Tracking 2006 conference of International Society of Professional Trackers   

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The International Society of Professional Trackers
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An International Conference of Trackers

History of the Site and Facilities

YMCA Camp Ravencliff is located in the heart of redwood country approximately 200 miles north of San Francisco. The camp occupies a beautiful meadow and wooded hillside on the banks of the Eel River near the small town of Redway. Partially bordering on Humboldt Redwoods State Park, with access to groves of towering ancient redwoods, Ravencliff's unique setting gives it a feeling of serene isolation, yet the camp is conveniently close to town services in Redway and nearby Garberville, including two major grocery stores, restaurants, shops, and a hospital with a 24-hour emergency room.

Archaeological studies have established that the hillside Camp Ravencliff now occupies has been inhabited by human beings for at least 4,000 years. At least two major groups of Native Americans used the site as a winter village to which they returned year after year. Sadly, the most recent
Native group, a band of Sinkyone people, were massacred by a militia of settlers in the 1860's, in nearby Whittemore Grove.

The Sinkyone called their village "To-che-be" (pronounced "Toechaybay"). The name "Sinkyone" (pronounced "Sinkeeohnee") comes from their name for the South Fork of the Eel River, "Sinkekok." They named the cliffs on the opposite river bank "Bus-ke-nes" (pronounced "BooshkanesS"), meaning "talking cliffs," because of the remarkably loud and distinct echo, which many Ravencliff campers have experienced for themselves.

Traces of the Sinkyone occupation can be seen around camp, most notably the round mortar holes in the sandstone outcroppings near the lodge, where acorns were ground into meal. This site contains the highest concentration of acorn grinding mortars in the region. Many of the sites used by the Sinkyone people were near the river and all traces have been washed away by repeated floods, so the intact mortars found here have some importance. The sandstone outcrop that is a dominant feature of the camp has been carved in over the years by many campers. We no longer allow carving in order to preserve as much as possible the original rock intact.

Settlers in the area supported their families by farming, ranching, and logging, and established many small towns along the river, including Redway and Garberville.

In the 1930's, the YMCA in Eureka, the county seat, purchased four acres on the west bank of the Eel River near Redway and established Camp Ravencliff. Some of the camp buildings date from that era. The original cabins and shower house were located close to the river, and were washed away in the 1964 flood. During that flood, the raging waters tore the deck off the lodger and water inside the lodge was a foot deep.

In the 1960's, the Richmond YMCA acquired Ravencliff from the Eureka YMCA, and also purchased an additional 60 acres of surrounding meadow and woodland from local owners. With consolidation, ownership of Ravencliff has passed to the YMCA of the East Bay. In 1964, the Redway Community Services District purchased some acreage to the north and west of camp as part of its wastewater treatment facility. The southern camp boundary is shared with Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

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