Redway School second grader attends a field trip at Shelter Cove tidepools with his mother.
Redway School second grader attends a field trip at Shelter Cove tidepools with his mother.
Credit: Rachel H. Sowards

Bureau of Land ManagementKing Range National Conservation Area

Member Since: 06/25/2007

Primary Contact: Rachel Sowards Thompson

P.O. Drawer 189
Whitethorn, CA 95589

Approximately 68,000 acres.

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King Range National Conservation Area (KRNCA) was established as the nation's first National Conservation Area (NCA) on October 21, 1970. The KRNCA region is known as the Lost Coast and is one of the most rugged and remote stretches of coastline in the continental U.S. The KRNCA contains the most extreme topography of this rugged region—an abrupt wall of mountains climbing 4,000 feet above the Pacific within only a few miles of the water's edge. Dominant habitat types found throughout the KRNCA consist of mixed evergreen and coniferous forests, chaparral, coastal scrub, coastal dunes, and coastal prairies. Twenty-one special status wildlife species, including six threatened or endangered species and fifteen otherwise determined to be sensitive, are found within the King Range. KRNCA is the traditional territory of the Mattole and Sinkyone people. Later the area was settled by ranchers, farmers, loggers, and in recent history by "back to the landers."

"The climate in Northwest Claifornia can be broadly described as Mediterranean; winters are wet and cool, and summer have virtually no precipitation. Nearly all rainfall occurs between October and May. Summer temperatures are warm in inland locations, and can exceed 100* F on the hottest days. The coastline is moderated by the cold Pacific Ocean waters, with summer high temperatures in the mid-60s with many days of fog...The 4,000 foot vertical rise of the King Range results in a high degree of orographic (terrain induced) lifting of storms approaching the coast, causing intense rainfall. Rainfall exceeds 100 inches annually and occasionally tops 200 inches on the ridges. In contrast, the immediate coast receives about half as much rain, with 65 inches falling at Shelter Cove...Snow falls periodically at the higher elevations." (King Range NCA, RMP 2005)

"The King Range NCA is located along the rugged northern California coast about sixty miles south of Eureka and 200 miles north of San Francisco." (King Range NCA, RMP 2005)

Mixed evergreen and coniferous forests, chaparral, coastal scrub, coastal dunes, and coastal prairies.

Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflorus), canyon live oak (Quercus chrysolepis), madrone (Arbutus menziesii), sugar pine (pinus lambertiana), Knobcone Pine (Pinus attenuate), Grand Fir (Abies grandis), everygreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), salal (Gaultheria shallon), sword fern (Polystichum munitum), European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria)...a common invader along much of the coastline, seashore bluegrass (Poa macrantha), beach sweet pea (Lathyrus littoralis), beach evening primrose (camissonia cheiranthifolia), beach layia (Layia carnosa), scotch broom (Cytisus Scoparius), coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea), California blackberry (Rubus ursinus), Pacific reedgrass (Calamagrostis nutkaensis), poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilbobum), and California oatgrass (Danthonia californica).

Snowy plover, marbled murrelet, spotted owl, black tailed deer, western gray squirrel, acorn woodpecker, California quail, gopher snake, slender salamander, skunk, raccoon, turkey vulture, northern harriers, western meadow larks, savannah sparrows, Roosevelt elk, black-tailed jackrabbits, red-legged frog, western fence lizard, western rattlesnake, vole, red-tailed hawk, California thrasher, peregrine falcons, dear mice, seal lion, harbor seal, brown pelican, black turnstones, whimbrels, and all forms of tidepool life.


"The King Range NCA is rich in the remains of prehistoric occupation. Cultural resources include early Native American village sites and activity areas.... At least 90 prehistoric sites have been identified, the majority of which having been documented on or within a short distance from the coast....The King Range NCA is within the traditional territory of the two Athabaskan speaking groups known today as the Mattole and Sinkyone....The natural environment of the Mattole, Sinkyone, and Bear River people centered on the coastal strand, where they used resources from the ocean with its intertidal rock outcrops and beaches, to grassy or forested hillsides, to creeks and rivers emptying into the ocean....The Mattole and Sinkyone were in a very favorable environment for hunting and fishing." (King Range NCA, RMP 2005)

Euro-American History

"The first documented explorations from sea took place in the early 1800s with Russian, American, and British fur trappers and traders searching particularly for sea otter. The North Coast's timber industry sprang up almost immediately with the gold rush in 1851, initially supplying lumber to the mines....Many early ranchers raised cattle as well as sheep for mutton and wool to supply the Gold Rush market. These settlers often burned their lands repeatedly to enhance livestock forage and maintain existing openings, which echoed the earlier Indian practices of burning....Not many local Native Americans survived the widespread aggression of early Euroamerican settlers, ranchers, and soliders--those not killed off were removed to reservations out of the area. A few eventually found their way back home." (King Range NCA, RMP 2005)

Current Communities

Native Americans, Ranchers & Similar Working Landowners, "Back to Landers," and Immigrant Groups. Small communities such as: Petrolia, Honeydew, Ettersburg, Whitethorn, and Shelter Cove surround the boundary of the King Range. Communities close to Highway 101, the major north-south route, include Garberville, Redway, and Ferndale.

"The King Range lies immediately southeast of one of the most geologically active areas in North America. Three large tectonic plates converge just offshore at a geologic feature known as the Mendocino Triple Junction (MTJ)...The MTJ is a location where three pieces of the earth's crust, or tectonic plates, are moving past and beneath each other in different directions...South of the MTJ and along the western edge of the King Range, the San Andreas Fault forms the boundary between the Pacific and North American Plates."

(King Range NCA, RMP 2005)

King Range Project Office (including visitor information and displays), 6 campgrounds (Wailaki, Nadelos, Tolkan, Horse Mountain, Honeydew, Mattole), 4 day-use areas (Mal Coombs Park, Seal Rock, Abalone Point, Black Sands Beach), and numerous trailheads.

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