History of Smith River/Crescent City

History of the Del Norte Area

Tolowa Indian

Before Del Norte County was populated with white settlers, it was home to two Native American tribes: the Yurok tribe and the Tolowa tribe. These two tribes thrived off of the area’s plentiful fish and acorns and continue to flourish today as part of the county’s rich culture.

When the white settlers arrived, they brought with them roads. The first road to penetrate the county was the Crescent City Plank Road to the Illinois River in Oregon. The road was completed in May of 1858.

The towns of Klamath and Crescent City were created by the gold rush taking part at the gold fields to the east of their locations. River conditions soon proved to be too hazardous for the town of Klamath, but Crescent City boomed as a destination for ships from San Francisco.

Logging in Del Norte

As the flood of people arriving in search of gold slowed to a trickle, agriculture and lumbering became the primary businesses of Crescent City. The town of Smith River, located north of Crescent City, was a primarily agricultural community that supplied Crescent City’s agricultural needs. Soon, lumbering and fishing became the primary business ventures of the coastal towns.

The timber industry soon became Del Note County’s major economic resource. In 1853 the first mill was established in Crescent City, in which oxen moved logs to and from the mill. In the 1870’s the oxen were replaced by a railroad that brought the logs to market. In the 1920’s the Caterpillar tractor and the logging truck displaced the railroad as the most efficient method of logging.

Tsunami 1964, Crescent City,CA

On March 28, 1964, a violent earthquake occurred in Anchorage, Alaska causing a tsunami that destroyed over 150 businesses and homes in Crescent City. The earthquake measured 8.8 on the Richter scale, causing the destructive tsunami that killed 11 people. This tsunami lead to Crescent City earning the slogan: “Come Back Town U.S.A.!”