Van Damme State ParkLeave review
About Van Damme State Park
Campgrounds in Van Damme
This park doesn't have any submitted photos—just yet.
Drop some Van Damme knowledge on us.
A very underrated campground with upper and lower camp areas. There are brand new bathrooms/showers in the upper area and a huge playing field in the middle of the 'ring' of about 30 campsites. The lower sites sit along a beautiful little creek and redwood trees. Expect more noise at the upper campsites.
There are also 'environmental camp sites' about 2.5mi up this BEAUTIFUL little creek, along a very well-maintained path. Rangers say it's super-quiet up there so if you're looking for some peaceful camping without having to make a big trek, this is a great find. Campers can hike the same path too.
Summary: An great campground nestled amongst the trees, sitting along a creek, and right next to the beach. Just a few mins from Fort Bragg
Jonesing for a fire? Head 2.5 hours north of SF to the lovely, damp forest at Van Damme. Stop at Lemon's Market on 120 en route for pickled asparagus--this is non negotiable.
Sites are 35$ per night and there are over 60 of them, if you don't mind rubbing elbows with RVS and being lullabied to sleep by the sound of abalone divers pounding their catch for dinner. The park is dog friendly, but unfortunately you can't take your pet back to the environmental sites, which are like a backcountry dream only 3 miles from a parking lot.
There's even a pygmy forest complete with science-y fact boards for us nerds and you can pull a quick 9 mile loop through the trails and be back in time for s'mores (and asparagus).
The lower area is quieter, with nicely spaced sites along a creek. Watch out for mosquitos though. The upper area has a lot more action. Sites are a bit close together. The looping road and field in the middle provide great recreation space for kids to ride bikes, throw frisbees, etc. Weather is hit or miss in the summer. We've stayed on beautiful sunny days but also visited at times when it was cold and foggy the whole time. Overall, a great campground.
We stayed at site 11 in the lower loop with a dog. Unfortunately, they are not allowed on any of the trails though, so we only managed the short hike around the very overgrown Bog Trail. Sites with roomy with a food storage locker. I would like to stay in the upper loops if I went again. Beach accessible across the way filled with abalone divers but the green space just north of that has easy hiking we took the dog on down to the cliffs. We also drove up to Big River and the wide fire road there is dog friendly and beautiful by the river.
History of Van Damme State Park
Van Damme State Park was named for Charles Van Damme who was born at Little River in 1881, son of John and Louise Van Damme, early settlers of the region. John Van Damme and his wife were a Flemish couple. The patriarch of the family was born in Ostend, Belgium on May 22, 1832. "Following the sea" for some years, Van Damme, upon his arrival in Mendocino County, later worked in the lumber mill at Little River. In this settlement all of his children were born, including Charles, whose love for the area prompted his acquiring, after some years as a successful operator of the Richmond-San Rafael ferry line, a plot of ground along the redwood coast. Upon his demise this area became a part of the State Park System in 1934.
In those early days lumbering was a major economic factor in the development of the northern coastline. Little River was built as a mill town in 1864 by Ruel Stickney, Silas Coombs and Tapping Reeves after the property, formally called Kents Cove, was purchased from W. H. Kent in 1862. Before long it had attained fame, not only as a lumber port, but as a shipyard as well. Alas, a stand of timber, if logged, does not last forever and by the end of the century, even though logging was periodically moved back into the headwaters of Little River, the mill was forced to close in 1893.
What was left of Little River soon deteriorated; the shipyard, the wharf, the town, several chutes for loading lumber and the lumber mill itself. Activity at the port, which once hummed with activity, declined. Little River's school, once attended by nearly 100 students, closed; its weekly steamship service ended, and a shipyard where, in 1874, Captain Thomas Peterson turned out full-size lumber schooners for the coast wide trade, phased out. Only the schooner Little River returned, to be wrecked on the very beach from which it originally departed.
Plagued by a lack of sufficient timber reserves, fires, substantial loss of business and trade, deterioration of the port's chutes and wharf, the end of coast wide shipping and the attendant decline in population, Little River reverted to a natural state. Its acquisition by the State Park System in 1934, and the subsequent addition of peripheral lands has preserved some of California's most interesting natural resources.