Trappers, selling elk meat at ten cents a pound, set up the first business at Little River in 1854. Ten years later a small lumber mill was established near the mouth of the river. Because of its protected port, Little River quickly grew into a bustling town with a mill, two chutes, a shipyard, and a railroad.
During the 1860s a Flemish couple, the Van Dammes, settled here. The husband worked at the mill, and one of their sons, Charles, later moved down to the San Francisco Bay Area to work as an operator on the San Rafael/Richmond Ferry. Charles fondly remembered the beach at Little River as a favorite picnic spot of his youth, and he eventually returned to purchase 40 acres of this land. Upon his death, he deeded the land to the State for public use, and this deed became the foundation for Van Damme State Park.
Located just two miles south of the village of Mendocino, Little River sits on a bluff overlooking one of the most popular beaches on the North Coast. On any weekend during the season, flocks of wet-suited divers can be seen splashing into the smooth waters of this protected cove in search of abalone, the most prized mollusk of the Pacific.
The Little River Inn, the town's landmark, sits high on a hill above the stream that gives this coastal hamlet its name. Some of the most stunning sunsets can be seen from the Inn's lounge. This grand Victorian structure dates back to the late 19th Century, when it was built as a private residence for the mill owner. Across the street is the post office, a restaurant, and popular deli, which complete the picture postcard of downtown Little River.
Little River has a public airstrip featuring a mile-long runway paved with stone quarried from a nearby site. Built during World War II, Little River Airport attracts many enthusiasts who fly in for a vacation and often end up making the area home.