that was recorded by Bret Harte, then living in Union, now called Arcata. Between 60 and 200 Wiyot men, women, and children were murdered that night. In 1998, musician Frank Black wrote and recorded a song about this event, called "Humboldt County Massacre." Tolowot is now an archaeological site, designated Gunther Island Site 67, and is a National Historic Landmark.
State historic landmarks in Humboldt County include Trinidad Head, Fort Humboldt, The Old Arrow Tree, Centerville Beach Cross, Camp Curtis, the Town of Trinidad, the City of Eureka, California's first drilled oil wells in Petrolia, the Jacoby Building, the Old Indian Village of Tsurai in Trinidad, the Arcata and Mad River Railroad Company, the Humboldt Harbor Historical District, and the town of Ferndale.
On February 5 and February 6, 1885, Eureka's entire Chinese population of 300 men and 20 women were expelled after a gunfight between rival Chinese gangs (tongs) resulted in the wounding of a 12 year old boy and the death of 56 year old David Kendall, a Eureka City Councilman. After the shooting, an angry mob of 600 Eurekans met and then informed the Chinese that they were no longer wanted in Eureka and would be hanged if they were to stay in town longer than 3 p.m. the next day. They were put on two steamships and shipped to San Francisco. No-one was killed in the expulsion. Another Chinese expulsion occurred during 1906 in a cannery on the Eel River, in which 23 Chinese cannery workers were expelled after local loggers objected to their presence. However, some Chinese remained in the Orleans area, where some white landowners sheltered and purchased food for the Chinese mineworkers until after racial tension passed. Chinese did not return to the coastal cities until the 1950s.
The coastal areas of the county experience wet, cool winters and dry, mild foggy summers. Winter highs usually range from the low 40s to the upper 50s, and winter lows on the coast usually range from the 40s into the 30s. The immediate coastal zone experiences a number of frosty nights in winter and early spring, though snowfall and hard freezes are rare. Winter rainstorms are frequent, with coastal areas averaging from 30 to a year based on elevation. Summers on the coast are cool to mild with frequent fog. Yet just 10 or inland one can find abundant sunshine and warmth. Thus coastal residents often head eastward in the summer to escape the gloomy cold summer fog. Summer highs range from the mid-50s to upper 60s, with lows in the upper 40s to mid-50s. Record highs at Woodley Island for most summer days are in the low to mid-70s.
Inland areas of the county also experience wet, cool winters. Snowfall is common at elevations over throughout the winter months. The main climatic difference between inland areas and the coast takes place in the summer months. Inland parts of Humboldt County experience average highs from the 80s to 90s depending on the elevation and distance from the ocean. 100 degree days are also common in eastern parts of the county including Orleans, Hoopa, and Willow Creek during the summer.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau
, the county has a total area of 4,052 square miles (10,495 km²), of which, 3,572 square miles (9,253 km²) of it is land and 480 square miles (1,243 km²) of it (11.84%) is water.
Located in Humboldt County is Cape Mendocino, the westernmost point in California, with a longitude of 124 degrees, 24 minutes and 30 seconds.
, the only deep water port between San Francisco and Coos Bay, Oregon
, is located on the coast at the midpoint of the county.
Humboldt County's major rivers include (in order of flow-cubic meters per second-from largest to smallest):
The list of other smaller rivers and at least one large creek include the following: Van Duzen, Mattole, Salmon, Elk, Bear, and Little rivers, and Redwood Creek.
Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP)
Cities and towns
Unincorporated towns and areas
Humboldt County is known for its impressive redwood trees, and many acres of private redwood timberland make Humboldt the top timber producer in California. The lush river bottoms adjacent to the ocean are renowned for producing rich, high-quality dairy products. Somewhat more inland the warmer valleys have historically produced abundant apples and other fruit. More recently vinyards have been planted in the Trinity, Klamath, and upper Eel river valleys.
Humboldt County is also widely known for its high potency strains of marijuana
, which are grown outdoors and increasingly indoors. Growers of relatively small amounts are protected under county guidelines for medicinal use under the auspices of California Proposition 215
. David Samuels of The New Yorker
describes the county as "the heartland of high-grade marijuana farming in California." The 2008 independent film, Humboldt County
, gives viewers the opportunity to peer into the first major film adaptation of the local marijuana production counterculture.
- Humboldt Transit Authority operates two fixed route transit bus systems:
- Redwood Transit System provides intercity service to and within communities between Trinidad and Scotia, with occasional service to Manila and Loleta. HTA also offers service between McKinleyville or Arcata and Willow Creek and an express bus between Arcata and College of the Redwoods when classes are in session.
- Eureka Transit Service, operated in the City of Eureka, provides local service on four scheduled routes (one hour headway) in Eureka and its adjacent unincorporated communities. Connections can be made to the Redwood Transit System at several places in Eureka.
- Arcata and Mad River Transit System, operated by the City of Arcata with funding from Humboldt State University. A&MRTS provides fixed route local bus service on two scheduled routes (one hour headway) in Arcata and an additional route between the Valley West Neighborhood and the university when classes are in session.
- The city of Blue Lake and the Blue Lake Rancheria operates the Blue Lake Rancheria Transit Authority. Blue Lake Rancheria Transit provides fixed route intercity transit bus service (one hour headway) between Arcata and the Blue Lake Rancheria Indian Reservation and casino and local service within the city of Blue Lake.
