Crescent City is the only incorporated city of Del Norte County, California and serves as the county seat. It is named for the crescent-shaped stretch of sandy beach south of the city. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 4,006, not including the 3,300 prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison. Crescent City is also the site of the headquarters of Redwood National Park.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.1 square miles (5.3 km²), of which, 1.8 square miles (4.6 km²) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.7 km²) of it is water. The total area is 13.59% water.
Crescent City is about 20 miles from the border of California and Oregon.
The mouth of Elk Creek, where it flows into the Pacific Ocean, is in Crescent City.
Crescent City is one of the wettest places in California; the annual rainfall is 70 in (1,800 mm). The wettest months are from October to March; the wettest month is January with 13.3 inches (340 mm) and driest month is August with less than 0.5 in (13 mm). The average high and low temperatures in January are 53 °F (12 °C) and 39 °F (4 °C). The average high and low temperatures in August are 67 °F (19 °C) and 50 °F (10 °C). Average number of days below 32°F/0°C is 15 days.
The highest temperature recorded in Crescent City was 93 °F (34 °C), observed on September 24, 1964, June 1, 1970, and October 10, 1991. The lowest temperature on record was 19 °F (−7 °C) on December 21, 1990.
The maximum monthly precipitation was 31.25 inches (794 mm) in November 1973. The maximum 24-hour precipitation was 7.73 inches (196 mm) on January 9, 1995. The most snowfall in one month and in 24 hours was 6.0 inches (15 cm) on January 6, 1972.
Crescent City is susceptible to tsunamis. According to Humboldt State University, the city experienced tsunami conditions 17 times between the years 1943 and 1994. Although most of these effects were barely perceptible, one tsunami in particular extensively damaged the city in 1964.
On March 27, 1964, the Good Friday Earthquake off Anchorage, Alaska, set in motion local landslide tsunamis, as well as a trans-Pacific one that sped in three hours down the U.S. West Coast to the state of Washington. Destroying docks, boats, cars, coastal dwellings and surging up rivers with the same result, the tsunami continued down the coast.
Within another 1½ hours, four waves struck over a two-hour period at Crescent City. When they had finished, 289 buildings and businesses had been destroyed; 1000 cars and 25 large fishing vessels crushed; 12 people were confirmed dead, over 100 were injured, and numbers were missing; 60 blocks had been inundated with 30 city blocks destroyed in total. Although most of the missing were later accounted for, not all were tracked down. Insurance adjusters estimated that the city received more damage from the tsunami on a block-by-block basis than did Anchorage from the initial earthquake.
The tsunami raced down the U.S. West Coast with more deaths and destruction, but no location was hit as hard as this small town was. Crescent City bore the brunt, due to its offshore geology, position relative to the earthquake’s strike-line, underwater contours such as the Cobb Seamount, and the position of rivers near the city. Although houses, buildings, and infrastructure were later rebuilt, years passed before the city recovered from the devastation to lives, property, and its economy.
The city is deemed to be tsunami-ready today. Its preparedness was tested on June 14, 2005 when an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale hit 90 miles (140 km) offshore. Reportedly, much of the city was evacuated in a matter of 20 minutes when a tsunami warning was issued, but no waves were reported.
On November 15, 2006, a magnitude 8.3 earthquake struck off Atisov Island in the Kuril Islands in the western Pacific. A tsunami warning was issued but rescinded hours later. However, a surge from that quake did hit the harbor at Crescent City causing damage to three docks and several boats. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a county state of emergency. Upon that declaration, the area affected was eligible for federal emergency relief funding to repair the damage.
In the state legislature Crescent City is located in the 4th Senate District, represented by Republican Sam Aanestad, and in the 1st Assembly District, represented by Democrat Wes Chesbro. Federally, Crescent City is located in California's 1st congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of D +10 and is represented by Democrat Mike Thompson.
As of the 2003 Population Estimate from the Census Bureau, there are 7,319 people residing in the city. Census data from the year 2000 indicate that the population density is 2,252.2 people per square mile (868.9/km²). There are 1,754 housing units at an average density of 986.1/sq mi (380.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 78.33% White, 0.52% Black or African American, 6.09% Native American, 4.62% Asian, 0.12% Pacific Islander, 4.27% from other races, and 6.04% from two or more races. 11.01% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 1,578 households out of which 35.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.4% are married couples living together, 20.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 41.7% are non-families. 35.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 13.6% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.40 and the average family size is 3.12.
In the city the population is spread out with 30.1% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 18.2% from 45 to 64, and 13.9% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 32 years. For every 100 females there are 85.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 82.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $20,133, and the median income for a family is $22,058. Males have a median income of $36,667 versus $19,922 for females. The per capita income for the city is $12,833. 34.6% of the population and 33.7% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 46.6% of those under the age of 18 and 4.8% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Highway access is provided by U.S. Route 101 that runs directly through the city. U.S. Route 199 begins just north of Crescent City and connects northeast to Grants Pass, OR.
SkyWest Airlines conducts passenger flights to and from Jack McNamara Field Airport as United Express. The majority of flights connect to San Francisco International Airport through Arcata-Eureka Airport and vice-versa, although connections are also available to Sacramento and Portland, Oregon.
Local public transit is provided by Redwood Coast Transit and by various Taxi companies, which provides access to Amtrak passenger train (via Amtrak bus) service.
The Crescent City Harbor serves as a commercial fishing boat basin for salmon, shrimp, tuna, cod, and dungeness crab commercial fishing vessels. The Harbor is also home to multiple fishing and non-fishing related businesses and harbor governmental offices. The Crescent City Harbor also has several pleasure boat docks.