The buildings that now comprise Black Mountain Retreat Center were built in 1964 by the California Department of Forestry as part of their network of conservation camps. The minimum security ‘Black Mountain Camp’ was opened in October 1964 to house an 80-man crew that was assigned to work with local fire services on land clearing, telephone line maintenance and road-work.

The camp continued in various state-run forms until its closure in June 1992. For the subsequent 12 years or so, the camp was owned by individuals and then in early 2004 our parent organization Padmasambhava Peace Institute acquired the property, complete with many fixtures remaining from conservation camp days.

Since 2004 our staff has worked to bring the buildings up to a standard of comfort far beyond that of their original form! Several factors were in our favor, such as the excellent quality of the redwood and steel used for original construction, and the high ceilings that keep buildings cool even in the hottest summer months. Our guests often express their appreciation for how well-maintained and comfortable this center is, and in the last few years we have focused on enhancing that comfort by upgrading the soft furnishings and implementing a ‘green cleaning’ products policy.

The actual name ‘Black Mountain’ comes from the hills of these names around the property, although its origin is uncertain. The local forests underwent much logging and milling, and native flora has often struggled to stay dominant with the introduction of some very aggressive invasive species. We have been working to replace invasive or recently-introduced species with native plants, which is also key to effective safety.

The whole of this coastal area, from the Russian River in the south up to Gualala in the north, and 30 miles inland, is the traditional territory of the Kashaya Pomo Indians. The tribe’s administrative website is at and for an outline of Kashaya Pomo history and culture, see ‘Kashaya Natives’ on the Fort Ross State Park site.