- Del Norte county's Redwood Coast Transit operates fixed route intercity transit bus service between Arcata and Crescent City or Smith River.
- Amtrak Thruway bus has stops in many towns in the region, including Eureka, Arcata, and Fortuna. These stops are not managed by Amtrak and therefore have no services beyond serving passengers. Full service is only provided in the Martinez, California Train station.
is located in McKinleyville (north of Arcata). Commercial flights are
Other (general aviation) airports are located at Dinsmore, Garberville, Kneeland, Murray Field (Eureka) and Rohnerville (Fortuna).
Port of Humboldt Bay
- on Humboldt Bay, California's second largest natural bay.
Presidential election results
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Humboldt is a strongly Democratic county in Presidential and congressional elections. The last Republican to win a majority in the county was Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Humboldt is part of California's 1st congressional district, which is held by Democrat Mike Thompson. In the state legislature, Humboldt is part of the 1st Assembly district, which is held by Democrat Patty Berg, and the 2nd Senate district, which is held by Democrat Pat Wiggins.
As of the 2000 United States Census
, there were 126,518 people and 51,238 households
in Humboldt County, and the population density
was 35 people per square mile (14/km²). By 2003, the population was projected to increase to 127,915. There were 55,912 housing units at an average density of 16 per square mile (6/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 84.71% White
, 0.88% Black
or African American
, 5.72% Native American
, 1.65% Asian
, 0.19% Pacific Islander
, 2.45% from other races
, and 4.39% from two or more races. 6.49% of the population were Hispanic
of any race. 13.3% were of German
, 10.7% Irish
, 10.3% English
, 7.4% American
and 5.7% Italian
ancestry according to Census 2000
. 92.1% spoke English
and 4.6% Spanish
as their first language.
There were 51,238 households out of which 28.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% were married couples living together, 11.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.2% were non-families. 28.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.95.
In the county the population was spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18, 12.4% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 24.5% from 45 to 64, and 12.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 97.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.6 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $31,226, and the median income for a family was $39,370. Males had a median income of $32,210 versus $23,942 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,203. About 12.9% of families and 19.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.5% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.
Educational and cultural institutions
The County is served by many school districts, including charter and private schools. All school districts are listed in a separate article.
The longest-running paper is the Times-Standard
, owned now by Media News Group
, which has been in daily publication
since 1854. Briefly joining them in 2006 as a daily, the Eureka Reporterowned
by local resident Rob Arkley Jr.
, became a 5 day per week publication at the beginning of 2008. Regional weekly and bi-weekly publications include the North Coast Journal
, the McKinleyville Press
, the Independent, The Lumberjack
out of Humboldt State University
, Arcata Eye
the Humboldt Beacon
, and the Bigfoot Valley News
Last but not least is the Hoopa People Newspaper
, distributed weekly in the Klamath Trinity region and available by subscription to tribal members and other interested people.
Online readers can browse over 170 Humboldt County blogs, each with varying opinions, topics, and viewpoints from behind the Redwood Curtain.
There are also a number of tabloid circulars both on-line and in print which have a narrower focus than traditional print media. Humboldt County also has numerous zines and on-line blogs.
All of Humboldt County's television stations (KIEM, KVIQ, KAEF, KEET) are based in Eureka, although only KIEM continues to produce nightly news broadcasts originating locally.
Commercial, community and public radio continues to thrive in Humboldt County, with some stations bucking the national trend to produce local content and program a smattering of local music. For-profit stations include (KFMI, KRED, KXGO, KHUM, KSLG, KWPT and KATA). Non-profit stations include the Hoopa Tribe's KIDE, Redway's KMUD, Humboldt State University-based KHSU and KRFHand Jefferson Public Radio's KNHM and KNHT. On August 26, 2006 the Blue Ox Millworks and School of the Traditional Arts launched KKDS, a low power FM station focused on youth and community issues. There have also been a number of pirate radio stations such as Free Arcata Radio and Humboldt Free Radio, although none of these have broadcasted on a consistent basis or frequency for many years.
- Arcata Bay Oyster Festival on the Arcata Plaza (June)
- Azalea Festival in Mckinleyville (June)
- Avenue of The Giants Marathon (May)
- Blues by the bay in Eureka (July)
- College of the Redwoods Wood Fair (Summer)
- Forth of July Festival in Eureka (July)
- Gay Pride in Arcata (September)
- Godwit Days (Birding festival) in Arcata (April)
- Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale (August)
- Humboldt Film Festival (March-April)
- Humboldt Redwoods Marathon (October)
- Mushroom Fair in Eureka (November)
- North Country Fair in Arcata (September)
- Organic Planet Festival in Eureka (September)
- Redwood Acres Fair in Eureka (June)
- Redwood Coast Jazz Festival in Eureka (Last Weekend of March)
- Redwood Run in Southern Humboldt (June)
- Reggae on the River on the Eel in Southern Humboldt (August)
- Rhododendron Festival (and parade) in Eureka (April)
- Roll on the Mattole at the Mattole Grange in Southern Humboldt (Summer)
- Summer Arts Festival at Benbow in Southern Humboldt (June)
- Tour of the Unknown Coast (by Bicycle) in Southern Humboldt (May)
- Trucker's Parade around Humboldt Bay (December)
- Westhaven Blackberry Festival (Last Sunday in July)
- World-Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race (Memorial Day Weekend - Late May)