It is set on the Russian River 6 miles north of Ukiah, at a height of 682 feet. It is in the Ukiah Valley where U.S. Route 101 and State Route 20 interconnect. The insignificant town is the location of the Mendocino Redwood Company mill and offices, which manages one-tenth of the private land within the region.
Col. C.H. Veeder and James Pettus, Veeder’s son-in-law, established the town in 1858. It is termed after Kalpela, the chief of the neighboring Pomo village of Chomchadila. For a time, it compared with Ukiah in significance.