“definitely not named after Jean-Claude...”
The park features the lush Fern Canyon scenic trail system; the Pygmy Forest where mature, cone-bearing cypress and pine trees stand six inches to eight feet tall; and the bog, or Cabbage Patch, where skunk cabbage grows in abundance. The park’s ten miles of trail go along the fern-carpeted canyon of Little River. A paved road is used by joggers and bicyclists. The beach is popular with abalone divers. Van Damme State Park was named for Charles Van Damme who was born at Little River in 1881, son of John and Louise Van Damme, early settlers of the region. John Van Damme and his wife were a Flemish couple. The patriarch of the family was born in Ostend, Belgium on May 22, 1832. "Following the sea" for some years, Van Damme, upon his arrival in Mendocino County, later worked in the lumber mill at Little River. In this settlement all of his children were born, including Charles, whose love for the area prompted his acquiring, after some years as a successful operator of the Richmond-San Rafael ferry line, a plot of ground along the redwood coast. Upon his demise this area became a part of the State Park System in 1934.
If you are driving towards Mendocino, California or you are just passing by, then you should know that the Van Damme State Park is a great place to visit especially if you are into strange natural places.
The odd thing about this Park is its Pygmy tree forest where you can stare some really small trees ranging from six inches to eight feet tall. This is a natural outcome due to the peculiarity of the soil and its geographical position. There are about 10 miles of trail that will get you around the park, which can prove to be a great opportunity to relax from a long-hour trip as it was the case with us. Luckily we had our mountain bikes packed at the back of our RV and we wondered around the park for about 2 hours, which proved to be a great fun for us, especially for our sons!
To get there take the turn off to the Mendocino airport and pass it. There is a well marked sign to the pygmy forest on the left. There is plenty of parking, and NO ENTRANCE FEES!!! There are also informative signs along the trail.
We were a little disappointed with our campsite. It was small and covered in fine powder dirt. The bathrooms were not clean. However, the park ranger was a delight and very helpful. I might have to think twice about staying here again, maybe if the site was larger.
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Van Damme State Park
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