Friday, August 3, 2012

The Maritime Ghosts of Crescent City, California

Riding the streets of Crescent City, California and seeing the multiple businesses, restaurant's and motels, you'd never know that in 1964 a Tsunami destroyed most of the town and took the lives of 16 residents.
    As we ate dinner last night and contemplated the days ride, we wondered about the history of the place we were spending the night. Upon returning to the motel, Matt asked the girl at the desk jokingly about the history of Crescent City. She thought about it for a few seconds, and replied "Well, there was a Tsunami that destroyed almost all the town in 1964." She said it almost casually, and we both decided we needed to find out more. What we found, surprised us. The small city of Crescent City, California bears the curse of Tsunamis and not just one!
   In 1964 a Tsunami that started in the gulf of Alaska, an earthquake ravaged the Prince William sound.   The force of the earthquake would travel down the coast of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California as a result of the 9.1 earthquake. It would roar into Crescent City, destroying a majority of the city and killing 16 people. This was a tragedy and no one suspected that it would be repeated on a smaller scale.
   In 2011, a second Tsunami hit the town. This one would cause the harbor to rise nearly 8 feet and caused massive breakers to pound the coast. It destroyed our very route along US-101, ravaged the town and swept 4 people out to sea. While the Coast Guard was able to rescue 3, one photographer who was taking photos of the Tsunami was never found.
   This town may seem small, but it seems it has a troubled and dangerous past. We heard the sound of a foghorn ghosting across the mist last night, and thought nothing of it, but maybe it was a warning and a reminder that one of the most powerful forces of nature lies just a few yards away. This morning we awoke to an eery fog over the harbor of Crescent City to usher us out of town and on our way onward on our long trek to Sturgis. Stay tuned next time for another portion of LRS Myths, Legends and Tales from the Road...


  1. While I like your story, as a resident of Crescent City, California, "Come Back Town USA," I feel obligated to tell you that there are some discrepancies with your version. Highway 101 was never destroyed in the 2011 tsunami. I believe it may have had water reach the highway, but it was never affected for travel other than being closed during the evacuation and actual surges.

    Also, I feel that the photos included are misleading, they are not labeled, and only one photo shows Crescent City. The tsunami ravaged town in the top photo is actually the town of Kodiak, Alaska after the 1964 tsunami ( The next photo is the Crescent City Harbor after the 2011 tsunami, and the bottom two photos are of the 2011 tsunami in Japan (

    Thank you for sharing our story, tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of that darkest day (or night) in 1964. There is a book out now called "Dark Disaster" that has great photos and information about it if you are interested.

  2. I caught the curse my life was ripped out from under me like a loose rug