The Chumash Tomol2017-09-30T19:19:14+00:00

About: The Chumash Tomol

Indigenous canoes represent the foundation of water borne transportation worldwide. The Chumash Tomol is America’s finest example of a canoe capable of ocean travel. Tomols are sewn plank canoes which are unique in North America—and their story is a fascinating one. They were constructed of redwood if available, which is an excellent boat building material. Besides having a high strength to weight ratio, it is more rot resistant than most other woods. Straight grained and easy to work with, redwood can also be easily split into planks using an antler fashioned into a wedge.

Even though redwood trees don’t grow in Southern California, they can travel there in the form of driftwood logs which are initially washed out to sea during the high river flows of Northern California’s winter storms.

The Chumash tribe and also their Tongva neighbors to the south, knew the value of this non-native wood and would gather the prized driftwood logs which made their way down the California coast courtesy of NW winds and currents.

These redwood logs were then split into planks, then carefully sewn and caulked together with a mixture of tar and pine pitch to construct the ocean going redwood canoes called Tomol by the Chumash and Tiat by the Tongva people.

Read this story of the most sophisticated indigenous boats ever made in North America by enlarging the panel below.

“”The plank canoe was the house of the sea. It was more valuable than a land house and was worth much money. Only a rich man owned such a canoe and sometimes he might own several” — Kitsepawit—Chumash Tomol Builder


Mendocino sits atop beautiful ocean bluffs surrounded on three sides by Mendocino Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The bluffs comprise the Mendocino Headlands and offer walking trails that afford incredible views of the ocean and the lovingly restored 1850’s New England style Victorians which now house restaurants, specialty shops, galleries and provide lodging for Mendocino artists. Historic buildings line the cliffs. At times the Pacific roars and crashes against the headlands with such force spindrift floats up to Main Street. The air tastes salty.

In a complex surrounding what was once a Victorian carriage house is the Mendocino Art Center, described by the National Endowment for the Arts as a “rural miracle.” The Mendocino Art Center serves area artists as well as artists and aspiring artists throughout the United States.

All this is the nature of Mendocino, located about 150 miles north of San Francisco on Highway 1. Besides the natural beauty, visitors to Mendocino will find a variety of things to see and do.

The history of Mendocino and its founding families can be explored at the Ford House and the Kelley House museums.

The Mendocino Community presents a variety of events from monthly art openings that celebrate art on the Second Saturday of every month to the annual Mendocino Music Festival providing performances in a huge tent on the Headlands in July. Other annual events include a Whale Festival, the Mendocino Art Center’s Garden Tour featuring exquisitely created home gardens with a luncheon at the Stanford Inn’s Raven’s Restaurant, an old-time 4th of July parade, the renown Art in the Gardens presented by the Mendocino Botanical Gardens, Winesong celebrating fine wines and local culinary talents in a tasting followed by an auction and celebrations of the Christmas holidays with lights and singing at the inns and lodges of Mendocino, Little River and Elk, and much more.

Hikers and mountain bikers enjoy bluff-top excursions to view seabirds, the seasonal gray whale migration and spring wildflowers. Nearby Big River Beach is ideal for family picnics and Big River is an ecological treasure which is easily explored by canoe or kayak which can be rented at Catch A Canoe & Bicycles, too!

Montgomery Woods up Comptche Ukiah Road offers virgin redwood groves with the tallest living tree in the world. Redwoods and Douglas Firs dominate the Russian Gulch State Park as well as other nearby State Parks including Van Damme and Hendy Woods. Many of these parks allow dogs on their trails. And at MacKerricher State Park Lari Shea offer horseback riding along the beach.

The town is compact and shopping and dining destinations are within easy walking distance of one another. Mendocino is an art collectors dream. Coast artists show their works at the Mendocino Art Center and in the scores of privately owned galleries. Performing arts include productions by the Mendocino Theatre Company,

Visit Mendocino, enjoy a stay at the Stanford Inn by the Sea, Explore Big River on a bicycle or kayak. And dine at Ravens Restaurant. What could be better?!