Eel River, California
Coordinates: 40 38 N 124 20 W
Approximate length: 200 miles (322 km)
Thanks to cell phones, digital cameras, internet cafes, and budget airlines, destinations that might have once been little known or sufficiently removed from the beaten path are revealing their secrets to determined drifters with greater frequency. The natural treasures along the lower reaches of California’s Eel River–namely coast redwoods, the oldest and largest living organisms on the planet–remain deliberately concealed however. Slinking through Mendocino and Humboldt counties, the waterway helps give life to a large percentage of the old growth redwood forest left in the state.
The river’s rich floodplains also support a wide range of smaller trees, shrubs, bushes, flowers, and ferns in the understory. Wary of recreational climbers and timber companies, botanists who study these photosynthetic giants rarely disclose the locations of the foggy groves the tallest members of the species inhabit.
Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.