The Lumberjack

Touring the Tolowa Dunes

Sandra Jerabek standing next to a Pinus contorta, also known as twisted pine. Photo by Vincent Leavell.

Nestled in a land forgotten by time and human impact lies Tolowa Dunes State Park near Crescent City.

Sandra Jerabek helps manage Tolowa Coastal Dunes near Crescent City, Calif. Jerabek calls herself a “generalist naturalist” with 20 years of environmental work and says the discovery of Del Norte County was ideal.

“This was my perfect place, to be grounded, to really dig my roots into this place and learn all about it,” Jerabek said.

Jerabek and volunteers of the Tolowa Dunes Stewards help maintain the park. Jerabek founded the Tolowa Dunes Stewards and helps to manage the community member volunteers that work to restore the land.

Jerabek took a group from Friends of the Dunes on a walk through the Tolowa Coastal Dunes forest and lagoon on Feb. 5.

Cities cause humans to forget how remote areas next door can be. It is abrupt to arrive at Tolowa Dunes visitor center at 2591 Old Mill Road after a few turns from the city.

The first view is of open grassland towards the ocean, still some distance away. To the east is pine forest with sandy debris ground and low plant cover.

Tolowa Dunes State Park is only a short distance away by car, about an hour and a half drive north of Eureka. This 11,000 acre is the center where Tolowa Dee-ni’ people lived.

The once beautiful, free land and ancestral home to the Tolowa Dee-ni’ native people was transformed into ranch land as settlers chose harm and death. The Tolowa Dunes State Park is now free and open to all.

Friends of the Dunes sponsors dune walks at Tolowa Dunes near Crescent City. With over 60 miles of shore, water is always close at hand while walking through the forest.

The body of water to the east is called Lake Earl and the Pacific Ocean is further to the west.

Lake Earl Wildlife Area at Tolowa Dunes is a natural lagoon habitat filled by rain and runoff, a brackish marsh and an ocean mix when the sandbar washes out in winter.

With otters, hawks, porcupine and over 320 species of birds, this is just the place for binoculars. The area also holds 500 plant species and over 400 fungi, woodland and waterways.

Bicycling on the designated trail, horseback riding, hiking, canoeing, birding and simply enjoying nature are all wonderful things to do at Tolowa Dunes.