The Garcia River is 44 miles (71 km) long, draining a watershed of 144 square miles (37,296 ha) that starts at an elevation of 2,470 feet (750 m), and enters the Pacific Ocean at Manchester State Park just north of Point Arena, California. The river is named for Rafael Garcia who received one of the original Mexican Land Grants in 1844 and started a cattle ranch in 1845. Manchester State Park is a protected beachfront on the Pacific Ocean that features sand dunes, flat grasslands, and 5 miles (8 km) of gentle, sand beaches. The park has 5,272 acres (2,134 ha) and was established as a California state park in 1955, taking the name of the community of Manchester, 7 miles (11 km) to the north.
The estuary was historically called P’da Hau by the Pomo Indians who have inhabited this area for millennia. The name “pomo” is derived from a conflation of words meaning “those who live at red earth hole”. The name may have referred to local deposits of the red mineral such as hematite used for red beads, or to the reddish earth and clay in the area. The Pomo were not socially or politically linked as one large unified tribe. Instead, they lived in small groups or bands, linked by geography, lineage, and marriage. Traditionally they relied upon fishing, hunting, and gathering for their food. The Pomo culture is famed for ceremonial dances and a tradition of intricate basket weaving. A particularly valued basket type incorporates bird feathers into the basket’s weave. Some of their most culturally important dances are “Ghost Dance” and “Far South”. During a “Ghost Dance” ceremony, they believed that the dead were recognized, and a “Far South” dance was celebrated as the rite of passage for children to the tribe.
The Garcia River provides the water supply for agriculture and the community of Point Arena, 4.6 miles (7.4 km) south of the estuary. Logging in the river watershed began in the 19th century with the discovery of massive redwood forests, but since World War II, erosion caused by poor logging practices, cattle grazing, and gravel mining has done considerable damage to fish habitat. About 80 percent of the land in the watershed is privately owned. Lost Coast Forestlands is the largest landowner in the area, followed by Louisiana Pacific and Mailliard Ranch. Public access to the river and the rest of the watershed is limited due to this private ownership. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Garcia River here: