Cast copies of Bigfoot footprints.
Cast copies of Bigfoot footprints.

Bigfoot Capital: Museum and Statue

Field review by the editors.

Willow Creek, California

In 1967, an untidy pile of legends, eyewitness reports, and shaggy monster stories suddenly coalesced behind new, hard evidence of a creature known as Bigfoot. That was the year two researchers on horseback filmed the elusive bipedal hominoid moving along a remote creek bed in the mountains of northern California.

Bigfoot statue looms at the museum.
Bigfoot statue looms at the museum.

The handheld amateur 16-mm film sparked Bigfoot mania in an era when pursuing and spotting monsters in the wild was still considered a big deal. Since then, Bigfoot is no longer ranked as big news. Movies, reality shows, and every form of pop culture indignity has wrung what it could out of the wily species. Yet the haunts of the hairy giant remain a romantic favorite for tourists.

As "Bigfoot Capital of the World," Willow Creek taps into the enduring appeal. The town is scant miles from the Bluff Creek drainage where Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin filmed the backwoods biped on October 20, 1967.

Diorama and frame blow-up from the Patterson-Gimlin film.
Diorama and frame blow-up from the Patterson-Gimlin film.

The town is riddled with related photo op targets -- statues, businesses, and murals with the creatures at work and play. You can eat a burger on a foot-shaped bun, stay in the Bigfoot Motel, and mount your own expedition to the historic sighting location up along the Bigfoot Highway (Hwy 96). Gift shops sell a map pinpointing 350 different local spots where Bigfoot has been spotted. If you come on Labor Day weekend, you can enjoy Bigfoot Days, an annual parade and festival since 1964.

The Bigfoot Game.
The Bigfoot Game.

The best first stop in town is the Willow Creek-China Flat Museum, touting its "Bigfoot Collection" with a giant, wood-carved statue attached to the building. Visitors pay admission and speed by the local history displays to reach a room dedicated to cryptozoology and Bigfoot. Mostly Bigfoot.

On the exhibit wall, frame 352 from the Patterson-Gimlin film is blown up to an artsy blur, and a miniature diorama shows the creature confidently bounding atop a rocky summit.

An array of 30 plaster cast footprints sit under glass, along with newspaper clippings and photos. "Highlights in Bigfoot History" chronicles the creatures' emergence -- from 19th century newspaper reports of hairy goliaths, to the oldest known photo of a Bigfoot footprint (1947), and the first plaster cast footprint (1958), measuring 16-inches long. A northern California newspaper columnist quickly coined the term "Bigfoot."

Bigfoot Museum.

We learn that Bigfoot tips the scales at 600-800 pounds (based on its footprint depth), and fits somewhere in the evolutionary freak-out continuum of yetis, abominable snowmen, and ancient Chinese wild giants.

And then there's the merchandise the monster has spawned. Milton Bradley marketed a four-person "Bigfoot" board game, with play set in Alaska, and subtitled "The Giant Snow Monster Game" -- as if they didn't really know much about Bigfoot or want to suggest that a monster could be stomping around the Lower 48. The now rare game, which wasn't popular when released in 1977, is on display in the museum.

A 2004 front page of a county newspaper informs that a National Geographic crew came to film "Bigfoot Experiences" -- the attention probably considered an important milestone of respectability.

The exhibit takes about 15 minutes to peruse. It's self-guided, and doesn't offer the passionate intensity of the Bigfoot Discovery Museum, 400 miles south (and inhabited by a hairy biped curator). But the Willow Creek exhibit provides solid grounding to appreciate everything else lining the streets of the town.

Also see: Creatures Guide: Bigfoot

Bigfoot Capital: Museum and Statue

Willow Creek-China Flat Museum

Address:
38949 Hwy 299, Willow Creek, CA
Directions:
West edge of town, on the north side of Hwy 299/Trinity Hwy just west of its intersection with Hwy 96. Look for the brown "museum" sign on the north side of the road.
Hours:
Summer W-Su 10-4 pm; fewer hours and days off-season. (Call to verify)
Phone:
530-629-2653
Admission:
Donation
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Gas Station Bigfoot Statue and MuralGas Station Bigfoot Statue and Mural, Willow Creek, CA - < 1 mi.
Home of the Bigfoot BurgerHome of the Bigfoot Burger, Willow Creek, CA - 2 mi.
World's Largest Totem PoleWorld's Largest Totem Pole, McKinleyville, CA - 25 mi.
In the region:
Oldest Chinese Temple in America, Weaverville, CA - 39 mi.

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October 23, 2017

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