COUNTY IN A NUTSHELL
A summary of useful information about Humboldt County: its geography,
climate, population, economy, and culture.
Humboldt County is situated on the NW California coast. From
north to south it measures about 100 miles "as the crow
flies," although I've never actually seen a crow fly it.
The coastline "bump" that is visible on a California
map as the western most spot on the continental United States
is in the southern portion Humboldt County. The county's terrain
is mostly mountainous except for the area surrounding Humboldt
Bay. Several rivers make their way from the mountains to the
sea, the most prominent being the Eel river which empties into
the Pacific about 12 miles south of Eureka, the Mad river which
flows into the ocean about 10 miles north of Eureka between Arcata
and McKinleyville, and the Klamath River which ends at the sea
about 50 miles north of Eureka. Wide valleys straddle the Eel
and the Mad Rivers near the coast providing good pasture and
County population is about 130,000. Approximately half of these
people live in the communities of Fortuna, Eureka, Arcata, and
McKinleyville which surround the Humboldt bay region, and are
strung along a 30 mile length of Highway 101. Fortuna (pop. 11,000)
is at the southern end of this string. 18 miles north along the
shoreline of Humboldt Bay is Eureka (30,000). At the northern
end of Humboldt Bay another 7 miles north, is Arcata (15,000),
and about 5 miles north from there is the unincorporated town
of McKinleyville (12,000?)
The climate is often described as "temperate." This
means it doesn't get extremely hot or cold. A more realistic
description would be cool and moist. During the Winter months,
the weather is pretty similar in all parts of the county except
that it tends to rain more in certain inland areas and night
time low temperatures are colder (around 32) than coastal areas
during clear weather. Average annual rainfall around the Humboldt
Bay area is about 38", and Winter highs average 53-57 degrees.
During the Summer months the climate shows greater variations,
determined primarily by distance from the coast. Eureka, Arcata,
and McKinleyville will average highs in the 65 - 70 degree range.
Fortuna, Freshwater and other communities a few miles inland
will often reach the mid 70's, and places like Willow Creek and
Garberville, further inland with mountains between them and the
coast, will typically be in the mid 80's to 90's, occasionally
Someone moving from another part of California will typically
feel he or she is making a trade off: cleaner air, a more scenic
environment, and a more relaxed, friendly lifestyle, in exchange
for more rain and cooler temperatures.
Historically, timber and fishing have been the dominant economic
forces. If you've ever had a redwood fence or picnic table it
probably came from Humboldt County. These industries have been
in decline over the past several years however, and the region
has not experienced the economic and population growth so typical
of most other parts of the state. This has been a mixed blessing.
Much of the appeal of Humboldt County life is its relatively
stable, unspoiled, semi-rural, small town flavor. In some ways
its like America in the 1950's.
On the other hand, there is shortage of high paying jobs, economic
diversity, and high tech industries to fuel prosperity and growth.
By way of illustration, there is no teacher shortage. It makes
for a relatively high quality educational system because schools
can hire the best, but it also means that jobs with that level
of pay and benefits are not abundant. UPS and Post Office jobs
are also more challenging to obtain than in the larger metropolitan
There are signs of future growth on the horizon. The Humboldt
Bay harbor entrance is being deepened to accommodate larger ships.
Pro growth sentiment is increasing among civic and local government
officials. Emerging information and high tech industries are
more suited to the north coast than older industries more affected
by product transportation costs. Finally, the steady population
growth of California continues to extend into its more rural
areas as a matter of course.