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Public access into the Headwaters Forest Reserve is provided from the north at Elk River Road, approximately six miles from Eureka and limited access is provided from the south at Newburg Road in Fortuna.
The newly developed parking area from the north end is called Elk River Trailhead and access into the Reserve is by foot only. Visitors are advised to bring plenty of water and good hiking boots for the I I miles, five and a half hour round trip to the old-growth overlook. Hikers will be able to see about one-third of the reserve's old-growth trees from the trails. Visitors are asked to pack all food and trash out because it attracts predatory birds, which are known to prey on young murrelets. The trail's first three miles are relatively level and moderately difficult, while the last two and a half are hard, with steep grades up to 20 percent.
Much of the flora and fauna is characteristic of a riparian habitat: willows, maples, redwoods and alder trees. Uniquely, there are apple trees, cherry trees and yew trees as well. The diversity of the non-native plant life stems from the settlement of Falk.
Falk was a logging town, settled in the 1800's. After the 1930s, the Falk mill and many other mills in the area shut down, the last Falk resident left in 1961. There are a few relic buildings, but they have succumbed to fire or lush undergrowth. Guided interpretive walks on the Falk's history are provided the first Saturday of every month at 10a.m., May through October.
At the trails end, facing south, is the Headwaters old-growth grove stretching about five miles. From March 25 to September 15, the redwoods are home to the Marbled Murrelet, a seabird that nests in the large redwood branches. The nesting birds have a high level of sensitivity to human intrusion. Because of the sensitivity, visitors are not allowed in the old-growth forest during breeding season.
The redwood floor is rich with bio-diversity and beauty. Douglas Fir, tan oak, western hemlock, western red cedar and Sitka spruce are many of the trees that share the forest with the California redwoods. Plants that you would find include: salal, sword fern, five-fingered fern, lichen, mosses and trillium in the spring.
In the fall and winter, non-vascular plants are also one of the many features of the Reserve. Facing west from the trails end, visitors can see a view of Humboldt Bay.
Limited public access to the south part of the Reserve is available May through Nov. 15, with wet weather restrictions. Four guided hikes are provided per week, one hike daily. The hike is limited to 20-30 people per day. Two days a week the trail is reserved for schools and educational programs. Visitors are advised to bring plenty of water and good hiking boots for the four mile roundtrip tour. The trail runs parallel to the old-growth forest along Salmon Creek. Reservations can be made at the Arcata Field Office starting May 1.
For further information, call the Field Office at 707-825-2300.
Basics of the Tour - KNOW BEFORE YOU GO...
- Guided hike - everyone stays together with the ranger
- Will see old-growth along creek but do not go into any groves
- Area has been logged and is second-growth
- Hikes are Thursdays - Sundays
- Meet at Newburg Park in Fortuna at 8:45a.m. Ranger gives an orientation and everyone leaves at 9:00 a.m.
- Follow ranger in own vehicle through Newburg Gate
- 3-1/2 miles on gravel road to trailhead
- Hike is 4 miles round-trip, will be back at vehicles at 1:00 p.m.
- Hiking time is 3-1/2 hours
- Trail is strenuous (20% grade in some places). Mostly downhill going in; coming back is mostly uphill
- Trail is old logging road and can be muddy after a rain
- No stopping for lunch but snacks are okay
- Be sure to eat breakfast, bring 1 quart of water per person, and wear hiking shoes
- It may be hot on the trail
- Hike is difficult for those under 10 years of age
- No pets are allowed
- There are ticks, repellent is recommended