Once a thriving community with some 1,500 people, an 1873 Sierra County business directory for Howland Flat includes three saloons, three merchandise stores, a barber, boot maker, stables, the North Star Hotel, and Frank Becker's Howland Flat Brewery. The community also was home to a school, church, Odd Fellows Hall, as well as a Wells Fargo Express Office. The post office located in the community carried the name and postmark of "Table Rock", named after the prominent peak to the east of town.
Today, the site of Howland Flat includes the remains of just a few buildings, the crumbling stone walls of the Wells Fargo Express Office, and most prominently, the town's surviving cemetery. Located in a remote area of Sierra County known locally as "Over North" due to its distance and compass direction from the Sierra County seat of Downieville, this area of Sierra County was known for a number of early mining towns with colorful names such as Poker Flat, Whiskey Diggins, Poverty Hill, and Port Wine. As most of these towns supported hydraulic mining diggings, the scars of those mining operations can still be seen in adjacent forested canyons.
Howland Flat is accessible via two different gravel and dirt roads that originate from La Porte and are passable via passenger cars, however, high clearance vehicles are recommended. Other ghost towns of Northern Sierra County are accessible only via 4WD vehicles. As all of these communities are quite remote with no services nearby and no cell coverage, know your destination and advise someone of that destination, route, and scheduled return time.