A mountain hamlet at the junction of Highways 96 and 299, Willow Creek is the gateway to Bigfoot Country. The townspeople know it, and they’ve put themselves on the map with what must be the strangest town-square statue in California.
Standing in front of the Tourist Bureau office is a life-sized wooden sculpture of the Hairy One himself, carved by a local man, Jim McClarin, in honor of the area’s most famous resident. It’s a traditional first and last stop for Bigfoot hunters, who usually console themselves after fruitless quests by shooting pictures of each other in front of the wooden replica.
Locals will usually tell visitors their favorite stories about the big brute; it seems as if everyone in town has either seen him, or knows someone who has. Store clerks, outfitters, gas station attendants, and Hoopa Indians recount tales of huge footprints left in front yards, eerie humanlike screams echoing through the wilderness, and hairy, shambling animals caught in headlight beams at night.
A lot of their stories might just be made up for the benefit of tourists, but there are still probably more sincere Bigfoot-believers per capita here than anywhere else in the state. To Willow Creek residents, he’s their neighbor and friend, albeit a shy, retiring one.