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Redwood National Park  


Park History

Redwood Trees

LBJ Grove

Roosevelt Elk

Northern Coast

Central Coast

South Coast


Jedediah Smith SP

Prairie Cr. Redwoods SP

Cathedral Trees

Fern Canyon

Klamath River

Smith River

Redwood Creek

Redwood Creek Overlook

Lost Man Creek

Bald Hills

Crescent City



Plants & Animals


Among America's greatest and most famous natural treasures are the tallest trees on earth, the coast redwoods. Redwood National Park is home to many of these trees, the most magnificent on earth. The park lands, which are located along the coast of northern California, roughly between Orick and Crescent City, contain about 40% of the remaining old growth redwood forest, which once flourished along the north central and northern California coast. Redwood National Park itself contains 75,452 acres, including 19,640 acres of old growth forest. While this land is packed with fantastic sights, Redwood National Park is in fact one of the smaller national parks.

The redwood park complex is made up of 4 separate units--Redwood National Park proper and three state parks--Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, and Prairie Creek Redwoods--which are administered by the state of California. Together with the state parks, 110,332 acres of land and 38,982 acres of old growth redwood forest are preserved. The parks preserve a substantial percentage of the 90,000 acres of old growth forest known to still exist. Some 51,000 acres of second growth redwood are also contained in these parks.

The park is, of course, mainly know for the stands of fantastic redwood trees it contains. However, it also contains 40 to 50 miles of some the most beautiful coastline in the national park system. There are rocky promontories, beaches, and sea stacks in the ocean along the coast, and whales and other sea life can be observed from the shore.

The forest, groves, and coast area feature many miles of hiking trails, many of them accessible to all visitors. A hike in a redwood grove is an experience never to be forgotten.

For potential visitors, ParkVision recommends "Story Behind the Scenery" guides and "Trails Ilustrated" maps.

The park also includes inland area which feature low mountains, such as the Bald Hills. Spectacular views of stands of redwoods, Douglas fir, oak, and prairie land can be found from trails and overlooks accessible from roads.

Redwood National Park also contains herds of spectacular Roosevelt Elk. These animals, which at one time neared extinction, can be found in several places in the park.

The climate along the coast of northwest California is relatively mild, and a visit to Redwood National Park can be rewarding at any time of the year.

Park History

Indians Humans have been part of the story of the Redwood National Park for a long time. There is evidence of the arrival of humans in the park area as early as 310 BC. In aboriginal times the Redwood Park area was inhabited by a several Indian tribes. The Yuroks who settled in the central area near the Klamath River, arrived in 1300. The Tolowa, arriving in 1500, lived in the north park area along the Smith River. The Chilula, who inhabited territory inland south of the Tall Trees area, also arrived around 1500. These peoples took advantage of the bounty provided by this part of the country. They ate salmon which were found in the rivers of the park, gathered shellfish, and ate venison from the deer who roamed inland areas. They took advantage of the giant trees by hollowing out the trunks of fallen specimens for use as canoes.

Europeans and Early Setters The first person of European descent to see the redwood forests was missionary Fray Juan Crespi in 1769, although this was south of the current park. The first white man to see the park area was the Spaniard Bruno de Heceta in 1775, although there was no early settlement in the area. Explorer and mountain man Jedediah Smith visited the park in 1828 while attempting to find a route from central California to the coast.

While there was initially little settlement in the park area, some limited immigration was attracted by the discovery of gold on the Trinity River and in the Gold Bluffs area of the park in 1850, and the brief period of gold mining which followed. Some gold was also discovered on the Smith and Klamath Rivers.

Logging Before the arrival of white settlers Indians made use of fallen redwood logs, but they rarely actually cut down a living tree. Early settlers considered the soft, brittle wood of the redwood tree was less desirable for building purposes than lumber imported from the east, However, redwood, with superior durability and aesthetic qualities, inevitably became desirable. But in times before advanced machinery became available, cutting and handling of giant redwood trees was very challenging. As a result, logging of redwoods from Santa Cruz to Mendocino was occurring by 1850. Initially, the perception existed that the vast stands of huge redwood trees were an inexhaustible resource, but this turned out not to be true. Eventually, over the next hundred years most of the old growth redwood forests were cut.

