The Navarro-Noyo Historic Trail

A report on backpacking the trail

Between Camp Masonite-Navarro and Camp Noyo

By Scout Troop 74, 7-11 Lions Club

July 16-22, 1995

Assistant Scoutmaster Dave Rice

Historical Background: Most of this information is provided by Allen Hemphill, past Sonoma-Mendocino Area Council president, who camped at Camp Noyo as a Scout, served on the staff of Camps Noyo and Navarro, and has worked to preserve Camp Noyo.

Camp Noyo, on the Noyo River, has been used by Pomo Indians, shown by the arrowheads found on the site. In 1906, as Union Lumber Company extended its logging railroad up the Noyo River, it established Camp Four where Camp Noyo is now. In the 1920s Fort Bragg Scout troops were permitted to camp there. The Silverado Council, which then served Naps County and the area from Santa Rosa north, leased the site from Union Lumber Company in 1931 for one dollar per year, naming it Camp Silverado and operating its summer camp there until 1943. It could be reached only by train, the California Western Railroad and Navigation Company's "Skunk" rail car, with a station at the camp.

In 1943 the Sonoma-Mendocino Area Council formed from the former Petaluma Area Council and part of the Silverado Council. It acquired the camp and half the cots from the Silverado Council for $300 and renamed it Camp Noyo. In 1947 it bought the area around the camp, consisting of 720 acres, from the Union Lumber Company for $8000. In 1951 the camp expanded to the north side of the Navarro River, where stone markers formerly used by the "Tribe of NOYQ" can be seen. A wood-frame dam is still erected each summer to create a waterfront. in the 1950s a road from Riley Ridge was extended into the camp as a safety measure.

The council needed a larger, more accessible camp, and sold all but about 25 acres of Camp Noyo back to the Union Lumber Company. It then leased Camp Navarro from the Masonite Corporation, opening it in 1956. Twice older Scouts hiked from one camp to the other. No records of the route exist, but almost certainly it followed the Chamberlain Creek/North Fork

Big River/South Fork Big River/John Smith Creek/North Fork Navarro River route later used by Scout Troop 74.

Camp Noyo was for a while used only by Explorers, but was later opened to Scout troops for weekend use. Allen Hemphill and a group of dedicated volunteers kept the camp operable. In 1978 and 1979 an attempt was made to operate Camp Noyo as a summer camp (including Troop 74!), but it was uneconomical. It is now used for Scout Junior Leader Training, Woodbadge training for adult Scouters, and for Webelos Weekends. 500 Scouts a year camp at Camp Noyo.

Camp Navarro began as a lumber camp of the Albion Lumber Company. A spur of the railroad from Albion to the mill at Wendling (now Navarro) and Christine (now Floodgate) ran through the camp and up Neefus Creek, with a Y for turning engines around still faintly visible in camp and a piece of rail displayed in front of the dining hall. Lumbering and the railroad stopped in the 1920s. Notches cut in redwoods for springboards, on which the loggers stood when cutting the trees with double-bit axes and two-man saws, can still be seen in the Mohawk campsite. Goosepens, circles of redwoods sprouted from the roots of cut trees, are throughout the camp. All but one of the portable buildings, built on skids to be moved from camp to camp have, now disappeared; the one remaining is used as a toolshed, and part of a water tank on skids can be seen.

The camp was used as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp during the Depression, and as an army camp at the start of World War II. When acquired by Scouting it still had a row of decrepit plywood barracks along the river side of the parade ground. The lumber camp buildings on skids were used as Scout camp staff quarters for a number of years.

When Camp Navarro opened in 1956 the adirondack shelters still in use were built. A temporary dining hall, later enlarged, stood on the site of the present craft lodge. The foundation of a metal flagpole is still visible, where the ~55 Navarro" salute cannon stood. A wood-frame dam was erected on the North Fork of the Navarro River each summer to create a swimming area; in 1965 it gave way and the present practice of building a gravel dam began.

In 1984 Scout Troop 74 reopened the trail from Navarro to Noyo, along most of the route it used again in 1995.

The Masonite Corporation sold Camp Navarro to the Sonoma-Mendocino Area Council in 19?? for one dollar, and it was renamed Camp MasoniteNavarro. In 19?? and 19?? the staff latrine and present dining hall were built. In 19?? the Redwood Empire Council formed from the SonomaMendocino and Redwood Area Councils. Both camps are centrally located for the enlarged council.

