Deep in the Redwood Forests of Northern California
(Sept 2020) Situated between the south fork of the Eel River and Highway 101 just outside of Garberville, CA is a delightful little state park named after a family of settlers, Benbow State Recreation Area. Dotted with lovely redwoods and adjacent to the river, the park is a delightful respite from the summer heat of the Bay Area.
Pleasingly rustic — in that the park does not sport the concrete pads and hookups of many RV resorts — this clean and charming camping spot does have water bibs, showers, and tidy, full restrooms. The maximum size vehicle is around 30′ and at least one entrance to the park does require navigating a single wide, gravel hill that looks scarier than it is (unless you are a 4 wheel pro and then it doesn’t look like any challenge). See the short video below.
There’s a lot of commentary about this campground being right on Highway 101 and subject to highway noise. We were there Labor Day Weekend 2020 and had no noise impact in our spot. From walking around, we would guess that noise is not a problem for almost all the campsites. (Here’s the campground map.)
Labor Day 2020, the hell hammer of heat dropped on Northern California. Temperatures reached — and held — 105 degrees Fahrenheit ultimately sparking another round of devastating wildfires. While searingly hot, the calm river, shallow at this bend, offered a lovely place to park a tuckus and read, sip beverages, and converse. Families dotted the lengthy beach access barbecuing, swimming, and relaxing.
There are several nice hiking trails linked to the campground; and visitors definitely should pop over to the historic Benbow Inn. Opened in 1926, the Inn was constructed using clear heart redwood logged on the property.
If you do any research on this property at all you will find:
- There was a lake, but the dam has been removed to allow for improved Coho salmon habitat (and it was cost prohibitive).
- Algae blooms in the Eel River. Some of it natural and not harmful. However, cyanobacteria (known as blue-green algae) can grow and is known for for posing serious health risks, and can be lethal to animals (dogs). Be aware, and know the difference.
- This campground is just 10 miles south of Avenue of the Giants.