Redwood National and State Park
Redwood National and State Park is primarily known for housing the tallest trees on earth. Hyperion, a giant redwood in Northern California, shoots up past the forest growth at 379.3 feet! However, there is much more to the park than the redwoods, and you need only to look through the leaves of the trees to find a whole new world of biodiversity. Up 150 feet in the air organic soils accumulate on the gigantic limbs of the biggest redwood trees. Animals and plants live in these soil pockets, creating aerial ecosystems in miniature. Fruit-producing huckleberry bushes grow hundreds of feet off the ground. One of the most surprising discoveries in the canopy is the presence of the Wandering Salamander (aneides vagrans), a predatory salamander that has no gills and lives entirely on land. As can be expected, these salamanders need to stay constantly damp, and the water accumulation on in the upper canopy of the trees provides an ideal environment. Many of these salamanders can live for generations without ever touching ground. Ferns are most commonly found surrounding the base of the trees and soaring above head on branches. Some redwood limbs are big enough to support the growth of average sized trees! These mammoths are able to become this big simply because they have the combination of time and a disease resistant bark. Many redwoods are 500-700 years old, but there are a few remaining trees that are over 2,000 years old, placing them among the oldest living organisms on this green planet.
Photo by Anna Nichols
On the forest floor, another expansive ecosystem flourishes, but don’t expect to see much wildlife in the forest. Most animals are nocturnal or live underground. One of the most common and well-known animals is the banana slug (ariolimax), which is yellow and often has brown spots like a ripe banana. Ferns (adiantum jordanii, polypodium californicum) also do their part to dominate the landscape, and grow tall and wild around the feet of the trees.
Despite what has already been said, the national park is not all forest. Coastal tide-pools share in the abundance of biodiversity. Here you can see ochre seastars (pisaster ochraceus), California mussel (Mytilus californianus), Aggregating anemone (anthopleura elegantissima), the white sea cucumber (eupentacta quinquesemata), among many others.
The history of the Redwood National and State Parks is almost as complex as the biological processes that allow for such giant trees and extensive biodiversity. In 1850, there were over 2 million acres of massive old-growth redwood forest off the California coastline. This bountiful natural resource was first noticed by loggers and un-profitable gold miners after 1850, and logging quickly progressed in the area. For seventy years clear-cut logging went unrestricted in the forest. In 1918, the Save-the-Redwoods League was founded in an effort to conserve the remaining ecosystem from further exploitation. From this league sprung three state parks: Del Norte Coast, Prairie Creek, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks. In 1968, Redwood National Park was inaugurated from these three smaller parks, and in 1994 the state and national parks combined to pool their efforts for the preservation of this singular and ancient ecosystem.
“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”
-John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
1. What is the best time of year to go to the park?
The park is officially open year round, but some trails are closed in the winter (November- May). Moreover, the park is open to visitors for 24 hours, seven days a week.
2. What’s the weather like in Northern California?
Dress in layers and bring waterproof clothes and shoes. This is not Orange County California, and temperatures typically stay between 40-degrees Fahrenheit to the mid-60s-degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Can I climb the trees?
There is no program in the Park that allows tourists to climb the 200+ feet into the canopy. However, trained tree scientists do climb the trees frequently to study the living organisms in the canopy. These especially adventurous scientists climb using a rope pulley system. Follow this link to learn more about climbing the redwoods: here.
4. What are the best attractions in the park?
JIf you’re looking for routes with the biggest trees, this link will take you to a list of great suggestions: here.
Another must-see element of the park is the hiking trail along Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek, Humboldt County. Steven Spielberg chose this as a location while filming Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World! Visit this link for more information: here.
Also popular are the tide-pools. Consider visiting Endert’s Beach, Damnation Creek, and False Klamath Cove. For ore information, visit this link: here.
5. Where should I stay during my visit?
While there are no hotels or hostels in the park boundaries, the adjacent towns of Klamath, Requa, and Orick have lodging for curious visitors. Camping is an option in the state park areas, but is prohibited in the national park boundaries. Visit the official ark page for more information about camping in the state park: here.
More helpful links:
Instagram: @redwoodnps, @savetheredwoods