History & Culture

Thousands of years before pioneer explorers from the eastern United States entered the area, seven Native American tribes lived off its bounty - the Yuki, Nomlaki, Patwin, Eastern Pomo, Northeastern Pomo, Wailaki, and Huchnom. Artifacts and records from more than 1,800 archaeological sites have provided important information about their earlier settlement and use of the region, but we have much more to learn.

It takes only the slightest disturbance of any Native American or historic site by an untrained person to destroy the archaeological record. As a result, federal laws prohibit tampering with such sites or removing objects as souvenirs.

Between 1850 and 1900, many small sawmills operated within what is now the forest boundary. Ranchers living in the Sacramento Valley extensively used the mountains for summer grazing in the late 19th century. Mining also played a role in the history of the area. Most mining activity was limited to exploration for copper in the late 1800s and strategic minerals like manganese and chrome during World Wars I and II.

The minerals that attracted most people, however, were the ones dissolved in mineral and hot springs. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, visitors would travel many miles to drink the water from mineral springs and soak in baths at resorts and spas for their advertised therapeutic benefits. You can see remains of three resort hotels, mineral baths, and a bottling plant for mineral water at Bartlett Flat. Fouts Springs, Hough Springs, and Allen Springs also boasted popular resort facilities, although little evidence of their buildings remains.

First set aside as the Stony Creek Reserve in 1907, the area became the California National Forest in 1908 and then the Mendocino National Forest in 1932.

Heritage Programs

The Heritage Resource Program helps to protect, evaluate, and learn from our prehistoric and historic resources on the Forest. It also provides support to the Forest's annual program of work by ensuring compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. Over 300,000 acres have been inventoried and over 1,800 sites have been recorded on the Forest.

Passport in Time, also known as "PIT", is a volunteer archaeology and historic preservation program of the Forest Service. We invite you to work with professional archaeologists and historians on projects including archaeological excavation, rock art restoration, survey, archival research, historic structure restoration, gathering oral histories, or writing interpretive brochures.