By Nicholas Grube
Triplicate staff writer
The mouth of the Klamath River is its own unique ecosystem. Sea lions, seagulls and pelicans wade through the ocean currents, snacking on salmon and steelhead, while sediments and nutrients flow down the river into the sea, creating a perfect habitat for phytoplankton and its natural predatorwhales.
The Klamath River Overlook, located south of Crescent City on U.S. Hwy. 101, gives an opportunity to watch these lifecycles play out in their entirety, but it also provides the chance to experience different cultures and languages as varied as the ecological display 600 feet below.
"We always keep track of all the visitors that we talk to," Redwood National and State Parks North District Supervisor Debbie Savage said. "They're from all around, and many of them have never seen a whale before."
She said she thinks a lot of locals don't realize what a great resource the Klamath River Overlook is, especially for whale-watching, adding that the primary visitors are from out of the area. "(But) I would encourage anybody to go up there."
Last week, while on top of the Klamath River Overlook, the viewpoint was more reminiscent of an international terminal than a remote vista on the Northcoast. In the span of an hour and a half, two groups of Italian tourists, a couple of arborists from Australia, two students from Hungary and at least two Austrian RVers visited Del Norte County's premier whale-watching vantage point.
"We asked about the things we shouldn't miss," said Zsolt Patakfalvi, a Hungarian math student who talked about why he came to the overlook. "It's a good opportunity to look at the things on the West Coast."
Patakfalvi said he and a friend came from the University of Washington in Seattle to explore Northern California and Oregon's coast. He added that he saw whales while in the Puget Sound, but he never knew you could watch whales from the shore.
"It's fantastic," he said with a broad smile and thick accent while discussing the whale viewing. "I can't say anything else."
Judy and Kym Knight are consulting arborists living in Adelaide, Australia, but they came to the Klamath River Overlook by chance. Kym said he simply drove down Hwy. 101 and turned down Requa Road to find the vista point.
"It's been a wonderful trip," Kym said of his and his wife's time exploring California. "What a great opportunity to do the redwoods and sequoias."
He said he understands how the novelty of the overlook can sometimes wear on locals because of a lack of interest in one's own backyard.
"You get complacent about the places where you are," Kym said. "You just live and work, and you don't appreciate it."
According to Redwood National and State Parks Interpretive Ranger Meghan Flanagan, a lot of tourists enjoy their time on the Klamath River Overlook.
"I'd have over 200 people up here over the course of two hours," Flanagan said. "For quite a few people this has been the highlight of the trip for them."
Flanagan said the strong food chain and abundant wildlife at the mouth of the river is what attracts most visitors, and that she spends a majority of her time pointing out whales.
"This is just the perfect rest stop for mothers and their calves," she said. "It's shallow and safe from predators."
But perhaps Flanagan's boss, Rick Nolan, Chief of Interpretation and Education for Redwood National and State Parks, describes the Klamath River Overlook best when talking about the diversity found both at the top of Requa Road and at the mouth of the river and in the ocean.
"It's one of those great collection points for people," Nolan said. "It's also one of those great collection points for wildlife as well."
How to get there
The Klamath River Overlook is located between Crescent City and Klamath.
Take U.S. Hwy. 101 South from
Turn right onto Requa Road
Follow Requa Road uphill until you
reach the overlook, which will be on