|— Unincorporated community —|
|Elevation||121 ft (37 m)|
|Official name: California's First Drilled Oil Wells|
Petrolia (formerly, New Jerusalem and Petrolea) is an unincorporated community in Humboldt County, California, 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Cape Mendocino, at an elevation of 121 feet (37 m), within ZIP Code 95558, and area code 707. Petrolia was the site of the first oil well drilled in California.
Petrolia has an estimated population of 300-500 people. It is located in the Mattole Valley, part of the Lost Coast region, one of the largest wilderness areas and the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in the continental United States. Petrolia's isolation is due to its position on the rocky, treacherous coastline adjacent to the King Range mountains that isolate this area from mainland California and continue to leave the area almost completely undeveloped.
A travel magazine has called this area "too lovely to be believed, perhaps too beautiful to last." It has been recognized as the top "still wild" place in California. The area is the only significant stretch of California without a shoreline highway, and so far has "thus escaped tourism's aggressive paws."
The 35 miles (56 km)of steep roadways beneath the towering King Range Mountains include coastal redwoods, rocky shorelines, and black sand beaches, as well as a menagerie of fauna, including black bears, mink, black-tailed deer, and river otter, peregrine falcons and bald eagles.
Petrolia has been described as "a river valley town with Norman Rockwell flavor." The Mattole River flows through Petrolia and is one of only a handful of undammed rivers left in the country. Petrolia is 5 miles (8.0 km) from the Pacific Ocean, the 25-mile (40 km) section of beach protected by the King Range National Conservation Area and Sinkyone Wilderness State Park starts, and the Punta Gorda Light. The Mattole River is home to a variety of California wildlife, including river otters, Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, steelhead trout, more than 250 bird species, and an endangered salmon that was the subject a book about the community's attempts over two decades to preserve the Mattole salmon. It is one of the few remaining areas with virgin old-growth stands of Douglas fir.
Geography and climate 
Petrolia is located near the Mendocino Triple Junction, where three fault lines meet and experiences frequent earthquake activity. The last large earthquake to affect the area was a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in 1992, which resulted in a fire that destroyed the Petrolia General Store. The store was rebuilt in a more modern architectural style than the 100-year-old landmark that it replaced. Two remaining landmarks in Petrolia are a small wooden church, and the Petrolia Pioneer Cemetery, which has the graves of original residents of Petrolia dating from November 1857.
Early in 2010 two more large quakes hit the area, a 6.5 on January 9 and a 5.9 on February 3; neither caused any deaths, but the January quake was reported to have caused $40 million in damage throughout the area.
The weather in Petrolia is temperate and has the Mediterranean climate of much of northern California. The town is located in a banana belt that is sheltered from the fog that reaches Eureka and some of the northern towns, such as Arcata and McKinleyville. As a result, the summers are dry and sunny, typically in the 70 °F (21 °C)'s with temperatures occasionally reaching as high as the 90 °F (32 °C)'s. Winters are rainy from November through April, with temperatures typically in the 50 °F (10 °C)'s and occasionally falling to the high 30 °F (−1 °C)'s or low 40 °F (4 °C)'s at night. Honeydew, which is located only 14 miles (23 km) south of Petrolia, has a less temperate climate and its summers and winters are more extreme, with one of the highest amounts of winter rainfall.
There are only two roads that lead into Petrolia, one from the north from Ferndale, California and one from the south from Honeydew, California, leading through scenic redwood forests that were the site for the filming of Jurassic Park. Both roads are winding, steep, and sometimes unpaved, passing large tracts of scenic overlooks and wilderness areas. They are popular routes for visitors, especially mountain bikers and motorcyclists, and have been described as leading to "an almost comically steep drop to the sea". The road from Petrolia to Ferndale follows the ocean and has unbroken vistas of rocky ocean coastline and beach. Petrolia is surrounded by large tracts of original homestead ranches and farms.
The Mattole area is popular with visitors, particularly the Lost Coast beaches, which feature tide pools, pristine beaches and relatively deserted hiking trails. At certain times of year, migrating gray whales can be seen from shore, as well as colonies of harbor seals and sea lions. Local residents use the Mattole River for swimming, rafting, canoeing, kayaking and catch and release fly fishing.
With the appearance of Western settlers in 1849, including gold rush settlers and miners, the Mattole culture quickly died out. The last remaining descendants of the Mattole live today in Bear River on the Rohnerville Rancheria, but there are no remaining native speakers of the Mattole language. There are estimated to be more than 80 archeological sites of significance in the Lost Coast area.