Permission: Write and telephone the following to secure permission, get advice, and find out any special needs.

Boy Scouts of America, Redwood Empire Council, 2240 Professional Drive,

Santa Rosa 95403, (707) 546-8137:

Fall before: sign up for Camp Masonite-Navarro and Camp Noyo and learn of any scheduling conflicts. Contact the camp director or ranger and the director of any event taking place in either camp to avoid conflicts.

March before: secure certificates of liability insurance for land managers and property owners requesting them.

Three weeks before: file tour permit application.

Two weeks before: pay special Scout train fare of $5 between Camp Noyo and Fort Bragg.

After the trip: apply for and order the 50-miler or Historic Trails awards.

Land managers (names may change, phone and verify):

Jere Melo, Georgia-Pacific Corp, 90 Redwood Ave. Ft Bragg 95437, (707) 964-5651

Tess Albin-Smith, Assistant Forest Manager, Jackson Demonstration State Forest, 802 N Main St, Ft Bragg 95437, (707) 964-5674

Dave Frykman, Area Forester, Louisiana-Pacific Corp, PO Box 489, Ft Bragg, 95437, (707) 964-4781

Private property owners in Gulch 15 and Johnson Creek area (sections 22, 23, and 27, T 16 N. R 15 W). (Ownership may change; check Mendocino County Assessor's records, Book 125, page 28 and get a copy of page ($5) and a list of owners-of-record the spring before):

James C and Joan V Mickle, POBox 69, Ross, CA 94957

Jerry, Chris, and Betty Philbrick, trustees for the estate of Betty Philbrick, PO Box 1288, Ft Bragg, CA 95437 (or 8867 N Fuller, Fresno, CA 93720)

Michael M Schaeffer, PO Box 347, Comptche 95437, (707) 937-1353

Letters should include the following:

Request for permission to hike (and camp) on their lands.

Ask if they will need a liability insurance certificate and in what amount.

Include a route listing campsites.

Ask if any logging will be taking place, where, and how to avoid it.

State that no fires will be built and that trash will be carried out.

(If you will build fires, request a note for CDF giving permission.)

Request a map showing current land holdings. (Do not ask this of private property owners; instead get a copy of Mendocino County Assessor's Book 125, page 28, $5.)

Ask for ideas for 10-hour service projects if Scouts will earn the 50-miler award.

California Division of Forestry, Mendocino County: to secure a fire permit for open fires, fire safety conditions permitting, you will need a note from the land manager giving permission. (No permit required for Camps Masonite-Navarro and Noyo, nor for Horse Camp.)

California Western Railroad, PO Box 907, Fort Bragg 95437, (707) 9646371: Check train schedules and special baggage rules. (Pay for special $5 Scout fare- from Camp Noyo to Fort Bragg through council office). Train ticket to Willits will be at the higher regular fare.

US Geological Survey: Order topographic maps.

Don't forget thank-you letters afterward!

Awards: Scouts may earn only one of the two awards.

50-Miler Award requirements:

Write the plans

Hike the 50 miles taking 5 days or more

Do a 10-hour service project. (Since it is unlikely that 10 hours of service is possible along the trail, arrange in advance to do it at Camps Masonite-Navarro or Noyo.)

Historic Trail Award requirements:

Learn the history

Hike the trail

Mark the trail or take part in a ceremony or public event. (Ceremony or public event could be a campwide campfire presentation on the history at Noyo and or Masonite-Navarro or leading a history walk around either camp.

The Historic Trail Route: The route can be hiked in either direction; this description is from south to north, Navarro to Noyo. Most hiking is on logging roads. There were no vehicles on the roads in both 1984 and 1995 in the Gulch 1 5/Johnson Creek area, along the South Fork Big River, and in the Three Chop Ridge/lndian Springs area.

Five topographic maps are needed for each patrol: 7.5-minute series, 1:24,000, Navarro, Bailey Ridge, Greenough Ridge (used for one-half mile only), Comptche, and Northspur quadrangles. There are few road or trail signs.

