Lake Earl Wildlife Area


The western edge of the approximately 6,100-acre wildlife area borders the Pacific Ocean. Sand dunes extending inland are covered with scattered beach grasses and other vegetation. The area encompasses Lakes Earl and Tolowa, two lagoons connected by a deep channel known as the Narrows, and bordered by salt and fresh water marshes. Lake Earl is the largest coastal lagoon on the US West Coast. Further inland the area ends in upland fields and forest of Sitka spruce and pine trees. Some of the diverse wildlife species that can be found in this area include quail, grouse, canvasback, western grebe, coastal black-tailed deer, and beaver.

For more information, call the area at (707) 487-0541, or the Northern Region's Eureka office at (707) 445-6493.

Recreational Opportunities

fishing boat ramp hiking wildlife viewing waterfowl hunting hunting with shotgun information kiosk or visitor center restrooms

Activities: fishing, boating, hiking, birdwatching, and waterfowl hunting

Cutthroat and steelhead are the most popular fish species, and boaters find the Narrows the most accommodating area for boats because of dense vegetation in the lakes.


Type C: Lake Earl Wildlife Area does not require the purchase of a hunting pass for entry. Entry permits and/or passes or special drawing may be required for hunting on some Type C wildlife areas.

Facilities: Informational kiosk, restrooms and boat launching available. Camping is available year-round at nearby Tolowa Dunes State Park.

NOTE: Visitors are responsible for knowing and complying with all regulations pertaining to the use of Department lands.

Refer to the Public Uses on State and Federal Lands section of the Waterfowl, Upland Game, and Public Use Regulations (PDF) booklet for both statewide and property-specific regulations.

no drones icon
You may not operate a drone on CDFW Lands without a Special Use Permit.

Area History

Prior to European settlement, the Tolowa people inhabited the area surrounding what is now the wildlife area. The Tolowa utilized coastal and upland resources on a cyclic basis. Lake Earl and Tolowa were strategically important for food and transportation. The Jedediah Smith Expedition of 1828 was the first documented European contact with the Tolowa people. Disease and war decimated their population. The European settlers soon began extracting the rich resources of the area and developing industry and agriculture. In the late 1850s, the natural harbor at Crescent City was developed for ocean-going vessels which brought goods and supplies to settlers and miners.

As early as 1869, saw mills were established on the eastern shores of Lake Earl. Settlers logged the original coastal forest. A controversy began over lake water levels, where loggers required high levels to transport and store logs, and farmers wanted low levels to reclaim more land for pasture and prevent seasonal flooding. The conflict ended when a rail line was built in 1891 to transport logs, but agricultural interests continued to periodically manipulate the levels.

During the 1920s, conservationists began to voice concern over the artificial breaching of Lake Earl, and the debate continued through the 1900s. In 1979, the Department purchased coastal wetland habitat, and the property was designated as a wildlife area by the Fish and Game Commission in 1980.

map of Lake Earl WA - click to enlarge in new window
Click to enlarge


Northern Region (Region 1)

Del Norte County

approximately 5 miles north of Crescent City, bordering the Pacific Ocean

Access: From Highway 101 take Lake Earl Drive. Go left at Old Mill Road. Proceed 1.4 miles to the wildlife area information center. Boat launch facilities are located at the end of Lakeview Drive and Buzzini Road.

CDFW Lands Viewer