The white settlers originally called the place New Jerusalem; when the first oil was pumped in 1865, it was renamed Petrolia. It was the site of the first oil well drilled in California. The oil was very fine and ultimately dried up; the site is now registered as California Historical Landmark #543.
The Mattole post office opened in 1863, changed its name to Petrolea in 1865, and to Petrolia later in 1865.
Petrolia has a small downtown area with a local general store with delicatessen, groceries and rental movies. It has a post office, a single pump gas station and volunteer fire department. The original bell from the 1862 Mattole School is now at the Mattole Elementary School.
There are two community centers, the Mattole Valley Community Center, originally a structure from 1862 located near the downtown, that hosts community cabaret and gatherings, and the Mattole Grange, an indoor and outdoor gathering area approximately five miles south of Petrolia that hosts a monthly pancake breakfast and farmers' market. There are community gardens, various community clubs, and a medical clinic.
Local businesses include a restaurant, a bed and breakfast, a gourmet coffee company that imports and roasts coffee in a converted barn on a hillside overlooking the ocean, an organic vineyard and winery that fertilizes with organic dairy manure from Ferndale, California, and an organic pick-it-yourself blueberry farm.
A few miles outside town at the former Walker ranch is a 400 feet (120 m) by 20 feet (6.1 m) underground steel and concrete vault, built by the Church of Spiritual Technology to hold "the wisdom of the ages." The Church owns over 3,600 acres (1,500 ha; 5.6 sq mi) of land and the facility also includes a large caretaker's house and a guard house. The vault is one of several across the U.S. and is similar to Trementina Base. Prior to construction of this vault, on 12 June 1986, the oldest house in the Petrolia area was deliberately burned by the Church of Spiritual Technology to clear the way for their construction.
A number of writers and artists have made their home in Petrolia, including Alexander Cockburn, a left-wing journalist and founder of CounterPunch, Dale Maharidge, a journalist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Freeman House, an environmental author, Peter Hannaford, an author and political public relations specialist, and Jim Danisch, a potter and sculptor.
Petrolia has a large population of environmental activists and hosts two environmental organizations, the Mattole Salmon Group  and the Mattole Restoration Council, both dedicated to preserving the local wildlife and environment.
The Mattole Valley Historical Society holds quarterly meetings in Petrolia and conducts community walking tours, slideshows and talks about the history of the area and its founders.
Community events including all ages sporting events, town wide talent shows, pancake breakfasts, and community meet-ups. In July of each year, the area hosts a music festival called "Roll on the Mattole", at the Mattole Grange, sponsored by the Honeydew Firefighters. Twice a year, barbecues at the Mattole Grange attract families from all over the area. The July 4th annual barbecue features an enormous barbecue pit of local beef and baked beans cooked in a vintage pot so large that they must be stirred with a canoe paddle. There are horse races in September, cycling tours in May–September, including a cycling/hiking tour of the Redwoods  and the Tour of the Unknown Coast. A race called the "Rye and Tide" combines bicycling and running from downtown Petrolia along Lighthouse Road 7 miles (11 km) to the ocean. Besides the one restaurant located in town, the closest other amenities, are located in Ferndale, approximately 33 miles (53 km), a trip of over an hour by car.
The area is liberal in political culture. Because of its isolation, the Mattole Valley has cultivated a reputation for independence and self-sustenance, including a network of local resources, the maintenance of its own emergency help line (an alternative to 9-1-1), and even its own currency, the petol. A survey conducted in recent years determined that half of the community is located "off the grid" and relies on solar or alternative forms of power, or none at all. The George Lindley Bridge in Petrolia was named after a county supervisor of the 1950s who was a longtime foreman of the county road crew in the Mattole. Mr. Lindley was a big believer in local government, and his favorite expression was reputed to be "Mattole Against the World!"
See also 
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Petrolia, California
- "California's First Drilled Oil Wells". Office of Historical Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-07.
- Durham, David L. (1998). California's Geographic Names: A Gazetteer of Historic and Modern Names of the State. Quill Driver Books. p. 121. ISBN 9781884995149.
- USPS ZIP Code lookup tool
- Watanabe McFerrin, Linda, Finding the Lost Coast / For really getting lost, a trek through one of California's lesser-known treasures is in order , SF Gate, 18 July 2004. Note: "comprising more than 67,500 acres (273 km2) of untouched wilderness]"
- "After 100 Years...There's Still An Unknown Coast."Sunset Magazine, May 1957. Vol. 118:5, pp. 24-26, 28, 30, 31.
