SHELTER COVE, Calif. — The Sinkyone Wilderness. It’s one of the few stretches of coastlines left undeveloped and unchanged since California became a state.
Shaped by earthquakes and pounded by waves and fog, this place is so rugged that paved roads could not be built here. The only way to explore this state park is to drive down the very bumpy and windy one-lane dirt path.
The wilderness is the main attraction at this state park and it’s not uncommon to find a herd of Roosevelt elk grazing or resting in the limited parking spaces.
“There aren’t a lot of amenities here and that’s part of what makes this place beautiful,” said Marnin Robbins with California State Parks.
Other than the rustic visitor center and a few camping spots, the park ranger says the land looks almost the same way it did when the Sinkyone tribe lived here.
“They were able to keep a standard of living by tending to the land. It was a garden of Eden,” said Robbins.
For more than 1,000 years the ocean provided the Sinkyone with much of their food and the forest their shelter, but when gold was discovered in California, the Sinkyone way of life was taken from them.
“There was the idea of manifest destiny and this place belonged to the White man,” said Robbins.
In the 1850s, settlers started logging the Sinkyone’s land. A conflict with the tribe led to the Needle Rock Massacre. The settlers slaughtered many of the Sinkyone.
“It was a dark time in our history and people need to know that, and they need to know that the Sinkyone tribe is still here today, and we have a lot to learn from them,” said Robbins.
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Hiking trails throughout the park take you through Sinkyone territory. There’s little trace of the settlers' old logging camp left. The plants and animals have reclaimed the land.
The Sinkyone wilderness is a part of the Lost Coast, which is the largest stretch of undeveloped coastline in the lower 48 states. It’s a marine protected area home to sea birds, fish and whales, all of which you can see if you are patient and respectful.
“I think this is a transformational place. There are very few places in California where you can have a true feeling of solitude,” said Robbins.
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