If you’re wondering where Bigfoot lives, come to Humboldt County, California, and you’ll find out. The town of Willow Creek, about an hour east of the coast, is ground-zero for sightings of the hairy sasquatch. The town’s museum has gathered some of the most compelling evidence that, indeed, the human/ape-like creature is real.
You’ll arrive in Willow Creek by way of California Highway 299, a seemingly endlessly curvy road that winds through the sparsely populated mountains of northern California. Even if you don’t care about bigfoot, you’ll stop here, just for a break from the drive.
On a less-rainy, less-cloudy day, California Route 299 would probably be an incredible drive. The highway cuts through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and for much of the way, runs alongside the Trinity River. It’s known as the Trinity Scenic Byway — but in the rain, it’s hard to enjoy the scenery.
I drove almost non-stop from the town of Shasta, near Redding, all the way to Willow Creek. There wasn’t much of a reason to stop, because the rain was pouring, but I did stop once, just to take a look at the Trinity River.
Most of my drive looked exactly like this. Look closely, and you can almost see the hill that’s directly ahead. With so many curves, the road was exhausting.
In fact, I was so tired, I started seeing things.
They were by the gas station in Willow Creek…
… and eating ice cream cones…
… and selling t-shirts. Yes, Willow Creek is, without a doubt, the Bigfoot capitol of the country. The town has adopted the elusive hairy creature, and has gone head-over-heels to welcome fellow believers.
It was still raining when I pulled into the parking lot of the Willow Creek-China Flat Museum. (China Flat was the original name given to the town, back in 1878. It was changed in 1915.)
Obviously, a big portion of the museum is devoted to Bigfoot. When I walked in, the woman behind the counter thought she knew why I was there.
“Are you out here chasing Bigfoot?”
I’m guessing that’s her opening line to just about everyone who walks in the door.
“I wasn’t, but I guess I should be.”
She directed me to head towards the back room, where an impressive collection of irrefutable Bigfoot evidence awaited.
I’ll admit, for a creature that probably doesn’t exist, this is quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. See that big picture on the wall? It’s a familiar frame from a home movie, the Patterson Gimlin film, recorded just up the road along Bluff Creek back in 1967.
There are statues of the skunk ape on display…
… along with original castings of giant footprints, all carefully documented with dates and locations.
Who knew there were this many different bigfoot footprints?
Maps, photos, videos, and other items round out the collection.
Oh, and this is where Bigfoot keeps his important documents.
Just kidding. The museum also has a handful of non-Bigfoot-related artifacts from around the area. Best of all, there’s a nice collection of souvenirs in the gift shop — many of them locally made. Admission to the museum is free, I’m assuming, because they know you’ll probably buy a t-shirt or miniature Bigfoot statue.[tmt_info]Interesting Fact: It’s also worth noting that Northern California, and Humboldt County in particular, is also notorious for marijuana production. They’ve been growing it here since long before it became legal for medical use in California. I was a bit shocked when the nice little lady behind the counter started talking about growing weed — so much so that I didn’t follow up with the dozens of questions that occurred to me, once I was back on the road. Hey, it may seem like a typical mountain town, but it’s California. It’s weird.[/tmt_info]
Filled with more knowledge than I thought I’d ever need to know about Bigfoot, I headed back out into the rain, for the soggy drive on over to the coast.
I’d highly recommend driving California Route 299 on a not-so-rainy day. You should also stop and get a lesson on Bigfoot at the Willow Creek-China Flat Museum. It’s probably the most interesting thing to do in town, aside from heading out to the woods and searching for Bigfoot yourself.
Willow Creek is located at the intersection of California Highways 299 and 96. It’s about an hour east of Arcata, California, US 101, and the Pacific Coast. If you’re coming from the east, it’s about two hours from Redding.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Redding onto 299…
… and through Willow Creek to US 101: