We have just finished up ten days at a beachfront campground on the California coast that has been a favorite of ours for years – Navarro Beach. It’s part of Navarro River Redwoods State Park, a park located in the narrow valley formed by the Navarro River. Highway 128 winds up from the coastal highway through second growth redwoods, which is nice, but we like the beach better. This section of the Pacific Coast Highway between Point Arena and Fort Bragg is about 150 miles north of San Fransisco and sparsely populated, which is the way we like it.
We first came here nine years ago when we first got our Chevy Roadtrek and were very happy just sitting on the beach, listening to the surf and the seagulls, and watching the seals and other wildlife. It’s definitely a Northern California feel with fog, redwood logs, and kelp, not the sunny sand of Malibu. All weather camping capability is important – I made many friends passing out coffee to tent campers who couldn’t get their stoves lit in the drizzle. My awning came in handy on such mornings.
Since it’s an extension of the state park system, which has fallen upon hard financial times, it’s a bit pricey for a picnic table and fire ring campground – currently $25 a night, with $2 off for a senior pass. What that does is make sure that it isn’t crowded, except for Friday and Saturday nights. Most of the time we had the place to ourselves during the week. There are day stay people who drop by to exercise their dogs or wander the beach, and friendly ranger staff who drop by once a day to collect the money in the iron ranger drop box, but for beachfront accommodations it’s pretty secluded. You are well off the highway and there’s not much noise. There’s water and a dump up at Van Damme State Park four miles north for day stay fees of $8, and shopping at Fort Bragg 20 miles north.
You’re allowed to collect up to 50 pounds of driftwood for fires, and there’s no way this is ever going to be a supply problem – these short coastal rivers bring down an astonishing amount of driftwood, including whole tree trunks a hundred feet long. Kids build teepee structures and forts out of the abundant supply. No fires on the beach, though – one dumb person and the whole thing could go up in flames.
There’s only one problem with this campground, though – the river flows out into the ocean most of the time, but every once in a while high surf will build up a sandbar across the river mouth, and water starts to rise in the valley, eventually coming into the campground. The road out is elevated enough so you never get trapped, as long as you keep an eye on the river. On what turned out to be our last night there an offshore storm kicked up big swells, and when we woke the river was ten feet higher than it was the day before, with water seeping into our campsite. We packed up and headed out, not wishing to wait around until the river eventually found its way back out into the ocean.