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Few areas, if any, in the National Park Service afford a better opportunity than Redwood National Park for interpreting man's struggle to cope with his environment. Trails were difficult to open, and roads, until the advent of huge power earth-moving equipment, next to impossible to build. For example, in the last quarter of the 19th century it took from 1887 to 1894 to open the wagon road from Crescent City to Trinidad. No through railroad penetrated Del Norte County or the northern portion of Humboldt County. While the Del Norte & Southern Railroad and the Crescent City & Smith River Rail road were common carriers, their operations were limited, in general, to the level belt of country between the Pacific and Howland Hill. Practically all the tonnage carried was made up of logs for the lumber mills. Plans were made to connect Crescent City with Grants Pass by rail, but the cost of building a right-of-way and laying track through the rugged and wild Coast Range frightened investors.

Until the construction of modern highways in the 1920s and the advent of trucks and trailers for long-distance overland hauling, Del Norte and northern Humboldt Counties were cut off, except by water, from the commercial and population centers of California and Oregon. All goods and equipment, except those carried by mail carrier, had to be brought in by ship, while the products of the area's farms, forests, and mines had to go out the same way. To supply the inland mining camps, first trails and then roads were opened. Pack trains loaded out of Crescent City and Trinidad were driven over these trails with supplies and came out with gold. As soon as roads were opened, freight wagons, except during the rainy season, replaced the pack trains.

The construction of the Redwood Highway in the 1920s and the successful efforts of the California Highway Department in the field of conservation cannot be ignored, because they brought visitors in to the region and helped make the public cognizant of the grandeur and dignity of the redwoods.

The roads, trails, ferries, pack trains, and freighters constitute an important and invaluable element in the story of man and the redwoods. This is a facet of the area's history that can be interpreted on site, because portions of the old trails and roads are extant. The ferry sites can be easily identified. Certain of these sites should be designated Class VI Land. Sites meriting this designation are: (a) The portion of the Crescent City Plank Road between U.S. 199 and Peacock's Ferry; (b) Peacock's and Catching's ferries; (c) the portion of the Kelsey Trail (today's Bald Hill Road) in Sections 22 and 23, Township 16 North, Range 1 East; (d) the extant sections of the Crescent City-Trinidad Wagon Road along Damnation Ridge and Ragged Ass Hill—the remains on Damnation Ridge are especially interesting, because you can still feel the puncheons just below the surface; and (e) the five miles of Redwood Highway constructed in the 1920s and abandoned in the 1930s, running along the cliffs and skirting the head of Damnation Creek. While the trail from Trinidad to the Klamath, where it was reopened by Arcata Redwood Company, has lost its integrity, it still possesses historical significance. As such it should be designated Class VI Land, and an effort made to acquire the trail between the Park boundary and Elk Camp.

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Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004