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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


Lady Bird Johnson Grove

The most popular site in the park to observe an old growth redwood forest is undoubtedly the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, located off of Bald Hills Road. This and similar groves give visitors an opportunity to experience what it was like in the past when redwood forests dominated California's northwest coast.

There is a parking lot off Bald Hills Road, and the grove is reached by walking across a pedestrian bridge which crosses the road. The picture below shows the beginning of the trail, which follows a loop through the grove.

The redwood trees owe their survival in the modern world not only to the work of those sought to preserve them, but also to the difficulty of bringing one of these mammoth trees down in earlier times. Felling a redwood with a trunk with a diameter of 12 feet was a job which took 2 to 3 days.

The 1.3 mile trail through the Lady Bird Johnson Grove is relatively level and wide, accessible to most visitors. It provides outstanding views of the redwood forest at ground level. The grove features, in addition to the magnificent redwood trees, Douglas fir, Pacific rhododendron, evergreen huckleberry, and solal. More than 200 plan species grow in the redwood forests. The grove, and redwood forests, feature a variety of ferns, including sword, wood, deer, and leather varieties. These ferns provide shade and protection for smaller plants, and help hold moisture in the soil.

In some locations in the redwood forest, as with cathedral trees which arise from a single redwood trunk, redwoods may grow together in relatively close proximity. However, in a typical old growth forest there may be only 8-10 large redwood trees per acre.

Naming this grove after President Johnson's wife was fitting in some ways, as the president hoped that a redwood national park would be part of his presidential legacy. Lady Bird Johnson also made many contributions as first lady to national environmental causes.

Most of the height of a redwood tree is gained during the first 100 years. A redwood may grow 30 feet in the first 20 years. After this early period, a redwood may gain 2 to 6 feet in height and 1 inch in diameter per year. Between 100 and 200 years, the tree typically reaches 200 to 350 feet in height. After 400 years, a redwood tree's trunk may average 5 to 7 feet in diameter, although 10 to 15 foot trunks are possible. A 1000 year old redwood thus has gained most of its height in the first 100 years, and once reaching great heights grows mainly in width. The first recorded measurements of these great trees was accomplished by Josiah Gregg.

The mature redwood tree tends to lose its lower limbs. This creates the canopy which is characteristic of the redwood forest. The redwood may go from seedling to canopy in 200 years. These canopies support a very special habitat for a variety of creatures.

Staring up at an old growth redwood provides an amazing view, as the height of the tree is so immense that it's difficult to guage its height.

The Lady Bird Johnson Grove sits on top of the western section of Bald Hills Ridge. While the visitor's attention is usually dominated by the huge trees along the trail, you can see off the ridge if your peer through the trunks on the hill.

In some places the interconnected root systems of the redwood trees cause many of the huge trees to grow relatively close together. The effect of this proximity, the paucity of branches at lower heights, and the canopy far above the ground creates the feeling of a church or cathedral. Nowhere is this more evident than in the location where the dedication ceremony for the park in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove took place in 1969. In this spot there is an open area with a dedication plaque, informational sign, and benches for visitors to rest.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill designating the original park, and in 1969 his wife was present for the dedication ceremony, at which then president Richard Nixon combined the dedication ceremony with a birthday party for LBJ and dedicated the founding grove to Mrs. Johnson. LBJ and Ronald Reagan also attended the ceremony, meaning this location once hosted 3 of the 43 men who have served as president of the United States. The dedication ceremony was held in the now-named Lady Bird Johnson Grove, and midway through the walk through the grove a plaque (seen below) commemorates that ceremony.

This spot in the grove is truly spectacular, given the size of the trees which are located there. Sitting on the bench, or standing on the trail among the huge trees in the grove, it is amazing to realize that these trees once covered vast areas of the earth. In fact, 25 million years ago the trees stretched across North America.

Unfortunately, the trails which make it possible for visitors to experience the grandeur of the redwood forest also have some negative effects, as compaction of the soil from the trails and the foot traffic on them can affect the health of the trees.

When a redwood tree falls across a trail it produces quite an impediment, but the modern chainsaw makes it a lot easier to maintain the right of way. Redwood is so resistant to rot that a downed redwood log may remain somewhat intact on the floor of the forest for hundreds of years. Fallen trees may actually still be alive, as sprouts may emerge from a trunk or log.

The canopy of a redwood forest may only occasionally allow significant amounts of light to reach the ground, which may be hard on some plants and other trees. Redwoods themselves, however, can tolerate shade suppression for decades or even centuries. However, a redwood sapling may grow very slowly but accelerates when conditions change and allow more sunlight to reach it. However, for a large redwood, whose top is exposed to sun and drying winds, growth may only be an inch or so a year, while the shaded tree may grow 2 or 3 feet a year.

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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

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