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Shelter Cove, California

Shelter Cove is a place I go, in order to get away from the storms of life in the modern world, just as the seamen and fishermen of olden times used it to weather out the storms from the sea. This place has a uniqueness that is all its own. Over the centuries Shelter Cove has attracted people for a variety of reasons; (see: a brief history) but in each of their minds was a common denominator, there is an awesome beauty that can't be surpassed by any other place. To folks that read this over the internet, I will try in the pages of this site to convey the atmosphere of the area. But I could never convey the spectacular beauty that awaits every sunrise, sunny afternoon and all the sunsets. Every direction one looks one sees majesty, grandeur and spectacle. We are just a small dot on the great North Coast but we amount to 80% of the beauty.

You can stand on the seaside and look out at the whales as they pass from south to north in the spring with their calves just off the rocks of the reefs; or if watching them return in the fall, out by the buoy, each of us looking for the telltale spray of these giants as they exhale, or for a tail fluke following them in their dives. You may be looking to the mountains north or south in the summer and seeing  what the natives called the "smoking hills or burning mountains", a phenomena of fog that clings to the mountains like a smoke. Starting low near the water and lifting  up to the passes curving over and down the other side into the canyons and valleys that separate the peaks. If you are looking into the sky and seeing the it's blueness and the whiteness of the clouds, or at the wild flowers (fox paw here, an poppy there, ice plant and on and on with their vivid colors), you will know for sure you are not in the city.


You may see the Osprey that fishes in the Cove or the Bald Eagles that nest and hunt behind Big Black Sand Beach. Here and there you will come upon the deer that roam freely among the pine, oak and homes. Maybe you are standing on the bluff looking down at the menagerie of birds, seals, and sea lions that lay in the sun safely out of reach of predators, but so close you can see the stares they are returning to you. A morning walk on the beach may bring the occasional beached seal pup who was laying on the warm sand after a long night of fighting the cold hazards of the surf. Even the entanglements of the gulls over a scrape of food taken from the surf makes for enjoyment.

From time to time the Roosevelt Elk that populate the surrounding public lands will roam into the area, sometimes sleeping on the warm pavement of a parking lot. These are the joys of being here and visiting here and though I can't guarantee you will see everything, I have seen, I will assure you, that you will have a memorial experience and will return to the Cove again and again; or will want to. I will follow with a brief history of what today is known as Shelter Cove. The article was gleaned from the book "GEM of the LOST COAST" written by the unofficial historian and long time resident of this area, Mario Machi.

SHELTER COVE- A BRIEF HISTORY: This history has been gleaned in part from the pages of a book written by Mario Machi, the unofficial historian of the area. Mario gave me permission to use his book as a foundation to the article that follows. Mario's book is on sale in The Cove at the Motel and other businesses.

Shelter Cove is a small fishing community that clings to the steep coast of California in a spot that has been inhabited off and on for many years, starting as far back as the thirteenth century, when it was occupied by natives. These people may have belonged to what is currently known of as the Sinkyone Indians. The natives, explorers, loggers, tan bark collectors, sheepherders, fishermen, and tourists were the people that made up this long history. In modern times The Cove was abandoned then repopulated by a new type of individual that promoted tourism and fishing as the main stay of the area. These men were in part, if not in whole the Machi Brothers.  


The earliest residents may have come through the hills in the spring time to reside along the ocean where the cooler climate of the ocean proximity provided a more comfortable environment than the hot inland valleys. The ocean and area also provided an ample supply of food stuffs. Evidence also suggested that this practice of migration was carried on further north at the mouth of the Mattole River and also the Bear Harbor area to the south. There may also be evidence that some of these people wintered over. But the weather on this section of the coast can be fierce at times during the winter with the cold driving rains and winds making portions of the winter even in the densely forested areas cold, damp and inhospitable.  


Early trade ships from Spain are known to have been in the Cove, Russians explored the coast and founded a community further south at Fort Ross. It could be assumed that they probably stopped here as one of the reasons for their settlements and explorations was the seal trade. This group of early inhabitant left no permanent record or evidence of their being here except legend and ships records.  


Early exploitation on a permanent basis were sheep and cattle ranching. After this came the tan bark industry that built a wharf used to load the tan bark and later the fish and to off load the supplies and tourists that came up from San Francisco and beyond.  


Highway 1 was built in the early part of the twentieth century. It had to by pass; Shelter Cove. This fact and the eventual abandonment of the settlements here led to the term "LOST COAST". With the highways inland and the tan barks supplies dried up and both world wars, the  significance of Shelter Cove as a terminus was changed. But three young men who had worked here in the summers during the '30s remembered the Cove and their hearts know doubt were always here. The three Machi brothers returned and started the new community that we know today. They themselves clung to life tenuously, promoting tourism and fishing by renting boats and rooms. Shelter Cove then became part of a land speculation and development project that created the large infrastructure you see around; Roads, water, sewer disposal and the fire protection were created by this project.  


Shelter Cove today is a growing community of fishermen, builders, real estate agents, retirees, and service persons. The main income from outside is tourism, fishing, home building and retirees. Residents take a pride in their community, and look out for the plentiful wild life in the area. They enjoy everyday they spend here just as much as the visitor does and thus there is a happy feeling in the area that passes from one to another via a contagious smile and friendly wave of the hand.  


Shelter Cove's future is bright, as the area continues to grow and more and more tourists show up to look and feel the ambiance of the area. Fishing remains good and the surf is always up. "Eco tourism" and hiking is also an ever growing attraction. Retirement homes and week-end homes continue to be built. Shelter Cove has a great future ahead.


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