Our Story

little legends made and shared
by old souls and the young and independent

Through stories and songs
Over pints in taverns, passed down on plates with family recipies,

Whispered in kayaks
Through hidden coves,

Brought home from the sea
And recounted to friends and travelers
From near and far.

These treasured tales
Of this North Coastal town
Echo in the redwoods
Where self-made adventure calls.

There is a ruggedness here
In the land and its people,
A deep soulfulness
That is rooted proudly in the history of the past

When the indigenous, the fishermen
And lumberjacks, with grit and fortitude,
Forged the terrain
By land and sea
to put Fort Bragg on the map.

We invite you to find us and experience the wild beauty
of this extraordinary land in all its forms.

For millennia, generations of coastal residents have lived off the rich resources of the land and sea. Archaeological evidence shows more than 12,000 years of permanent use and occupation of this part of the coast. The Native Americans were among the first known residents, with the Pomo Tribe being the largest known tribe to settle in the area. Much like they do now, summertime populations swelled prehistorically as people sought relief from the inland heat and to feast on the bounty of food the ocean and rivers provided. The largest river, Noyo, was rich in sustenance and remains an important landmark. It retains its importance as the main access point to the Pacific Ocean. Later dredged for commerce, Noyo Harbor was a gateway for the timber and fishing industries that would define the area’s development.

Rich in resources, this area was selected as the Mendocino Indian Reservation. On March 3, 1853, Congress authorized the selection of five military reserves for Indian purposes not to exceed 25,000 acres each. A military outpost was established to maintain order on the Reservation as Indians were removed from Marin, Napa, Sacramento Valley, and throughout the state. The Frolic shipwreck just south of town, loaded with riches, as well as land speculation, led to the development of the logging industry, with dog hole ports allowing access to old growth redwood groves. In 1856, local Native Americans and already removed Indians were once again removed to the Round Valley Indian Reservation. Descendants of Indians that returned still live upon the Noyo.

The town you see today was named after Civil War officer, Colonel Braxton Bragg. The lumber industry fueled Fort Bragg’s growth and it officially incorporated in 1889, with CR Johnson serving as the first mayor. Johnson subsequently founded the mammoth Union Lumber Company and until 2002, residents of Fort Bragg marked time by the morning, midday and 5 o’clock signal of the steam whistle at the lumber mill. When the mill closed and the whistle blew no more, time itself changed. For over a century the timber industry shaped the commerce, transportation, art, culture and geography of this humble harbor town.

A once-booming fishing industry and many other factors also played a significant role in shaping Fort Bragg. Today, the town is known for its historic railroad, distinctive architecture, spectacular beaches and surrounding redwood forests. The story of Fort Bragg is ever-changing, but the past persists, as it is still a place that is shaped by the land and the people who live and work here. We welcome you and hope that you will find the beauty of this place and enjoy as we have for generations.

For more information about the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Indians, please visit their website.

The Coastal Trail showcases more than seven miles of our gorgeous coastline. The trail features numerous murals and benches, all of it designed and painted by local artists.

The Coastal Trail starts on the paved road past the parking lot at the foot of Cypress Street. On the left side of the trail is Skip’s Punchbowl, while a mile into the trail is a compass with arrows indicating the distances south to Mexico and north to Oregon.

The wild cow parsnips, wildflowers and thistles make a picture-perfect scene when set against the expansive ocean vistas. At the northernmost tip of the trail is the grand finale, a wind-seat providing some of the most spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean you’ll find anywhere. Visit Noyo Headlands Trail for more information.

California Coastal National Monument

Fort Bragg is the official Gateway to the California Coastal National Monument. The California Coastal National Monument comprises more than 20,000 small islands, rocks, exposed reefs, and pinnacles between Mexico and Oregon. The land is protected as part of the National Landscape Conservation System, administered by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior.

“Waves explode onto offshore rocks, spraying whitewater into the air. Sea lions bark as they “haul out” of the surf onto the rocks, and a whirlwind of birds fly above. These amazing rocks and small islands are part of the California Coastal National Monument, a spectacular interplay of land and sea.” – Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior

For more about our Coastal Trail, see our blog.

In 2001, Fort Bragg began a relationship with our beloved Sister City, Otsuchi, in northeastern Japan. In 2011, Otsuchi suffered devastation from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. To honor our Sister City, the City Council named the promontory on the Coastal Trail, Otsuchi Point. Otsuchi Point features a beautiful compass rose, as well as a bench to signify our relationship. One side is a nod to the Pudding Creek Trestle, and on the other side is a Tori Gate.

