The Mad River drains
a portion of the coast range of Humboldt County in northern California. It runs
into the ocean north of Arcata, site of Humboldt State University.
was named by the Josiah Gregg expedition in 1849. Gregg and seven others left
the Trinity River gold mines on November 5 in search of a supply route that could
be served by sea. They encountered much difficulty, particularly in the coastal
redwood forests, where the downed timber proved almost impassable to their mules.
By the time they reached the coast they forgot their original goal and were primarily
concerned with survival.
Dr. Gregg, leader and scientist
of the expedition, however, continued to spend time and effort, recording scientific
data. The others in the group were first indifferent
to Gregg's scientific bent, but became progressively annoyed about it as their
When they encountered this
river on December 20, Gregg stopped to record the latitude. The rest of the men
wanted to cross the river and were angered by what they regarded as a meaningless
delay. They set about borrowing canoes from the Indians to cross. Gregg insisted
they wait until he completed his measurements. Only when they prepared to leave
without him did Gregg gather his instruments and join them. He sat silently in
the canoe, but once on the other side he launched into a tirade of criticism of
L.K. Wood, a member of the party later wrote:
Several times during the ebullition of the old man's passion he indulged in such
insulting language and comparisons, that some of the party, at best not too amiable
in their disposition, came very nearly to inflicting upon him summary punishment
by consigning him, instruments and all, to this beautiful river. This stream,
in commemoration of the difficulty I have just related, we called Mad River.