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The Valleys of Mendocino County

About 40 years ago the Mendocino County Historical Society was producing monographs on several subject areas. In the “Stories of Mendocino County” series #14 was Ray Shultz and is “Valleys of Mendocino County.” He tried to get a personal short story for every valley he listed and while I can’t share those due to space restrictions I can introduce the reader to about 50 valleys, small and large.

I’m going to skip the BIG valleys including anyplace that had a book written about it and focus on the little unknown ones…so bye-bye to Ukiah, Redwood, Potter, Comptche, Coyote, Round and Anderson Valley. Come learn about Tick, Lost, Poor Man’s, Deep Hole and Rodeo Valley instead.

Reading about these places is one thing…actually finding them on a current map is a different matter. on-line has a great 1954 Metsker’s map of the county to explore and I had an older Metsker’s from the 1940’s in my collection. Most modern maps don’t go into the detail these old ones did and I can waste hours looking at places that used to be worthy of note.

Ever heard of Bull Valley on Cow Mountain east of Ukiah? Only an acre with a good spring it was a favorite hunters camp. Those men would put their bed rolls on the trail in and the place was so enclosed the horses couldn’t escape. Cold Creek Valley locals called their area Poverty Flats. It was east of the Potter Valley turn off from Highway 20 and once hosted a school and post office called Hemlock.

The area we call Ridgewood Ranch between Ukiah and Willits was Walker Valley and famous for raising race horses. Rock Tree Valley was on the road out of Willits to Hearst and south of it was Berry Valley. Dan Valley, southeast of Leggett was 20 acres. Tick Valley was off of Mill Creek Road near Talmage and Comptche has a Tick Valley too along Flynn Creek Road. From Talmage a road went to Eight Mile Valley and on to High Valley into Lake County. Lost Valley was nearby.

Bell Valley, in the book, was referred to as not much of a valley on the Boonville Road but Ornbaun Valley nearby was great sheep country. The McDowell Valley east of the Sanel Valley and Hopland on the road to Lakeport produced good medicinal mineral water. Continuing east you came to Benmore Valley where the UC Field Station is now on more than 1,000 acres.

Scotts Valley off the Hearst Road featured good cattle country. Forsythe Creek Valley at the foot of the Willits grade coming from Calpella had clover so thick it would hide a steer if it lay down but the early settlers of the Ukiah Valley claimed grain grew so tall you could tie a bow knot over a horses back. Little Lake Valley had Willits for its big town and just to the north was Wheelbarrow Valley.

Sherwood Valley was northwest of Willits and go far enough west and you’d find Little Valley north of Fort Bragg…one of the very few named valleys along the coast. I loved Eden Valley and Paradise Valley on the old road to Round Valley near the middle fork of the Eel River. Rodeo Valley was near the forks of the south and middle Eel rivers.

Sanel Valley was home to a town that wouldn’t stay put. Today’s Hopland started being called Sanel but the town picked up and moved when a toll road went up the east side of the Russian River. It was set up on the west bank, but transportation changes and when the Northwestern Pacific Railroad was routed through the old townsite the businesses moved again back across the valley to where it sits today. Echo Valley, the first little valley north of Cloverdale and Preston got its name because railroad men building the line could hear echos when they pounded rail.

Summit Valley is the northernmost in the county up against Trinity County with Hulls Valley south of it. Tyler Valley was on the headwaters of Pieta Creek on Highway 101 with Adams Valley beyond it. McDonald Valley is called Oat Valley today but its name survives in the first name of Highway 128, the “McDonald-to-the-Sea” route. Surprise Valley in Comptche got it’s name because clover needed to feed oxen pulling logs in the woods grew as high as a horse’s belly and the area’s openness surprised settlers.

The Boy Scouts’ Camp Wente east of Willits is in the Finney Valley. Lost Valley was near Vandenberg Ridge near Cow Mountain. Poor Man’s Valley and Williams Valley were both near Covelo. Wolf Valley was close to Van Arsdale Reservoir on Mill Creek.

If you want to know more about the county’s valleys find the monograph in museums or google the valley and Mendocino County and be prepared to investigate topographic maps. It’s fun.


  1. George Dorner April 1, 2020

    I have an undated Metsker map of Mendo.

  2. Susan Holzhauser Boer April 1, 2020

    Love learning more about our county.

  3. Wayne S April 2, 2020

    Benmore valley is not the locstion of the UC hopland field station. I live in the Benmore valley so I should know. The field station is way down the mountain west of the Benmore valley. The Benmore valley floor sets at about 2400 feet above sea level by the way. It is one of a kind around here.

  4. Charles April 2, 2020

    I love seeng those old names, appears the old settlers had a sardonic sense of humor! Where I was raised in Maine we have towns called Desolation and Poverty as well as a lot of other along the same lines! These people were a tough lot and they left their mark in the names.

  5. Gale Knight April 2, 2020

    MetThis is so interesting. I would love to have a printed copy of this. How do you get a metsker map? Please let me know if possible.

  6. Greg Nelson April 3, 2020

    As the story goes Knights Valley is just south of Ukiah and on the south side of Burke Hill. It got it’s name from John Knight. The land was giving to him by Don Juan Feliz in payment for traveling to Washington DC and securing Felix’s title to the Sanel Rancho after California became part of the US. Leslie Crawford later purchased the property from Knight’s widow.She then then shared the proceeds with her band of Pomos to purchase the property on Old River Road. As I started this is the tale I’m been told

  7. Wayne S April 3, 2020

    Actually, the Sanel valley was taken from the hopland pomo people and they were forced onto the land that they now occupy. They were forced from good land with good water, & onto land with no water supply. They had to carry water several miles in baskets for decades.

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