Elk (aka Greenwood)

Although the road signs say “Elk” officially it is the Elk Post Office at Greenwood. The reason for the strange appellation is that when postal codes were introduced there was another Greenwood in California so the name was sort of changed to avoid confusion.

A century ago the population was 10 times as large as today’s. Schooners from the L.E. White Lumber Co. sailed regularly from San Francisco and early tourists took the 14 hour ride for $5, dinner and bunk included. The town had ten hotels each with a saloon and there five other saloons. Each of the ethnic groups which worked in the mill: Finns, Swedes, Irish, Russians and Chinese congregated in “their” saloon.

The garage in Elk today was there when the mill was in operation – as were the buildings to the south in this picture taken in 1901. The building with the rounded roof in the picture left is the garage.

Opposite the garage there is a path that goes down to the sea. It all looks so peaceful now. A hundred years ago it was a hive of activity. The L.E. White mill (see picture right) was tucked in the next cove.The Goodyear Lumber Co mill
– the successor to L.E. White
lumber operationThe log pond when it was emptyElk Mill log pond

The L.E. White offices are still in Elk. Today the offices are the local museum and the museum contains a cornucopia of logging operations artifacts and exhibits. Click here for details. The area around the museum was the lumber drying yard.

The cliffs that curve round to the right and out to sea were the site of some incredible engineering. The railroad hung precariously on the face of the cliff (see picture right). The log dump was some forty feet above the water and the “main” line was on the cliff above it (see picture below).

Another view of the train crawling along a ledge blasted into the cliff

There was a spectacular trestle at Stevenson Creek – see picture below and another – a combined HoweTruss Bridge and Trestle – at Elk Creek.Y shaped trestle at Alder CreekGreenwood train in the woodsAlder Creek Trestle Alder Creek BridgeTrain on the North Fork trestleShay loco in Greenwood woods Loading cars in the woodsLoading a car with a steam donkeyDrying yard at Greenwood 

The loading wire at Greenwood
Looking down the tramway to wire

Shipping out the lumber also required a major feat of engineering. At the end of the wharf the lumber was put on a sling and winched to ships moored offshore. The train did not go down the incline. Gravity was used and then a horse (called “Maude”) pulled the empties back up to the mill. At low tide if you clamber along the foot of the cliffs you can see the concrete remains of the footings that supported the end of the wharf.

Greenwood/Elk has always been known for its parties. Their St. Patrick’s Day party has been given annually since 1894. So if you really want to catch up with the past mark your calendar for March 17th at get yourself to Greenwood!

St Patrick Day parade in Greenwood


Memories of Cuffey’s Cove and Early Greenwood by Flora Buchanan and Yerda Matson Dearing is an excellent source of information on Elk or Greenwood as the locals prefer.

For more information on Elk check out this excellent site: http://www.elkcoast.com/mendocino_coast_elk.html