Food drops are possible along Comptche-Ukiah Road and in the Horse Camp/Chamberlain Creek/Highway 20 area.
First day Hike north up Masonite Industrial Road: along North Fork Navarro River, to John Smith Creek. Campsites at junction of John Smith Creek and North Fork, and along John Smith Creek near Niemela Gulch. Easy hike. Great swimming hole at junction of creek and river. 6± miles. Navarro quadrangle. Louisiana Pacific lands. Camp Sec 28, T16 N. R 15 W.
Second day Beautiful hike up John Smith Creek, up Gulch 15 and Sheep Trail and across Johnson Creek to Matilla Road, east on Matilla Road and Comptche-Ukiah Road(also known as Orr Springs Road and County Road 223) (paved) past Boomershine, an old mill site, to the summit, then north on a logging road(watch map carefully for turnoff) to South Fork Big River. No water along trail, up and downhill. Great campsites about a quarter mile west down South Fork Big River from bridge. Great swimming back at South Fork bridge. 7± miles. Navarro and Bailey Ridge quadrangles. Louisiana Pacific, Mickle, Philbrick, and Schaeffer lands. Camp See 13, T16 N. R 14 W.
Third day Hike north down logging road along east bank South Fork Big River, in and out of Boardman Gulch and Ramon Creek, to Clark Opening. Great campsites along river. Easy hike. Swimming near campsite. 6± miles. Bailey Ridge, Greenough Ridge, and Comptche quadrangles. Louisiana Pacific lands. Clark Opening, Sec 2, T 16 N. R1 5 W.
Fourth day Hike north down logging road along west bank South Fork Big River to Big River. Campsites on gravel bars in Big River with swimming. [Alternate possible campsites west of road on flat above river in sec 17 outside Jackson State Forest; inquire of Louisiana-Pacific before using.] 7± miles. Comptche quadrangle. Louisiana Pacific lands. Camp Sec 28 or 29, T 17 N. R 15 W (or sec 17).
Fifth day Hike north up logging road along east bank of North Fork Big River, in and out of East Branch North Fork, to bridge near little red schoolhouse, then east on Road 810 to Horse Camp. Easy hike. Swimming near campsite. 9± miles. Comptche quadrangle. Louisiana Pacific lands and Jackson State Forest Horse Camp, Sec9,T 17N,R 15 W
Sixth day Hike west to bridge, cross North Fork Big River at old schoolhouse, west on State Highway 20 (paved) just across Chamberlain Creek (visit the logging display if you wish), start north on Road 212 (stay away from Conservation Camp), immediately turn west on Road 210, north on Three Chop Road (Road 310) to Indian Springs hike-in camp 100 yards west of junction with Road 3 30. Water tank, no swimming. Beautiful uphill hike along old railroad grades with trestles. Brushy in sections 6 and 1; check for ticks. 8± miles. Comptche and Northspur quadrangles. Jackson State Forest and Georgia-Pacific Lands. Indian Springs, Sec 36, T 18 N. R16 W.
Alternate sixth day Hike to Chamberlain Creek as above, then north along Chamberlain Creek Road (Road 200) along east bank of Chamberlain Creek and West Chamberlain Creek (take the steps down to the waterfall if you wish), west on Road 1000 along Three Chop and Riley Ridges to unmarked road leading north to Camp Noyo, hike north downhill to Camp Noyo. (This shorter route does not qualify for 50-miler.) 8± miles. Comptche and Northspur quadrangles. Jackson State Forest and Georgia-Pacific Lands. Camp Noyo, Sec 14, T18 N. R 16 W.
Seventh Hike north on Three Chop Road (Road day 330) (old railroad grade with trestles) to Riley Ridge Road. Hike west on Riley Ridge Road (Road 1000) to unmarked road leading north to Camp Noyo, hike north downhill to Camp Noyo (shown as "Camp Silverado" on 1950 15-minute topo map). Uphill and downhill. Swimming, showers, feast, closing campfire ceremony. 8± miles. Northspur quadrangle. Jackson State Forest and Georgia-Pacific lands. Camp Noyo, Sec 14, T18 N. R 16 W.
Last day Clean camp, scrub pots, turn in troop equipment. Catch Skunk train west to Fort Bragg or east to Willits. California Western Railroad

Other information:

For a set of topographic maps marked with the route and campsites, please send $12.50 to Dave Rice, 433 Garfield Drive, Petaluma 94954. He'll purchase and mark them for you.

Copies of the following can also be requested free from Dave Rice:

Troop 74's backpacking routines

Troop 74's individual lightweight backpacking equipment list

Troop 74's patrol equipment list

Troop 74's trail menu planner

1995 menu

1995 food purchase list