Humboldt Bay, the second largest natural bay in California, remains an undiscovered gem that can best be appreciated by those who take the time to turn off the main highway to explore. Much of what we see today is a reflection of the early commercial development of the bay and the surrounding territory. There are many exciting, and often overlooked aspects to what Humboldt Bay offers for visitors and residents alike — careful preservation of the waterfront and its colorful history, a pristine environment that is the home to year-round and seasonal wildlife, and many recreational opportunities:
Historic waterfront, Old Town Eureka, Arcata and Samoa. Extensive historic preservation efforts by dedicated volunteers have ensured that much of the past has been lovingly retained and maintained. The historic districts of Old Town Eureka, Arcata and Samoa preserve architectural aspects of these towns that date back to the 1850s. A stroll through the historic districts reveals not only classic examples of past architectural styles, but innovative uses of the old structures that ensure their survival as they house today’s shops, museums, restaurants and businesses. Walking and horse-drawn carriage historic tours provide unique insights to the colorful past and its history.
Pristine environment for wildlife. Humboldt Bay has been preserved by the efforts of many dedicated agencies, organizations and individuals who have united to ensure that it is an inviting home or resting spot for many species of wildlife. The bay’s waters are so clean that its shellfish may be eaten raw, straight from the bay.
Humboldt Bay is a major resting point along the Pacific Flyway utilized by migrating birds. More than 250 species of birds can be found in Humboldt Bay, and bird-watching is a year-round activity. Popular bird-watching areas include the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, the Humboldt Bay national Wildlife Refuge in southern Humboldt Bay, Faye Slough Wildlife Area north of Eureka, Mad River Slough Wildlife Area west of Arcata, Elk River Wildlife Area and PALCO Marsh in southern Eureka. Interpretive centers that are the starting points for frequently-scheduled wildlife walks are located at the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary and the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Sports fishing and clamming are popular and productive in Humboldt Bay. Anglers in Humboldt Bay favor several species of fish, including perch, leopard shark, jacksmelt, California halibut, bay ray and salmon. Improved boat launching facilities are located throughout Humboldt Bay, including Fields Landing, Samoa Peninsula near the Coast Guard Station, at the Eureka Public Marina, under the southern end of the Samoa Bridge, at Hookton Sough on the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and at the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary.
For those who do not have access to a boat, Humboldt Bay offers several options for fishing from shore, including the Del Norte St. Pier in Eureka, Elk River spit, Elk River below the railroad bridge, Buhne Point in King Salmon, the mouth of Mad River slough, and the north and south jetties.
Clammers find very productive habitat for littleneck, gaper, Martha Washington and other species of clams. Popular clamming territory can be found at the foot of Del Norte and Truesdale Sts. in Eureka, Clam Island across the channel from the Fields Landing Boat Ramp, and several locations in Arcata. Seasonally, Dungeness and red rock crabs are caught in the bay. Recreational fishing and clamming is regulated by the California Department of Fish and Game. Before going fishing, clamming or crabbing, be sure you have consulted current Fish and Game regulations for seasons, size limits, bag limits and legal fishing gear.
Boating. Recreational boating opportunities abound in Humboldt Bay, whether they involve canoes and kayaks or large sailboats and mega-yachts. Canoes and kayaks are very popular for exploring the salt marshes that ring the bay with tours regularly offered to these areas. Canoe and kayak rentals, sales and lessons are available at Woodley Island. Marinas are located at Woodley Island, King Salmon and in Old Town Eureka.
Woodley Island. One of three natural islands in Humboldt Bay, Woodley Island offers natural history, the taste of a Victorian seaport, and an intimate look into today’s commercial and sport fishing industry. It even boasts a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary with two freshwater ponds hosting many birds, mammals and a diversity of plant life, as well as interpretive displays.