The area that is now the Headwaters Forest Reserve has a rich history of human occupation. The now-defunct town of Falk was once a bustling mill town located within the Headwaters Forest Reserve.
In 1884, the entrepreneur, Noah Falk, began timber operations along the South Fork of Elk River. The mill town of Falk was built along the river and included cookhouses, bachelor cabins, family homes, a general store, post office, and dance hall. Four-hundred workers and family members of the Falk operations inhabited the town.
By 1937, high operating costs and low shipping volume forced the mill into closure. Many residents stayed in town and paid rent of $5/month while commuting to Eureka for work. By 1940, only 12 people remained. Nine years later, the railroad tracks into Falk were pulled. Charlie Webb was hired as a caretaker of what had become the ghost town of Falk. By 1979, the town's buildings posed a hazard and liability to the area's landowner, a lumber company. At that time, the majority of the buildings were bulldozed and burned.
There are currently a variety of remnant features from the historic mill town of Falk. A recent survey of the area recorded the presence of outlying lumber camps and patterns of vegetation resulting from residential use and historic logging practices.
The two main historic structures still standing in Falk are the craftsman house and train barn. The house is not accessible and is a safety hazard. The train barn was moved in 2008 and is now the Headwaters Education Center, which is located on the Elk River Trail, approximately one half mile from the Elk River Trailhead.
Landscape alterations also provide evidence of the town of Falk. A variety of exotic ornamental species mark the location of home fronts and entrance paths. In addition, historic orchards, cleared land, antique bottles, ceramic, tile, milled lumber, and a variety of other artifacts are scattered throughout the reserve. Digging or removing artifacts from federal lands is prohibited under the Antiquities Act of 1906.