Some early problems arose from the Timber and Stone Act which was meant to facilitate settlement by pioneers and their families. The act, passed in 1878, provided the public with 160 acre plots of land in the north coast area for only $2.50 an acre. However, land fraud through misuse of the act fraud allowed accumulation of huge tracts of timberland by businesses, particularly in 1880's. For example, in the 1882 the California Redwood Company acquired tens of thousands of acres of public lands by fraudulent used of this law. By 1890's, redwood lands were no longer in the public domain.

Logging continued throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Logging increased considerably after end of World War I. As logging technology improved the speed at which large amounts of redwood lumber could be harvested. A National Geographic Society survey in 1963 revealed that only 300,000 of the original 2 million acres of primeval redwoods remained.

Efforts to Establish a National Park From relatively early times the magnificence of the redwood forests inspired the desire by many people to find ways to preserve the unique trees. As early as 1852 California Assemblyman Henry Crabb asked for congressional prohibition of the occupation and sale of redwood timberlands which were in the public domain. In 1879 Carl Schurz, Secretary of the Interior, first proposed creation of a national park in the area, although this did not come to pass at that time.

Serious efforts to establish a park were eventually begun. In 1904 President Theodore Roosevelt expressed approval of a plan to set aside redwood lands in California as public park. Repeated efforts to establish a park were made in 1911, 1912, and 1914.

After the First World War, some immediacy was added to the mix as it became evident that the stands or virgin redwood forests were not inexhaustible and would be completely gone in the forseeable future. In response to this realization and a desire to preserve the redwood, in 1818 the Save-the-Redwoods-League was founded, and some private donations were made toward the expense of purchasing land for conservation purposes. The League, in conjunction with the National Geographic Society and the Sierra Club, was at the forefront of the effort to create a national park to preserve what was left of the magnificent forests.

At first, the Save-the-Redwoods-League concentrated on preserving the redwoods through the establishment of state parks, including Big Basin (near Santa Cruz) in 1901, Humboldt Redwoods in 1922, and by 1928, Prairie Creek Redwoods, Del Norte Coast, and Mill Creek/Jedediah Smith state parks.

By the early 1960's, there was a resurgence in the idea of creating a national park to preserve more redwood forests. At the forefront of the movement to establish a national park was led by the National Geographic Society, the Sierra Club, and the Save-the-Redwoods-League. The National Geographic Society effort was influenced by a survey it made in 1964 revealing the 3 tallest known trees in the world existed in the area.

By 1963, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall supported the idea of establishing a redwood national park somewhere in the redwood empire. In 1968, Congress passed and on October 2, 1968, president Lyndon Johnson signed a bill authorizing the establishment of a 58,000 acre Redwood National Park, combining land currently in the several state redwood parks with newly acquired land in the Redwood Creek area.

However, there were some problems remaining after establishment of the park. Many in the redwood timber industry were opposed to establishment of national park, and logging on adjacent private lands continued and even accelerated after the park was created. In particular, the watershed of Redwood Creek was not protected, and eventually 90% of this watershed was clear cut. The parklands in this area were nicknamed "The Worm" since they followed the course of Redwook Creek, a winding, 7.5 mile corridor, but did not include much of the watershed along it. Substantial cutting of the redwood forest in lands immediately adjacent to parklands caused both visual and ecological damage to the forests inside the park, a situation known as the so-called "edge effects." Efforts began almost immediately after establishment of the park to enlarge it and include sensitive lands with critical stands of redwood forest.

In 1978, a major expansion of the park took place as a result of efforts by the Sierra Club and others. 48,000 acres were added to the park. This expansion doubled the size of the park. Areas which had been logged and damaged began to be rehabilitated, and in many places in the park areas which were once clear cut and through which logging roads once ran now appear to be natural, although the loss of a 500 year old tree cannot be reversed so quickly.

Establishment and maintenance of this park has been a significant achievement. Truly the last stand of the giant redwood, after 1978 fully one half of all remaining old growth redwoods on earth are contained within the boundaries of Redwood National Park and the three associated state parks.

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