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A History of the Angelo Reserve

Human occupation within the region may date back as early as 3,000 B.C. Residents from the late prehistoric era were the Cahto people, who hunted game and collected acorns and bulbs throughout the Eel River drainage. Projectile points and food-preparation tools have been found in the reserve's meadows, which the Cahtos apparently vistited seasonally. The Cahtos may have periodically burned these river terraces and parts of the woodland slopes to clear the undergrowth to facilitate hunting and gathering.

The first European settlers arrived in the area during the 1880's, relatively late in California homesteading history. Like the Cahto's before them, these settlers established their homesteads along the flat meadows at the river's edge. Redwoods that lined the moist lowlands were felled for boards, shakes and pickets. Yet living off this land proved to be a lean bussiness. Steep hillslopes drained cold air down to the narrow river terraces, chiling efforts at farming. Increasingly, homesteaders sought work elsewhere and by the 1920's, all of the original homesteading families had moved on. Their tenure on the land is still evident in scattered orchards and miles of picket fences weaving in and our of the forest.

At the turn of the century, a new resort industry replaced some of the failing homesteads. The largest resort, Wilderness Lodge, became a popular rustic destination for San Franciscans of the day. A fire destroyed most of the original lodge in 1937. However, another country inn from that era still stands near the end of Wilderness Road. Known as the White House, it was first built in the late 1800's as a one-room canin constructed of redwood planks. Later, to accomodate visiting hunting parties, an elegant two-story addition was built onto the cabin, an architectural document of changing times. Abandoned and virtually untouched for half a century, the White House, its contents, and the surrounding homestead are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

A new generation of land stewardship began in 1931, when Heath and Marjorie Angelo bought an old homestead on Elder Creek. After selling their manufacturing business in San Francisco, the Angelos moved to Elder Creek to enjoy a quieter life. There they set to rebuilding the homestead and recording the natural history of the area.

Alarmed by increased logging of the region's forests, the Angelo's purchased surrounding land over the years to protect it from harvest. In those days, forest land was taxed for the value of its timber, cut or not. By the mid-1950's, the Angelos had amassed nearly 3,000 acres and a heavy tax burden. With the hope of protecting the land in perpetuity, they sold their holdings to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 1959, creating the Northern California Coast Range Preserve (NCCRP) the first TNC preserve in the western United States. The Angelos lived out their lives on the reserve. Much of the cultural and natural history of the site was first recorded by Heath Angelo.

Since World War II, logging has been the predominant land use in the Coast Range. Douglas-Fir, overlooked by ealier industries, becaome the primary building material for the powt-war housing boom. Today very few forests within the Pacific Northwest remain uncut. The rate of harvest on public lands has slowed somewhat since the late 1980s with increased public awareness of environmental degradation associated with logging.

Adjacent to the reserve, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) designated 1,417 hectares (3,500 acres) as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). In 1984, the reserve, together with the ACEC, was designated as part of a biosphere reserve under the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere program. Continued coordination in management of the reserve and the ACEC is reflected in ongoing cooperation between UC and BLM. In 1989, the University of California signved a management and use agreement with TNC to include the reserve in the Natural Reserve System. In 1994, the University accepted the site from TNC and dedicated it as the Heath and Marjorie Angelo Coast Range Reserve. The reserve, now totalling 1,642 hectares (4,055 acres), is administered through UC Berkeley's campus office of the Natural Reserve System.


Text by Margaret Herring, edited by Susan Gee Runsey and hyperlinks added by John Latto.
Used with permission of the UC Natural Reserve System.