Headwaters Forest Reserve
Guide

Introduction

Headwaters Forest Reserve, a 12 square mile BLM park, is a wonder of nature that stands out as a symbol of the struggle to protect the ancient redwood forest. This preserve, located a few miles northeast of Fortuna, California is a great place to visit to enjoy outdoor activities, appreciate the beauty of nature, and get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The reserve can be accessed from the northern and southern ends; however, drivers are advised to come in from the north.

If you’re looking to enjoy casual strolls through this BLM property in California, you’re in luck because there are two dedicated hiking trails that offer plenty of fun opportunities to hikers and backpackers. Biking opportunities are also available on the Elk River Corridor Trail. Bird and wildlife viewing here and at Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge are also memorable for those that have their cameras and guide books handy. Nearby, hunting and fishing are popular among visitors. The chance to learn about the history of the area is also available to all those that wish to learn.

Camping is not allowed within Headwaters Forest Reserve. Be that as it may, plenty of primitive and modern camping opportunities are provided at Six Rivers National Forest.

RV Rentals in Headwaters Forest Reserve

Transportation

Driving

Headwaters Forest Reserve lies a few miles northeast of Fortuna, California. This Bureau of Land Management property can be accessed from the north and south ends. If you’re coming in from the north alongside Elk River, follow the exit off US Highway 101, just south of Eureka. Drive along the Elk River Road for about six miles to the Elk River Trailhead. This spot is open all year and features a parking area that is open to visitors and campers. This route is the recommended access point for guests driving to this BLM park.

If you’re coming to the forest reserve from the south, access is via Felt Springs road. This route is only open to guided hikes and is available from May to November. At all other times, this access point to the forest reserve is closed to the public.

There are no direct public transportation services to Headwaters Forest Reserve.

If you are looking to enjoy recreational vehicle camping within the vicinity of this BLM park, and require camping equipment, RV and trailer rental services are available at Fortuna and Humboldt County.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Headwaters Forest Reserve

Campsites in Headwaters Forest Reserve

Reservations camping

Boise Creek Campground

Boise Creek Campground is a pet-friendly campground sited in a beautiful forest setting within Six Rivers National Forest. The predominant vegetation within the campground is Douglas fir, Pacific madrone, and California bay trees. Peak season in the campground is from May to September and campsites are available by reservation and on first-come, first-served basis.

Located two miles from Willow Creek, this campground offers plenty of recreational activities such as swimming, fishing, whitewater rafting, hiking, and wildlife viewing.

At the campground, there are several single-family campsites, three of which are tent-only. All the campsites are equipped with picnic tables and campfire rings with grills. Within the campground, vault toilets and drinking water are provided.

The maximum RV/trailer length that can be accommodated is 35 feet.

Seasonal activities in Headwaters Forest Reserve

In-Season

Biking

Biking enthusiasts are able to enjoy themselves riding around the Headwaters Forest Reserve areas. In particular, the use of bicycles is permitted from the Elk River parking area along the Elk River Corridor Trail for three miles to the posted turn-around. All riders are required to stay on the trail at all times.

Opportunities are also open to mountain bikers to ride along hundreds of miles of roads and trails provided at the nearby Six Rivers National Forest. Prepare to ride along hilly and rocky trails that wind through open grasslands and pine forests.

Bird Viewing

Ornithologists and pleasure bird watchers have a fun time at Headwaters Forest Reserve, owing to the various species of birds that roam the skies above the BLM property. These birds that abound in the various park areas offer good opportunities to take photographs. Some of those you will definitely see in the park include widespread birds such as thrushes, chickadees, and woodpeckers, as well as species of concern such as marbled murrelet and the northern spotted owl.

Humboldt Bay is also an internationally significant area for migratory birds, so visitors at Headwaters Forest Reserve often take short trips to view the birds in that region.

Hiking

Two hiking trails are available within Headwaters Forest Reserve – the Elk River Trail, and the Salmon Pass Trail.

Elk River Trail takes hikers along the Elk River's south fork for three miles, before ascending through a stretch of old-growth redwood forest for two miles. As you stroll along this trail, look out for interpretive signs that illustrate the history of Falk along the first mile.

Salmon Pass Trail is only open by guided tour and takes hikers through resplendent redwood forest in the southern areas of the forest reserve.

Off-Season

Hunting

Although hunting is not allowed within Headwaters Forest Reserve, hunting enthusiasts can pursue their interest at Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, just northwest of the reserve. Ensure you possess the required licenses and abide by the hunting regulations in effect in the State.

Huntable game in the refuge includes snipe, geese, coots, ducks, and waterfowl. The use of trained retrievers is recommended when hunting so that you don’t lose too many birds. When you’re done, pack out whatever you packed in and leave no litter behind.

Fishing

Anglers do not miss out on the opportunity to test their fishing skills when they visit Headwaters Forest Reserve. This is due to the proximity to Eel River which makes its way through the redwood groves in the region.

Fish species available in the river include steelhead, rainbow trout, and salmon. These have been listed as endangered within the river. As a result, the river is sometimes closed to fishing, so anglers need to be aware of open seasons, closed seasons and fishing regulations.

History

A lot of history is found at and around the Headwaters Forest Reserve, particularly in terms of human occupation. Just one mile from the Elk River Trailhead is the site where the town named Falk sat between 1884 and 1937.

This bustling mill town was a ghost town for two decades before the buildings were razed in 1979. Along the interpretive trail in this BLM park, visitors can learn about the remnants of the town. The Headwaters Education Center is another facility that enlightens guests about the history of the area.