- "The Mattole Road...Ferndale, Petrolia, And Honeydew." Sunset Magazine May 1970. Vol. 144:5, pp. 48-50
- The Editors of California Wild (Winter 1998). "Still Wild". California Wild (California Academy of Sciences) 51:1. Archived from the original on 23 May 2006.
- California's Lost Coast, Men's Journal, accessdate 15 January 2013
- Arroyo, Natalie, Last Call for Coho, North Coast Journal, 7 July 2011, accessdate 15 January 2013
- A review of 'Totem Salmon' by Freeman House, 15 May 1999
- The Cape Mendocino Earthquakes of April 25-26, 1992 (20 Images), John Martin Engineering, accessdate 15 January 2013
- April 25, 1992 Cape Mendocino USA earthquake, National Oceans and Atmospheres Agency, National Geophysical Data Center Slide Show, accessdate 15 January 2013. Note photos of cracks in the Mattole Road, damages to buildings and landslides.
- Petrolia Pioneer Cemtery: Wright, Marshall , Digging Up Humboldt: Being a Respository of the Historical Cemeteries of Humboldt County, California , 7 March 2011, accessdate 15 January 2013
- "Strong Earthquake Reported Off Northern California Coast". Fox News. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- Past Monthly Weather Data for Petrolia, CA [California] ("Upper Mattole") : JANUARY, 1900 - 1986 Weather Warehouse, accessdate 15 January 2013
- Past Monthly Weather Data for Honeydew, CA [California] ("Honeydew 1 Sw") : JANUARY, 1959 - 2012, Weather Warehouse, accessdate 15 January 2013
- Dixon, Chris, A coast less traveled, New York Times, 29 April 2005, accessdate 15 January 2013
- Mattole or Pacific Coast Athapaskan Indians, Mattole (Bear River), accessdate 15 January 2013
- Cooskey, Laura, PDF So What Happened to the Native Here?, Mattole Valley Historical Society, accessdate 15 January 2013
- Bussell, Gordon, PDF The Mattole, Mattole Valley Historical Society, accessdate 15 January 2013
- Petrolia Guest House, Humboldt County Convention & Visitors Bureau, accessdate 15 January 2013
- Gold Rush Coffee website
- Trust your source, Lost Coast Vineyards, Arcata Coop, accessdate 15 January 2013
- Farm Visit, Lost Coast Blueberries, accessdate 15 January 2013
- California Agricultural Tourism Directory, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, 2013, accessdate 15 January 2013
- Cempa, Joe, Petrolia's New Neighbors -- L. Ron Hubbard's followers, the Church of Spiritual Technology North Coast Journal, June 1991, accessdate 15 January 2013. Note: "The assessed valuation of the 23 parcels owned by the church is $1.19 million, with improvements valued at $510,533., according to county records. Records also showed that the church's tax bill for 1990-01 is $18,488."
- Durham, Jack, Scientology church builds Humboldt vault, Lumberjack (Humboldt State University, Arcata, California), 1 May 1991, accessdate 15 January 2013
- Smith, Chris, Millennial mission: Underground vault holds Scientology teachings, Empire News (Santa Rosa, California), 9 February 1992, accessdate 15 January 2013
- It's called the Church of Spiritual Technology, Ferndale Enterprise (California), 14 December 1989, accessdate 15 January 2013
- Mattole Salmon Group
- Mattole Restoration Council
- Mattole Valley Historical Society webpage
- Roll on the Mattole, North Coast Journal, accessdate 15 January 2013]
- Mattole Grange, website
- cycling tours
- cycling/hiking tour of the Redwoods
- Tour of the Unknown Coast - America's toughest century, accessdate 15 January 2013
- Petrolia California, Back to Basics, accessdate 15 January 2013
- "Election Results". Election Update. Humboldt County, California Board of Elections. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- "Senators". State of California. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
- "Members Assembly". State of California. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
- "California's 2nd Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
- Lost Coast Wilderness Area
- Lost Coast Trail
- Humboldt Music Calendar
- Mattole Wildlands Defense Blog
- McHugh, Paul, Way off the beaton track / Lost Coast road offers rugged fun, SF Gate, 27 June 2002, accessdate 15 January 2013.
- Barnes, Amy, John McAbery carves out a life on the Lost Coast, SF Gate, 8 April 2012, accessdate 15 January 2013.