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Woodley Island Walkabout



My wife and I recently drove to Woodley Island for our daily walk with a plan to see the holiday lighting and boats in the marina at sunset. With clear skies and no wind, we enjoyed some exercise while watching the commercial fishing boats, a beautiful sunset over Humboldt Bay and a crab-pot Christmas tree.

 I recommend this walk to just about anyone in just about any kind of weather, as you can retrace your steps out and back on the paved, accessible trail however far you wish. We met one senior citizen who said he does out-and-back laps for miles on the short trail every day at sunset while watching the marina activities and the mix of wildlife (lots of black-crowned night herons nearby and seals in the harbor).

 You can start at the west end of the island, where there's plenty of parking, near the crab pot Christmas tree and the Table Bluff lighthouse (built in 1892 and moved here in 1987). As you walk east along the bay, you will pass by the Café Marina restaurant, public restrooms and the marina docks. The trail ends at the fenced-in wildlife area, with the Samoa Bridge stretching in the background.

 The west end of the trail features great views of Dick Crane's "The Fisherman" statue resting on the edge of the island. Dedicated in 1981 by the Commercial Fishermen's Wives of Humboldt, the statue honors those "whom the sea sustained ... and those it claimed." Turning around, you'll see a four-sided memorial that lists the names of local fishermen lost at sea; a collection of personalized items rests at the base of the memorial.

 To the north of the memorial is the Christmas tree of stacked crab pots, with its holiday lighting and decorations. For the past few years before the start of every commercial crab season, the Commercial Fishermen's Wives of Humboldt have erected a lighted "tree" made from dozens of crab pots that stands 18 pots high. The star faces out toward Humboldt Bay to welcome home the fishing boats and crews, though this year the fleet remains at anchor as the opening of crab season has been delayed until the start of the new year.

 While the crab pot Christmas tree is interesting to look at any time of day or night, I recommend timing your walk here with the setting sun to view it at twilight. And to see more holiday lighting, head back east along the well-lit trail past the restaurant and look for Alan Workman's sailboat Belle France, moored close to shore at one of the docks. It's one of the few boats in the marina with holiday lighting and you can see great reflections of its lighting display. Look past it and you'll see the Carson Mansion across the bay outlined in white holiday lighting.

 As we drove home in the dark after our latest walk, we started wondering about the origins of the name of Woodley Island. I called Jerry Rohde, our go-to local expert on all things related to the history of Humboldt County, and he quickly shared the answer. According to him, the island was named after its first settler owner, Captain William J. Woodley, who claimed it in 1869. Not long after, according to the records, Woodley sold the island to a D. R. Jones who soon built a lumber mill. It was a good location for a lumber mill as logs were floated down rivers and across the bay to the lumber mills until the railroads were built. And it's also a good location for a walk any time of year, especially when there's fresh seafood for sale on the docks.

Mark Larson (he/him) is a retired Cal Poly Humboldt journalism professor and active freelance photographer who likes to walk.

See the full slideshow of photos at

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