Howser, 67, an iconic figure in public television, died at home Sunday night, his assistant Ryan Morris said. The cause of death was not released.
"Every night on KCET, Huell introduced us to people we would not have otherwise met, and took us to places we would not have otherwise have traveled," Al Jerome, president and chief executive of KCET, said in a statement. "Huell elevated the simple joys and undiscovered nuggets of living in our great state. He made the magnificence and power of nature seem accessible by bringing it into our living rooms."
Howser's death came only weeks after the announcement Nov. 27 that he was retiring and not filming any more original episodes of "California's Gold."
Despite shifts in TV trends and fashions, Howser's approach never varied — he was merely a man with a microphone and a camera. He played down its simplicity ("It's pretty basic stuff … it's not brain surgery") and said it fit his strategy: to shine a spotlight on the familiar and the obscure places and people all over California.
"We have two agendas," Howser said in a 2009 interview with The Times. "One is to specifically show someone China Camp State Park or to talk to the guys who paint the Golden Gate Bridge. But the broader purpose is to open up the door for people to have their own adventures. Let's explore our neighborhood; let's look in our own backyard."
Howser was born Oct. 18, 1945, in Gallatin, Tenn., near Nashville. His father, Harold, was a lawyer, and his mother, Jewel, was a homemaker. "Huell" is a combination of both their names.
In 2011, Howser announced that he was donating all episodes of his series to Chapman University, a private college in Orange, to be digitized and made available for a worldwide online audience.