By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate Staff Writer
In , enough white settlers lived on the lower Klamath that they were able to pressure the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors to order the district attorney to take legal action and secure rights-of-way for a wagon road south.
The project began Oct. 22, but progress was andquot;agonizinglyandquot; slow, according to a history of the Redwood State and National Parks on the facility's Website.
Lewis DeMartin, a resident of Del Norte County, hired Pat Feheley in June 1889 to build a sled road from his Wilson Creek dairy farm to Requa. The road was finished a month later, following an old trail and running along the ocean.
DeMartin wasted no time in bringing 500 pounds of freight from Requa in a cart.
The Klamath Trail deteriorated during the fall when rain made the ground reportedly too slippery to ride a horse on at a faster pace than a walk.
The county sought bids for a two and one-half mile wagon road from Cushing Creek bridge to the top of Ragged Ass Hill, but received none. Its representatives opted to go to Klamath to gain information about the wagon road survey.
DeMartin wrote to the Del Norte Record offering to be taxed 50 cents per each $100 of his assessed property to nudge the property into action. He took a bit of heat from the newspaper's editor, who pointed out that he paid the most taxes in Del Norte County anyway.
At the same time, the editor of the Arcata Union wrote that a road from Redwood Creek to the Klamath River would bring trade to Arcata.
Finally a contractor estimated that the Klamath Wagon Road would cost $6,000 to build. The project resumed in spring, moving ahead quickly until Sept. 19 as the road inched closer to the beach.
The road was criticized as being too narrow. Five years after it was first suggested, the Record's editor criticized it as unviable.
Road backers rallied to complete the project, a contract was awarded for $985 and work continued.
Eventually, the road reached DeMartin's. It was finished by late summer, when stages began operating between Crescent City and Eureka.
Although there was talk of bridging the Klamath, that project was dropped as too costly.
The road paralleled the beach from Crescent City, turning onto the beach north of Cushing Creek. After crossing the creek, it headed up Ragged Ass Hill, passed the head of Nickel Creek and descended Damnation Ridge via Skunk Camp and Last Chance, crossed High Prairie Creek and headed on to Requa.
South of the Klamath River, the old wagon road and the Redwood Highway followed the same route to Elk Grove.
From May Creek to just below the confluence of Prairie and Redwood creeks, the wagon road and U.S. Hwy. 101 as it winds now had the same rights of way.
By 1915, a tourist guide noted that reaching Eureka from Medford, Ore., via Grants Pass, Ore., and through the redwoods of Smith River to Crescent City.
Tourists crossed the Klamath via ferry, went down the valley of Prairie Creek, and south from Orick to Trinidad and Eureka.