Moss covered logs and ferns surround a stream at the Headwaters Forest Preserve.
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Arcata Field Office

Headwaters graphic icon History

Falk photo banner of Gypsy train unloading in Falk, large log with Falk loggers standing next to it, train engine barn, Falk resident, large logs from Falk on train.


The area that is now the Headwaters Forest Reserve has a rich history of human occupation. The now-defunct town of Falk was once a bustling mill town located within the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

Do you want to learn more about the ghost town of Falk? Visit the interpretive displays along the Elk River Trail that describe the history of Falk. Or come to one of the BLM's special events, including historical field trips or the Headwaters lecture series at the Headwaters Education Center.

BLM Park Ranger Julie plays Maggie, the Falk camp cook, at the Headwaters Education Ceneter

Jon Gates, author of "Falk's Claim" discusses his book and his personal history with the town of Falk.

Check out Falk: A Town Disappeared. This film was produced by Ethan Cardoza, a student in the Humboldt State University Film Program. It provides an excellent overview of the town of Falk and Headwaters.


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The Long Lost Town of Falk

In 1884, the entrepreneur Noah Falk began timber operations along the South Fork of Elk River. The mill town of Falk was built along the river and included cookhouses, bachelor cabins, family homes, a general store, post office, and dance hall. Four-hundred workers and family members of the Falk operations inhabited the town.

Historical panorama shot of the town of Falk

By 1937, high operating costs and low shipping volume forced the mill into closure. Many residents stayed in town and paid rent of $5/month while commuting to Eureka for work. By 1940, only 12 people remained. Nine years later, the railroad tracks into Falk were pulled. Charlie Webb was hired as a caretaker of what had become the ghost town of Falk. By 1979, the town's buildings posed a hazard and liability to the area's landowner, a lumber company. At that time, the majority of the buildings were bulldozed and burned.

There are currently a variety of remnant features from the historic mill town of Falk. A recent survey of the area recorded the presence of outlying lumber camps, and patterns of vegetation resulting from residential use and historic logging practices.

The two main historic structures still standing in Falk are the craftsman house and train barn. The house is not accessible and is a safety hazard. The train barn was moved in 2008 and is now the Headwaters Education Center, which is located on the Elk River trail approximately one half mile from the Elk River Trailhead.

Landscape alterations also provide evidence of the town of Falk. A variety of exotic ornamental species mark the location of home fronts and entrance paths. In addition, historic orchards, cleared land, antique bottles, ceramic, tile, milled lumber, and a variety of other artifacts are scattered throughout the reserve. Digging or removing artifacts from federal lands is prohibited under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Headwaters Forest Activism

The area now known as the Headwaters Forest Reserve was the site of widespread public protests from 1986 through 1999. Political activists and community members from the northern California region held rallies and pressured political officials to "Save Headwaters" from ongoing logging activities in the area. These efforts culminated in the acquisition by the federal government and the State of California of 7,472 acres in 1999. This land is now the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

A series of photos showing activists sitting in protest at a logging mill, a tree climber, and three scenes from rallies and protests surrounding efforts to protect Headwaters from logging activities


Bureau of Land Management
Arcata Field Office
1695 Heindon Road
Arcata, CA 95521-4573
Phone: (707) 825-2300
Fax: (707) 825-2301
Office Hours: 7:45 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., M-F

Contact us by email at Headwaters@blm.gov