The original inhabitants of the area now known as Humboldt County include the WiyotYurokHupaKarukChilulaWhilkut, and the Eel River Athapaskan peoples, including the WailakiMattole and NongatlAndrés de Urdaneta found the coast near Cape Mendocino then followed the coast south to Acapulco in 1565. Spanish traders made unintended visits to California with the Manila Galleons on their return trips from the Philippines beginning in 1565. Humboldt County was formed in 1853 from parts of Trinity County. The first recorded entry by people of European origin was a landing by the Spanish in 1775 in Trinidad.

The first recorded entry of Humboldt Bay by non-natives was an 1806 visit from a sea otter hunting party from Sitka employed by the Russian American Company. The hunting party included Captain Jonathan Winship, an American, and some Aleut hunters. The bay was not visited again by people of European origin until 1849 when Josiah Gregg’s party visited. In 1850, Douglas Ottinger and Hans Buhne entered the bay, naming it Humboldt in honor of the great naturalist and world explorer, Baron Alexander von Humboldt, and the name was later applied to the county as a whole.

The area around Humboldt Bay was once solely inhabited by the Wiyot Indian tribe. One of the largest Wiyot villages, Tolowot, was located on Indian Island in Humboldt Bay. Founded around 900 BC, it contains a shell midden 6 acres in size and 14 feet deep. It was the site of the February 26, 1860 massacre of the Wiyot people that was recorded by Bret Harte, then living in Union, now called Arcata. Between 60 and 200 Wiyot men, women, and children were murdered that night. Tolowot is now a restricted site and a National Historic Landmark.

State historic landmarks in Humboldt County include Arcata and Mad River RailroadCalifornia’s First Drilled Oil Wells in Petrolia, Camp CurtisCenterville Beach Cross, the City of Eureka, the town of FerndaleFort HumboldtHumboldt Harbor Historical District, the Jacoby Building, The Old Arrow TreeOld Indian Village of Tsurai, the Town of Trinidad, and Trinidad Head.


#146: Trinidad Head
#154: Fort Humboldt
#164: The Old Arrow Tree
#173: Centerville Beach Cross
#215: Camp Curtis
#216: Town of Trinidad
#477: City of Eureka

#543: California’s First Drilled Oil Wells
#783: Jacoby Building
#838: Old Indian Village of Tsurai
#842: Arcata and Mad River Rail Road Company
#882: Humboldt Harbor Historical District
#883: Ferndale