Fires, spills and road closures can’t keep Caribou Crossroads down
Every year anglers salivate as streams and rivers open their banks to legal trout fishing. The folks at Caribou Crossroads are ready to celebrate the trout opener, held annually on the last Saturday in April, this year the 27th.
Pam and Mike Hanson, owners of Caribou Crossroads, are holding their seventh annual Big Fish Contest beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday, April 27. Registration must be completed before the contest kicks off.
The combination campground and café is located at the junction of Highway 70 and Caribou Road, about 30 miles west of Quincy. The campground borders the beautiful North Fork Feather River.
A brief history
Caribou Crossroads was settled many years ago as Howell’s Corner, a trailer court used for housing workers hired to build roads and power plants for Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
What began as a tent residence for the original founders turned into a home constructed mostly with salvaged material from the Walker Mine Hospital near Taylorsville. A small store was built on the site of the present café at about the same time.
1984 marked the year of the PG&E landslide. That year, rather than closing at the end of trout season as they had in the past, owners Stanley and Yolanda Oman kept the store open and phased in a small café to service the PG&E workers stationed there to repair the damage done by the slide.
The enterprise became known as Caribou Corner Campground and Café. As business increased, so did the size of the café — the space was doubled to its present size.
In 1986 a fire virtually destroyed the store and café. Subsequently, the store was rebuilt. In front of the café is a charred pole, a remnant from the previous store that was left to commemorate the fire.
The business changed ownership in 2002 and became Caribou Crossroads. The Hansons purchased the business in February 2006.
Pam began visiting the area when she was just 5 years old. Mike started frequenting the Caribou area when he was 12. The two met then and now share the goal of preserving the character of yesteryear for more kids and families to experience, explore and enjoy.
Caribou Crossroads offers a full-service café and a small general store with snacks, ice, soda, beer, fishing supplies and camping staples.
Summer months are extremely busy with campers, tourists, anglers and hikers from the Pacific Crest Trail. Each year approximately 75 – 100 hikers avail themselves of the café, store, shower and laundry facilities as they hike from Mexico to Canada (or some portion of the route) on the PCT.
A 19-space RV park with full hookups provides campers easy access to the river. Most sites are located right by the river.
Caribou Crossroads rents out one cabin, nestled right on the river’s edge, and a wall tent. A horseshoe pit for campers’ use lies waiting along the river.
Each month during the season, at least one special event is offered for park guests. Themed events, such as Hawaiian and Mexican nights, add a festive atmosphere.
Potluck get-togethers and community campfires generally light up the night every weekend.
A Big Fish Tournament, with an entry fee of $5, is held annually on trout opening day. The top three winners receive 100 percent payback from entry fees.
Last year, 67 anglers signed up for the derby. Eight young anglers competed for a separate money pot.
Pam Hanson said, “It’s a lot of fun when the kids come in so excited about their fish; I find that is the best part!”
The family-oriented event features live music, a special barbecue lunch and dinner.
“Caribou has evolved quite a bit since we first started,” Hanson said. “We have cleaned up the park and surrounding areas, and the clientele has followed suit. We stress family oriented; we are not a ‘party central’ destination.
“Our business is also family oriented with Mike’s mom, Elaine, a mainstay at the café. So many people stop in just to see her; she really is a sweetheart. Mike’s sister, Christy, has also worked the last two summers for us and done an outstanding job of keeping everyone happy.”
Tough few years
Caribou Crossroads was severely impacted the past several years by things completely out of the Hansons’ control. “The (2007) Storrie spill (canola oil and benzene-laced ethanol), the fires (Rush Creek, Chips), power outages, the state’s decision to end gold dredging, high rivers because of heavy rainfall and PG&E monitoring their powerhouses — you never know what’s going to happen next,” said Hanson.
“The Chips Fire last year was devastating to us. The fire started July 29 and our park was fully evacuated on Aug. 5. Caribou Road was not reopened until Sept. 7.”
Although the fire burned down the steep mountainside across the river from Caribou Crossroads, the park itself was not physically damaged by fire. Firefighters fought encroaching flames using water pumped straight out of the river.
Three Forest Service campgrounds lie within three miles of Caribou Crossroads. Gansner Bar, the closest, and Queen Lily, the farthest upriver, should open this season (check the website for details: fs.usda.gov/plumas or call 283-0555).
However, North Fork campground was burned and scarred quite heavily, Forest Service staff reported. It will not open until crews clean up and assess it for safety.
Fishing licenses are not sold at the store, so be sure to get yours elsewhere. Some gas stations, sporting goods stores and drug stores sell licenses — they are also available online. For more information, visit dfg.ca.gov/licensing.
To learn more about Caribou Crossroads, visit cariboucrossroads.com or call Pam or Mike Hanson at 283-1384.