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Monday, October 23, 2017

Saving the world’s tallest trees

History

Giants in the Forest

Saving the world’s tallest trees

Story and photography by Donald Alarie

 

Slumbering In the Northern California counties of Del Norte and Humboldt sits the Redwood National and State Park. The park encompasses the tallest trees in the world, 37 miles of pristine coastline, a canyon filled with ferns, three large herds of Roosevelt Elk, and the last undammed river in California. However, this landscape would have been lost if not for the actions of a few conservationists at the turn of the last century.

In the 1850’s there were over two million acres of old growth redwood forest in California, but due to extensive logging that number dwindled to a few hundred thousand by the late 1910’s. This prompted a group of citizens to form a conservation organization named Save-the-Redwood League. The League began purchasing large tracts of forest in hopes of saving them for future generations. The state of California matched the League's fundraising and was able to set aside over one hundred-thousand acres. By the 1920’s, the state had created three new state parks with land purchased in conjunction with the League. The parks were places visitors could come view the tallest trees in the world and the forest ecosystem that surrounds them.

Logging continued and by the 1960’s around 90 percent of the forest had been lost. With new and intensifying pressure from groups like the Sierra Club, the National Geographic Society and the Save-the-Redwood League, Congress finally gave in and approved a new national park. On October 2, 1968 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law an act establishing the Redwood National Park. The new park added over 58,000 acres to the already protected state parks. Then in March of 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a law that added 48,000 acres to the park. The last park expansion was the Mill Creek acquisition in 2003. This added an additional 25,000 acres to the park. Today the park is a World Heritage site, a protection that is guarded by international treaties and the United Nations, not just the U.S. government.

Getting there is as easy as cruising the 101 on the California Coast. If you want to delve deeper, you can take any one of many spectacular side roads. Stout Grove, on the northern end, allows you to drive through 200-foot tall trees on a two track road and see the Smith River, boasting water so clear that the bottom of the river is visible 35 feet below. In the central portion of the park, check in at the Prairie Creek Visitor’s Center, hug “The Big Tree” with a 21 foot diameter, and sit quietly while observing the Roosevelt Elk. Still further south is storied Lady Bird Johnson Grove. From here you can head south to the beaches of the park and whale watch. For the more hearty, with a backcountry pass you can pitch your tent under the dense and misty canopy and enjoy the blackest night you will ever experience.

Whether you want to enjoy the redwoods with family, on horseback, with a heavy pack, or by RV, there are opportunities to fill your cup and blow your mind in this amazing park.

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