Place

Lyons Ranch Historical District

Green grass surrounds a two-story wooden barn.
The historic barn at Lyons Ranch

NPS

Quick Facts

Scenic View/Photo Spot

A 19th Century Ranch That Tells of Mixed Cultures and World Class Endeavors.

After the two-mile hike down from the Lyons Ranch Trailhead, the sight of a large redwood barn, historical orchards, and assorted farming outbuildings set on a sweeping prairie always comes a surprise. The protected nature of the landscape, the lack of modern conveniences, and the quality of the remaining structures makes it feel like you just stepped back more than 100 years.

The 5,660 acre district was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.

What Is Here?

This historical site is an example of a farming operation created and managed by a mix of cultures: Native American and immigrant Anglo-Europe. Some of the features that makes this historic ranch special today are the large redwood planks used in the building of the barn. The fabrication by the Lyons family of these planks utalized 19th century equipment combined with the construction techniques used for millennia by Yurok and Hupa people. This blending of cultures - both within the Lyons family - and across the ranch's lambing and shearing operations made this a successful operation.

The District is nearly devoid of modern intrusions and a high degree of historic integrity from the Lyons ranching period - 1868 to 1959. Many small-scale features exist as remnants, including orchards, fencing, water troughs, ponds, etc. Buildings are vernacular, built by the Lyons and their staff. Buildings that remain include the Elk Camp Sheep Shed, Lane House and Garage, Dolason Sheep Shed, Home Place Barn, Bunkhouse, Dooleyville Line Cabin, Long Ridge Sheep Shed, and the Coyote Sheep Shed and Line Cabin. Barns and sheep sheds serve different functions, although might look the same on the exterior. Barns serve a variety of functions (sheep sheds house and feed sheep) and the Home Place Barn accommodated horses, cows, sheep and even rabbits. The line cabins are small shelters where shepherds stayed while sheep grazed in the prairie around them. There are also remains of an early “RV” trailer that was likely used by shepherds as they followed the flocks.

The District is historically significant for its association with the history and development of northern Humboldt County as a sheep ranching region and as an example of a large-scale sheep ranch that was active from the late 19th through the mid-20th centuries.

The Lyons Family

Jonathan Lyons was an Anglo immigrant, and his wife Amelia was Hupa. Jonathan came west from Iowa around 1850 and he settled in the Hoopa Valley about 1861. He married a Hupa woman whose Christian name was Amelia and who was referred to by three different surnames — Kleiser, Silver, and Mesket. (the Mesket name is that of a village in the Hoopa Valley and may have indicated her birthplace, in the mid-1840s, along the Trinity River, the ancestral home of the Hupa people.) Their first son, Anderson, was born there in December 1863.

The Lyons family, a family with Native American and European American heritage, formed a place of social and economic interaction between cultures that included continued Native American practices, along with ranching activities. Many of the structures reflect the influence of those traditional practices of the family and staff from the surrounding Native American communities.

During its historic period the Lyons ranches were sheep ranches that were owned or leased by three generations of the Lyons family: Jonathan and Amelia Lyons, and four of the sons — Sherman, Antonio, Anderson, and William — and their grandson, Gene.


Ranch Operations

Upto eight of the prairies in the Bald Hills were managed by the Lyons family. Collectively, these operations were at the forefront of innovations and change in California sheep ranching. They were one of the two largest ranching operations in northern Humboldt County. The Lyons’ ranches were also known not only for the volume, but for the quality of their wool. The Lyons family were one of the pioneers in breeding Merino sheep in the United States and brought Humboldt County renown when Jonathon and Amelia were awarded a gold medal from the 1901 Paris Exposition for their high-quality product.

Lyons Legacy

John and Amelia’s grandson, Gene Lyons was a college educated sheep rancher and the first Native American to graduate from the California College of Agriculture at Davis (later known as the University of California at Davis). He maintained his connection to the University and supported its scientific contributions to ranching throughout his tenure on the Lyons ranches. The University brought students to his ranch each year and conducted various experiments on the Lyons’ ranch land. Gene’s contributions to animal husbandry continued even after his death in 1972 when his will established the Austin Eugene Lyons Memorial Trust at the University of California, Davis to provide stipends for graduate students.

The family used traditional methods of prescribed / cultural burning to keep the prairies open. This method of land management continued until the 1930s until it was outlawed by the federal government. It would be another fifty years before prescribed fire was returned to the Bald Hills by the National Park Service.

Safety Tips
  • We recommend you purchase and use a good map and trail guide for your adventures in Redwood National and State Parks. Don’t rely on online maps when you are here.
  • To protect the habitats, leave no trace also means staying on the developed trail. Please don’t go off-trail and make any new trails. These forests grow by the inch, and will die by your foot.
  • To protect the wildlife (and you and other visitors), pets are not allowed on park trails.
  • Cell coverage is very limited and cannot be relied on in an emergency. Have a plan for checking in and checking out with a friend when you are here.

 

Last updated: February 22, 2021