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Willits - California

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Heart of the Redwood Valley

The beautiful Redwood Valley runs parallel to Highway 101. This is a high valley which favors grape-growing. Five major wineries are located here.

Twenty-three miles north of Ukiah, in Mendocino County, the town of Willits was famed chiefly as the eastern terminus of the Skunk Train, an old logging railway which takes tourists on a 40-mile trip between Willits and Fort Bragg on the Pacific Coast. Willits is also noted as the site of the transplanted archway which used to announce Reno, Nevada as the "Biggest Little City in the World" and now hails Willits as the "Gateway to the Redwoods." It has recently become a popular place to visit because of the popularity of the "Seabiscuit" book and movie. The famed little race horse spent his last years on his owner's ranch in Willits.

The Mendocino County Museum on East Commercial Street is open Wednesdays through Sundays with an excellent collection of Pomo Indian artifacts and displays on early pioneer life in the county. This is a rural town and the Frontier Days Rodeo, held each July 4th, provides residents and visitors with a midsummer country celebration. It's the oldest rodeo in the state.

Lake Mendocino is located 18 miles south of Willits, on Highway 101. Created in 1958 by the construction of the Coyote Dam, the lake is a widening of the Russian River which provides flood control and water supply in addition to many recreational opportunities. The recreation area has two boat launching ramps, three swimming and picnic parks and more than 300 campsites around the lake. The Shakota Trail is 3.5 miles in length, and the Kayeo Trail is 7 miles long.

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Several overnight places have a distinctive ambience. Brooktrails Lodge (707-459-1596) is nestled in the redwoods on Sherwood Road, 3.5 miles north of town. There are 20 motel units and 10 cottages with one and two-bedroom accommodations. There's a cafe, a swimming pool, tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course.

Old West Inn (707-459-4201) on Hwy. 101 is all done up in Wild West decor, pretending to be a recreated western town. It's near the Skunk Train depot.

Camping

Campers and RV owners stay at two private campgrounds. The KOA is on Highway 20, 1.5 miles from the Highway 101 junction, with full hookups, tenting sites, a summer pool and store. For information and reservations, write to P.O. Box 946, Willits, CA 95490 or phone (707) 459-6179.

Hidden Valley Campground is on Highway 101 north of the town center with hookups, showers and laundry. For reservations write 29801 North Highway 101, Willits, CA 95490 or call (707) 459-2521 or 800-458-8368 (CA only).

© 1997/2005 - Fraser Bridges


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