Redwood National and State Parks: A Home for Giants

Name: Redwood National and State Parks (United States of America).
Location: in the Pacific coast of the North American state of California.
Area: 106,037 acres.

Redwood National and State Parks

Diving deep into the past of different sectors of the United States, it is very frequent to come across a lot of Spanish names. So, the first Californian expeditions were commanded by Cabeza de Vaca in 1529, whose diary doesn't contain excessive mentions to the natural history of the new lands. We would have to wait until 1769 to have the first known data about the so-called sequoia forests, thanks to the fountain pen of Juan Crepi who named these giants as "palo colorado".

25 years later, the botanist Archivald Menzies carried out a complete description of this species, collecting wood and seeds samples, and baptized the tree with the name by which they are currently known: redwood.

Redwood is also the name of the national park we are now dealing with. Created in 1968 and having now more than 100,000 acres, this protected zone encloses the best redwood forests in the planet. Redwood is located in the northern edge of the Californian coastline, and embraces the city of Requa. The limits are a bit weird, as it covers a 30 mile long coastal strip, with variable widths from 0.6 miles to 7 miles. Also, the park is interrupted by areas that can potentially be used for wood production. This situation comes from the process of the protected zone management, due to the addition to the forest of redwoods which escaped from the axe of the loggers. But let's not anticipate events and let's come back to the second half of the 19th century.

California, the Price of Progress

It is estimated that the original area of the Redwood forest surpassed the 2,192,000 acres, a really astonishing number considering the climate requirements for this type of tree (doesn't resist the frosts and needs abundant environmental humidity) that restrict its distribution to a narrow coastline stripe which is approximately at 3,000 feet high.

In the second half of the 19th century, many things happened in the American West. The Guadalupe-Hidalgo Treaty, signed in 1846, gave the United States the territories of Arizona, New Mexico, Alta California and Oregon. Simultaneously, it started to emerge the "the Gold Rush", which attracted thousands of people from different parts of, not only the United States, but also from Europe, Asia, Oceania... On the other part, during those years, was started the construction of large railways that would later allow Americans to go from the West to the East, while the coastline cities started to receive a big flow of immigrants which make them grow very rapidly. For instance, Los Angeles city, second largest city in the United States, was made and consolidated in just 3 years.

The referred circumstances provoked the necessity of obtaining primary sources and, particularly, wood, lot's of wood. The clear option for the colonizers was to obtain the wood from the vast redwood forests of the area, cutting down the trees using simple tools as the axe or the saw. The redwood unlike the giant sequoia, offers a high quality wood, resistant and contains good quantities of tannins, making rotting almost impossible. As a result from the deforestation back then, at the beginning of the 20th century were only standing 10% of the trees from the original forest area. In just 40 years, more than 1,500,000 acres of trees were destroyed, in one of the most unique and beautiful forests on Earth.

Let's Save the Sequoias

The logging operations was counteracted by the conservationist efforts of a bunch of citizens who, in 1918, founded the "Save the Redwoods League". Having the Big Basin Redwood state park as reference, mobilized actively the popular masses, getting funds aimed to buy forests, until then, untouched. These forests, tribute to some popular figures who economically helped to the preservation of the redwoods, were called "memorial groves" and they still sprinkle the surface of the current national park.

Despite these efforts, at the beginning of the 1960's only 2.5% of all forests were protected areas, either by private organizations or the public administration. The demolishment in 1967 of a giant millennial tree, broadcasted on live in different tv channels and spread throughout other continents by the press, triggered a phenomenal controversy which would only come to an end with the creation of the Redwood National Park, which included inside its limits the state parks of Jerediah Smith, North Coast and Prairie Creek. The park was amplified in 1978, enclosing new lands, partly deforested, for not only the preservation, but also for the regeneration of the original forest.

The Backs of the Ocean

The harsh storms of the Pacific Ocean have in occasions flooded large surfaces at the beaches, sprinkling and inundating the ground of the neighboring forests. The excess of salinity provokes the death of the trees, which are accumulated with their naked trunks in the interior side of the beach, forming sometimes authentic stockades of a decent height.

The park includes, along the 30 miles of coastline, a narrow marine strip of 1,300 feet width. The coastlines register the constant presence of Californian and Steller sea lions, particularly in the mouth of the rivers through which thousands of salmon fish go upwards, their main meal dish. The cliffs situated in northern Klamath enclose a big population of marine otters.

The Redwood coasts are a privileged observatory for the enjoyment of watching the annual migrations of grey whale which, every winter and descending from the Arctic Ocean, seek for the warm waters of Baja California to give birth to their calves.

Fog and Shadows

The interstate 101 road leads parallel to the major diagonal of the Redwood National Park, so it is a mandatory starting point for practically all the trails in the protected area. The southerly sector of the park is articulated around Orick population, and encloses the largest forest surface of Redwood. Different pedestrian trails allow visitors to enter the forest of the giants, among these we have to highlight the one dedicated to former president Johnson. Also, there is an asphalted track that, after going through different forests upwards to 3,300 feet, leads to Weichpec. Above this point, it's situated the sector of Prairie Creek, with two main attractions: the Wayside tree, which is around 300 feet high, and the starting point of a trail which leads, passing through the forests, to the mouth of Klamath River.

A walk among the giants of Redwood shows a surprising concentration of individuals of large dimensions, sometimes separated by a few meters and sprinkled by growing young trees that will soon form authentic vegetation screens. The sunlight that penetrates through the treetops is scarce, which doesn't prevent the appearance of mosses and ferns. The atmosphere that is breathed inside the redwood forest is fresh and humid, and there is an almost absolute silence.

The Klamath River discharges its waters into the village that has its same name. This river suffers from spectacular avenues that in occasions have resulted in tragic endings. For instance, in 1964 the water level rose to 90 feet (during the summer, the water level hardly surpass the 24 inches), destroying almost entirely the cities and flooding prairies, industries and croplands. As a remainder of that catastrophe, authorities have kept the remainders of a bridge, swept by the strength of the waters.

The northerly sector of Redwood to the east of Crecent City, encloses some parts where giant sequoias are present, like in Stout Grove. This is the most abrupt part of the park, due to the rupture of the major axis of the mountain range of other small alpine chains that lie from east to west, forming a difficult orography and a wider forestal and floristic diversity. The area is prolonged to national forest Six Rivers, impressive forestal mass of Douglas pines, through which passes the 199 route, which beats the peak of the Rocky in the Grant Pass highway campground.

The grandeur of the forests in Redwood park has moved several generations of travelers. We want to end this post with some words that poet Edwin Markham dedicated to this singular monument of nature: "[...] The great trees belong to the silences and the millenniums. Many of them have seen more than a hundred of our human generations rise, give out their little clamors and perish. They chide our pettiness, they rebuke our impiety. They seem indeed, to be forms of immortality standing here among the transitory shapes of life."

Sources: Wikipedia | U.S National Park Service

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