Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Unlike many of the closing state parks, Benbow Lake State Recreation Area had full-time staff collecting the day use fees at the entrance booth. As we paid the fee, Patty and I asked where the trailhead was. The Benbow website described a 2-1/2 mile hike overlooking the countryside and Benbow Lake, with the trailhead starting at campsite #73.

Well! Not only did this state employee have no idea where anything was, but actually encouraged us to go to a different park if we wanted to hike! "Perhaps Camp Rich-ardson," she suggested. Gosh! It's difficult to care about the fate of a park when the staff itself appears ambivalent.

I may be in error, but when I hear the words "state recre-ation area" I imagine a variety of outdoor activities are to be had. I suppose if picnic tables and a volleyball net are your idea of such, then you'd be happy with this park. After circling the small parking lot it was evident there was no hiking, no lake, and no camp-sites. Nonetheless, we got out our picnic lunch, and then commenced exploring what was there.

We walked along a short service road that followed the path of an already half-dry river bed. I fear this is one of California's drought years. Most rivers and lakes I've seen - in the months of April and May - are already very low. A variety of beautiful foliage lined the creek. There were surprisingly few birds.

A stage in the middle of the lawn indi-cated that live performances happened from time to time. I'd guess that won't be happening this year though.

After bumbling around the creek for awhile, Patty noticed a sign on the adjacent Highway 101, saying that the Benbow Lake State Park Campgrounds were another three miles away. Having seen pretty much all there was to see at the "official" State Park entrance, we got in the car and drove toward the camp-ground. But, as we approached the offramp, another sign for the campground had the word "CLOSED" pasted over it.

"What do you think?" we asked each other. "Should we check it out anyway?"

"Nah! Let's go to the beach!"

And that's what we did, ending our day at the beautiful Westport Union Landing State Beach north of Fort Bragg.

I hope to see you at the State Parks.



  1. Hmmm... well of the state parks I have read about in your blogs this one seems to be one that may be OK to close. Sad the worker there had a don't care sort of attitude.

  2. I understand Lucy's disappointment, but ... if you're ever in the Benbow area, you SHOULD check out the Benbow campground area, even though the campground is closed. Drive under the freeway, past the golf course, and follow the narrow road along the river. There is a brief unpaved one-lane section that any car can handle if you drive slowly. The campground gate is closed but park your car along the road, walk around the gate, and you will be in delightful stretch of the river with a big swimming hole that includes a riffle, deep pools, rocks to climb on/dive from, and a rope swing. I don't know why I'm telling you this, because I'm a local and it's my favorite cool-dip-on-a-hot-day spot and the fewer people the better! but... local pride, I guess.
    By the way, local residents in this area are working with state parks to re-open Benbow SRA AND Standish-Hickey SRA a little farther south. Keep checking on these parks on line if you like redwoods and rivers; you may be pleasantly surprised. Don't give up on us!!

    1. Thanks for that info. We'd already been to another state park that day that was closed (Grizzly Creek Redwoods) and I guess we were frazzled. I know there are beautiful places in the area - and I KNOW about keeping those secret places secret hehe.

      Hope there is success keeping the place open. A lot of the onus is falling on local communities to keep there state parks open.

      Good luck!


  3. My family used to camp at Benbow occasionally. It was beautiful and the swimming was great. What a loss to the entire community there.

  4. ok, I'll keep Benbow on my list of places to go swimming (one of my most favorite activities).


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