The story behind our relationship with Otsuchi is inspiring. Many years ago, Otsuchi-native Ken Sasaki lost his father, a fisherman, at sea. Every day the young boy would sit on the bluffs and look out at the ocean, waiting hopefully for his father’s return. When Ken became older, he wondered what was on the other side of the ocean. He drew a line across the Pacific and found Fort Bragg on the exact same latitude. In 2001, he invited then-Mayor Lindy Peters to visit Otsuchi. In September 2002, Fort Bragg students went to Otsuchi as part of a student exchange for the first time. Subsequent exchanges have taken place every few years since then. In 2005, then-Mayor Dave Turner and Mayor Yamazaki of Otsuchi made an official Sister City proclamation.

Wiggly Giggly: The Wiggly Giggly Playground at Harold O. Bainbridge Park is located on Laurel Street between North Harrison and North Whipple Streets, across from the Fort Bragg Library. The park offers a children’s playground, tennis courts, a basketball court, a large grassy area to play and picnic areas. The park is open 7am to 10pm.

Otis Johnson: Otis R. Johnson Wilderness Park is located at the east end of Laurel St., southeast of Fort Bragg Middle School. This seven-acre park offers shady walking trails and a close-up experience with nature. Charming wooden footbridges cross a stream that has undergone extensive aquatic restoration. Open 7am to 8pm, May through October, and 7am to 5pm, November through April.

MacKerricher State Park: MacKerricher State Park on the Mendocino Coast is a gem among California’s state parks, featuring wild beauty, diverse habitats, and a cool climate. Watch harbor seals and migrating gray whales from the secluded beaches, bicycle along an old seaside logging road, and find solitude on one of Northern California’s most pristine stretches of sand dunes.

Jug Handle State Natural Reserve: Jug Handle State Natural Reserve on the rugged Mendocino Coast beckons visitors with spectacular ocean views, peaceful forests, and half-a-million years of ecological history. The reserve’s 2.5-mile Ecological Staircase Trail features three wave-cut terraces formed by the continental glaciers, rising seas, and tectonic plates that built the Coast Range. Few places on earth display a more complete record of how geology, soils, and plants change a landscape over time. Bisected by Highway One, the reserve lies halfway between the towns of Fort Bragg and Mendocino. It stretches from the Pacific Ocean into Jackson Demonstration State Forest, three miles inland, where the highest steps of the ecological staircase lie.

Glass Beach is home to countless sea glass treasures. To reach the Glass Beach, turn west on Elm Street from Highway 1 and drive a few blocks to the Noyo Headlands Park parking lot.

Glass Beach, which is actually comprised of three smaller beaches, is an inspiring story of trash becoming treasure. The beaches are the site of three former city trash dump sites. From 1906 to 1967, cars, batteries,  bottles, cans,  appliances and more were unceremoniously pushed over the cliffs into the ocean, a common practice of seaside cities. Mother Nature responded with a nice surprise in the form of smooth, colored sea glass treasure in a rainbow of colors. Search for rare ruby reds from pre-1967 auto tail lights, or sapphire gems from apothecary bottles. Snap a photo, but leave the glass behind for others to discover. Have a picnic at Otsuchi Point, just 1.5 miles south of Glass Beach, or on the cliffs overlooking Glass Beach.

 “All park cultural features are protected by law and may not be removed or disturbed, including glass found at Glass Beach.” – California State Parks

It Happened at Purity By: Kate Erickson

The Mendocino Coast is a magical place to live. It offers fresh air, stunning beaches, majestic redwoods, and communities of people who support and nurture one another. At the same time, it is an area in transition.

When the Georgia-Pacific Mill closed in 2002, many thought it was the death knell for the area. For generations, high school students could graduate with the option of going to work at the mill and earning a decent wage. They no longer had that choice. Young people left in droves.

Over the past decade, many native sons and daughters have returned to jump start the area’s economic transition. Their resilience and dedication to hard work is forging prosperity and building a community that welcomes the participation of others. These people are part of a new generation of pioneers who have returned to their roots, working long hours with their sights focused on success, not only for themselves but for their beloved community.

Jessica Morsell-Haye

She’s well known around town as a member of the city council and co-owner of the Golden West Saloon. She’s also a talented fabric designer who has worked for some very impressive fashion houses. Read more about her amazing history.

Read More

Credit Kate Erickson, It Happened at Purity

Suggestions for what to cover on our blog? Send them to: info@visitfortbraggca.com

The Guest House Museum is dedicated to the founding of our city, and the history of the timber industry. It is the historic home of Fort Bragg’s first mayor, lumber baron Charles Russell Johnson.

