The South Spit of Humboldt Bay

South Spit is a long narrow finger of land that extends around the west side of South Bay, the south end of Humboldt Bay that includes the mouth of the Eel River. Getting there requires a drive south along Rte. 101 to the turnoff at Beatrice, then west along the marshy land south of Humboldt Bay. The Humboldt National Wildlife Refuge occupies the marshy side of the road, and the water was covered with birds when we drove past. Hundreds, possibly thousands of pintail ducks were resting, and we pulled over to have a look.

A large group flew up, and we thought we’d spooked them. Then another group did the same, and we saw that a hawk was swooping low over the marsh, scaring the birds into the air. We saw a second hawk doing the same thing and stood transfixed watching the waves of ducks rise and settle back onto the water as the hawks dove and passed overhead. We did not see the hawks catch anything. Maybe they need a particular distance, angle, or individual duck to catch something, but it looked a lot like they were playing.

We drove on to the ocean. There’s a parking area at the south end of the spit where we’ve stopped in the past, but I wanted to go out to the end of the road. Long, narrow spits of land are often without roads, or the trail is gated, but this one is wide open. Once a paved road, the remnant is passable, with sections that test the mettle of a Prius. We did see another sedan out there, though most visitors drove trucks. It takes about 20 minutes to drive all the way to the end. A jetty extends out along the channel that connects Humboldt Bay to the ocean.

We watched a few boats going out. An unpaved road goes out some distance on the jetty, but erosion has left the concrete structure exposed. It was like driving on a road composed entirely of large speed bumps. We turned back to the end of the spit.

It looks harmless, but this is not a road for cars. We turned back.

Surprisingly, the spot overlooking the channel is prepared for visitors. There’s a restroom and parking area. Not much, but more inviting than just a sand dune.

We started our drive mid-afternoon, meaning it was already getting dark by 4:30 when we got to the jetty. We walked around, looked at the birds and the water, then headed back. Unpaved roads marked as hunter’s access points lead toward the bay. We saw deer grazing peacefully by the roadside (none had antlers). There’s a beach on the bay side of the spit almost all the way back to the south end of the peninsula. It looks like it would be good for swimming in the summer. Not much in the way of beach-combing, the broken glass was all recent, and there were very few shells. It was good to walk up and down, consider interesting pebbles, and decide to return another time to walk on the ocean side.


Published by winifredcreamer

I am a retired archaeologist and I like to travel, especially to places where you can walk along the shore or watch birds. My husband Jonathan and I travel for more than half the year every year, seeing all the places that we haven't gotten to yet.

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