Mad River, CA


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The Mad River is a river in upper Northern California. It flows for 113 miles (182 km) in a roughly northwest direction through Trinity County and then Humboldt County, draining a 497-square-mile (1,290 km2) watershed into the Pacific Ocean north of the college town of Arcata near Arcata-Eureka Airport in McKinleyville. The river's headwaters are in the Coast Range near South Kelsey Ridge.
Before Euro-American settlers arrived in the mid-1800s, the native peoples occupying the lower Mad River watershed were the Wiyot (from approximately Blue Lake to its mouth, plus the greater Humboldt Bay region) who spoke a dialect affiliated with the Algonquian language family, with upriver reaches controlled by three different groups whose languages are related to the Athabascan family, the Whilkut, Nongatl and Lassik (Baumhoff 1958). Today, among these distinct groups, only the Wiyot-affiliated Blue Lake Rancheria is a Federally-recognized tribe and holds lands in trust for its citizens. The Whilkut, Nongatl and Lassik were essentially annihilated during the Bald Hills War in the 1860s. The river was named in December, 1849 in memory of an incident when Dr. Josiah Gregg lost his temper when his gold exploration party did not wait for him at the river mouth. In 1921 the Humboldt State Teachers College was founded in Arcata, now known as Humboldt State University.
The Mad River drains approximately 497 square miles (1,290 km2) of the Coast Range Geomorphic Province and empties into the Pacific Ocean north of Humboldt Bay in Humboldt County, California. The basin is about 100 miles (160 km) in length and averages six miles (10 km) wide. Elevations range from sea level at the mouth to 3,000 feet (910 m) along the western ridge to 6,000 feet (1,800 m) in the headwaters. Principal tributaries to the Mad River include South Fork Mad River, North Fork Mad River, Barry Creek, Pilot Creek, Deer Creek, Bug Creek, Graham Creek, Blue Slide Creek, Boulder Creek, Maple Creek, Canõn Creek, Lindsey Creek, and Mill (Hall) Creek.