|History of Land Use|
As the European settlers' population grew they began expanding and developing around Humboldt Bay. Initally drawn to the region by the gold rush, European settlers began utilize other resources. By 1870, most of the wetlands were diked and drained for agricultural purposes (City of Arcata, 2006). Settlers began to realize the value and abundance of timber and as such it became the new popular resource for harvestin
In 1854 the Union Plank Walk and Rail Track Company began construction on a railroad and wharf leading from the Arcata Plaza out into the bay to facilitate and boost the Klamath mining operations. When finished in 1855, the railroad covered over 20 miles, with the connected wharf then traveling 11,000 feet into the bay (Figure 1). However, only 20 years after its completion it had to be further extended due to a build up of sediment deposited by the Mad River Canal, which was built in 1854 to divert the Mad River into the bay (so it could be taken advantage of for the transportation of lumber). The canal was later closed in 1888 (Van Kirk 1991).
During the lumber boom of the late 1800's the wharf was heavily used-in 1885 alone 142 vessels visited the bay, exporting 22 million board feet of lumber, 38 million shingles, 1.25 million redwood shakes, 260,000 pounds of wool and 1.5 million pounds of potatoes, meanwhile the Arcata and Mad River Railroad (AMRRR) transported 32,000 passengers without a single accident or injury. However, with the completion of a railroad to San Francisco in 1914, shipping activity decreased, and before long dredging the bay wasn't worth the money, time, or hassle that it involved. The wharf was abandoned, and now only the pilings remain as memories (Figure 2). In 1942 the AMRRR tracks were also removed (Van Kirk 1991).
In 1945 a concrete deck was constructed where the George Allen Enhancement Marsh now lies. This deck was developed for storage use by two lumber mills which used to operate where the Arcata Marsh Interpretive Center currently resides. Later, a nine-acre pond was developed to further accommodate the storage and assembly needs of the two lumber mills. Degrading economic conditions of the lumber industry lead to the two lumber mills' demise during the 1960s. The two abandoned buildings were not maintained after their closure and the property was eventually donated to the city.