In This Post You Will Find:

Blue Lake, No Lake

Blue Lake is a small town that’s 6 miles from Arcata (home of Humboldt State University) and 16 from Eureka (home of the gold-rush in the late 1800’s). It’s an old logging town with a strong Native American heritage and presence. The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe is in Blue Lake, as is their casino and hotel.

There are no grocery stores in Blue Lake.

There is an internationally renowned performing arts academy though! Dell Arte has been going strong for years now. And there are two bars: the Logger Bar (which is over a hundred years old), and the Mad River Brewery (which also serves food). Blue Lake used to have a coffee shop – Stardough’s, which belonged to my brother Dana.

Dana and Moxie in Blue Lake Stardough's Cafe
my brother Dana holding my daughter Moxie in front of his cafe, Stardough's, in Blue Lake, California

Downtown Blue Lake

The buildings in downtown Blue Lake are straight out of another time period. They are old and lovely. Graceful, colorful.

That’s The Grange

The big red building – Mad River Grange – is the grange for the area. The thing about it is that it’s been there forever and a day… and so too has my family lived in Blue Lake.

The inside is plastered with old photos of Blue Lake and the people who once lived here – I always wondered who in the photos we were related to. It wasn’t a question so much of “if” we were related; just “who.”

Micah’s got a joke:

He was dead-serious here, but it normally cracks him up, and that cracks me up, and so we all end up helplessly laughing at each other cracking up.

And! It’s on-target for him and Blue Lake.

You see, Micah’s great-great grandfather was Ira Underwood, who was smooshed by a redwood tree while logging in Humboldt. He lived in Blue Lake; his grave is in Blue Lake too, right along with a legion of Micah’s ancestors.

That feeling of belonging was priceless. I’ve never felt it before in that way – knowing that half the people in the Blue Lake cemetery are related to me and the kids, and that we have such a long history with Blue Lake.

Blue Lake, no Lake

There is no lake in Blue Lake!

There used to be. It was once here:


It has the river and the river only these days, the Mad River. Which sounds so cool., doesn’t it?!

It’s lovely in that crisply Humboldt way that rivers are lovely. And the levy (which sets “American Pie” off like an ear worm in my head) doesn’t get better for walking.

blue lake, california

So, Blue Lake is this tiny town without any grocery stores (but with two bars) that I came back to when my marriage imploded. I took the kids and went to live in Dana’s house, where my mom has been living, working to make it into a grief and loss retreat center.

My brothers kids live down the street.

That’s been a real highlight, just being able to pop by for impromptu ‘hey! how ya doin’?‘ visits. Who gets to do that anymore? I know, right.

So I’ve treasured it.

It’s been awesome and then some to actually live in a town that has been so connected to my family for so long. Like a dive into a real-life “Roots”, meeting and seeing distant cousins and being the grateful recipient of all the grace that this town, which knew and loved my brother well, has to offer us.

Blue Lake: A Sleepy Town in Northern California (with no lake). Just 6 miles from Arcata, 12 or so from Eureka, Blue Lake is the home of Dell Arte, two bars and a large casino. No grocery store though.

Nomadic photo-junkie, cat-lover, peasant-handed mom of 3. Life is never dull.


  1. Hello Meriah:

    In Australia we have no-lake cities like Pink Lake and Green Lake.

    And many of our lakes are intermittent.

    Some of Blue Lake reminded me of Sovereign Hill as both California and Victoria were gold states in the 1850s and 1860s. Sovereign Hill is in Ballarat, a very historical city.

    What a wonderful way to connect with family and friends and with your self and your chidlren.

  2. Fiona Willis Reply

    Hi Meriah, I loved reading this- it must be wonderful to have such a connection to a town. Our kids grew up in a suburb of the the city Perth, which always felt like a country town in the city t and we lived in a 100 year old church there. Now we live on eight and a half acres, 4 km from a small town in the south west of our state- the only heritage listed town here, and I love reading of the history and having new friends whose surnames are on street names and old buildings.
    Please post more pics of Blue Lake, it looks like a beautiful place to grow up in. X

  3. Pingback: A Move to Hawai'i - With a Little Moxie

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.