More than 25 years ago, the State of California declared the Guest House Museum in Downtown Fort Bragg as a point of historical interest. It was built mostly from coastal redwood in 1892 for Tom Johnson, a business partner in the Fort Bragg Redwood Company. Before the house was finished, Fort Bragg Redwood Company’s founder Charles Russell Johnson designated it as the lumber company’s home for senior officials and VIP guests. The Guest House was sold to Boise-Cascade Corporation, and then to Georgia-Pacific Corp, who donated it to the City of Fort Bragg in 1985. In 1999, the Mendocino Coast Historical Society was formed by a small group of concerned citizens interested in preserving local history and assuming responsibility for running the Guest House Museum.

Visit the museum to learn more about Fort Bragg’s rich history. Or visit their website for more information.

The Larry Spring Museum of Common Sense Physics showcases the work of self-taught artist, experimenter, and Renaissance Man, Lorenz “Larry” Spring (1915 – 2009).

The museum took root in the early 1950s under the guise of Larry Spring’s Zenith Television Store, when Spring began to blur the boundaries between his personal and professional practices. In 1954, Spring made several remarkable achievements: measuring the speed of light using his television repair equipment; simplifying the periodic table and the atom; discovering the Magnesphere; being identified as an explorer of radiant energy. Spring disdained peer review and remained a maverick until his death at age 94. The Museum’s mission is to highlight Larry Spring’s spirit of amateur inquiry through public programming.

To learn more about Larry Spring, visit their website.

 

The Noyo Center for Marine Science
Explore the beauty and diversity of coastal marine life by visiting the Noyo Center’s two locations, each just a short 20-minute walk apart.

The Crow’s Nest Interpretive Center
Touch a sea star, look into an Orca’s eye, or zoom in on migrating whales off the coast at the Noyo Center’s Crow’s Nest, located on the southern part of the Fort Bragg Coastal Trail. Learn ocean conservation through education, exploration, and experience, and become a “citizen scientist!

Orca Skeleton at the Discovery Center
Meet the world’s largest killer whale skeleton at our Downtown Discovery Center. Step into the Ocean Immersion Dome, a 360-degree theater that allows visitors to see what happens underwater without getting wet. For hours, locations, events, and to learn more, visit noyocenter.org

Step back in time for a magical ride through the redwoods on the world-famous Skunk Train. Since 1885, the historic Skunk has made its way through old-growth redwood groves, over scenic trestle bridges, through spectacular tunnels, and into the heart of the Noyo River Estuary. Today’s riders enjoy the same pristine views that have remained largely unchanged for more than a century. In the early 1880s, lumbermen C.R. Johnson, Calvin Stewart, and James Hunter joined together to expand timber operations in Mendocino County. By 1885 the Fort Bragg Railroad was established to make transporting lumber easier. This was the foundation of the California Western Railroad, known locally as The Skunk.

The nickname “Skunk” originated in 1925. The single unit, self-propelled motorcars had gasoline-powered engines, while pot-bellied stoves burned crude oil to warm passengers. The fumes created a pungent odor, which old timers living along the line said smelled like skunks: “you could smell them before you could see them.”

Plan your next visit at https://www.skunktrain.com/

Step back in time for a magical ride through the redwoods on the world-famous Skunk Train. Since 1885, the historic Skunk has made its way through old-growth redwood groves, over scenic trestle bridges, through spectacular tunnels, and into the heart of the Noyo River Estuary. Today’s riders enjoy the same pristine views that have remained largely unchanged for more than a century. In the early 1880s, lumbermen C.R. Johnson, Calvin Stewart, and James Hunter joined together to expand timber operations in Mendocino County. By 1885 the Fort Bragg Railroad was established to make transporting lumber easier. This was the foundation of the California Western Railroad, known locally as The Skunk.

The nickname “Skunk” originated in 1925. The single unit, self-propelled motorcars had gasoline-powered engines, while pot-bellied stoves burned crude oil to warm passengers. The fumes created a pungent odor, which old timers living along the line said smelled like skunks: “you could smell them before you could see them.”

Plan your next visit at https://www.skunktrain.com/

The C.V. Starr Community Center has been a gem of the community for a decade.  The center is equipped with an 8-lane, 25-yard Lap Pool, and an 85-degree Leisure Pool. Catch the current along the Lazy River, or take a trip down the “Tessie Twister” waterslide. For land lovers, there’s more than 70 drop-in fitness classes every week, including zumba, yoga, cardio-spin, weight bar, aqua aerobics, and low-impact classes. Several enrichment classes are also offered for children and adults, including: archery, arts and crafts, family dance, kayaking, swimming, and much more.

Find more information on the CVStarr website.