Redwood National And State Parks

The Redwood National and States Parks, also known as RNSP, are located along the northern coasts of California in the United States. RNSP is comprised of the Prairie Creek Redwoods State, Del Norte Coast, and Jedediah Smith State Parks, created in the 1920’s, and Redwood National Park, encompassing an area of 133,000 acres. These areas protect 45 percent of the red wood old growth forests that occur along 38,982 acres of California’s coastline.

Many Native American tribes including the ancestors of the Tolowa, Yurok, and Chilula tribes once inhabited the RNSP area. These tribes, specifically the Yurok, used the wood from the redwood trees to build homes. The first known explorer of European ancestry to find the area is thought to have been Jedediah Smith, who discovered the area in 1828. In 1850, gold was discovered in the Trinity River, creating a second gold rush in California. Many of the gold miners that moved into the area did not become rich, but did remain in the area, causing conflicts with the Native American tribes who were forced to move or face attack. A large number of these miners began logging the redwood trees after their mining exploits failed, decimating the 2,000,000-acre forest by 1910. Only one third of the original number of Yurok Native Americans remained by 1895 and by 1919, the majority of the Chilula tribe had been killed or had joined other tribes.

The movement to conserve the redwood forests along the California coastline began in 1911, when a Californian U.S. Representative named John E. Raker urged Congress to designate the area as a National Park, but this effort failed. In 1917, conservationists Henry Fairfield Osborn, John C. Merriam, and Madison Grant visited the area and were disappointed that the trees had no protection against logging and other human caused threats. These conservationists, with the help of other men like Frederick Russell Burnham, formed the Save-the-Redwoods League in 1918, which helped to protect four state national parks by the 1920’s, including the parks encompassed in the RNSP and Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Redwood National park was not established until 1968, when Congress passed the appropriate bill that was signed by President Lyndon Johnson and the state parks were merged with Redwood National park in 1994.

Redwood National and State Parks are located along the northern coast of California, and area that is the most seismically active in the United States. Minor earthquakes occur in this area and off the coast in the Pacific Ocean frequently. Because of this and the dangers of higher magnitude earthquakes and resulting tsunamis, visitors are given pamphlets and other educational tools to help them in case of emergency.

The weather in the RNSP area is typical to that of coastal areas, with temperatures ranging between forty and sixty °F throughout the year. The weather in areas that are further away from the coast varies throughout the year, with summers holding higher temperatures and winters holding lower temperatures. The redwoods depend upon moisture from the coastal region and are never found more than fifty miles away from the coast. Although the trees receive moisture from heavy rain, the fog that occurs throughout the summer months is thought to be of more importance to the overall health of the trees.

The dominant feature is RNSP are the redwood trees that occur over 38,982 acres of land. These trees have been found to be related to the giant sequoia trees that can be found in central areas of California and hold a range that extends from the northern coast of California to the Oregon Coast. Redwood trees are the tallest trees in the world, with the largest tree in RNSP, known as Hyperion, reaching 379.1 feet in 2006. The trees are thought to live and average of 500 to 700 years, although some have been found to be two thousand years old, and are highly resistant to diseases. Other plants that occur in RNSP include the tall Coast Douglas-fir, evergreen hardwood tanoak, Pacific Madrone, salmonberry, azalea shrub, and sword fern.

Redwood National and State Parks hold a variety of habitats including river, forest, coast, and prairie habitats, which support a large number of animal species. Many of these species are endangered or rare including tidewater goby, Stellar’s sea lion, brown pelican, and the bald eagle. The park supports other species including many species of bat, river otters, bobcats, cougars, elk, coyotes, and black bears. It is thought that the number of bird species in the park is well over 400, including the osprey and the great-blue heron. There are over 200 identified species of exotic plants and animals in the park, and thirty of these are a threat to native species.

Redwood National and State Parks offer many activities to visitors including camping, hiking, mountain bike riding, horseback riding, kayaking, and fishing. The federally managed area of the park does not offer back country camping, but the state managed areas do and these can only be reached by hiking. Most of these campsites require a permit, except the sites in Redwood Creek. The park holds over 200 miles of hiking trails, but some of these must be closed during times of heavy rain. Three visitor centers offer information and guided walking tours and there are many picnicking areas within the park. There no hotels or inns where visitors can stay within the park, but visitors can stay in many hotels in cities located near the park including Crescent City, Klamath, and Orick.

Image Caption: Redwood National Park. Credit: Michael Schweppe/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)