Printer Friendly

Miracle on the north coast?

20 years after its stormy creation, there's good news at Redwood National Park . . . improved trails, scars healing, rehabilitation, new visitor centers

Two decades after its founding, Redwood National Park stands as a proud and successful rehabilitation of a unique California treasure. In some ways, it's almost a miracle that this is so. The park's progress, from dispute over its original site to its expansion a decade later, has been fraught with controversy and threatened by upstream logging. Today, parklands once stripped by clearcutting are healing and have been reopened for recreational use, Two new visitor centers, improved trails, and more interpretive programs allow greater access to the points of interest.

In August, mists often shroud groves along the coast; September brings clearer days and higher temperatures, Why a park for redwoods?

Mere remnants of an ancient species that once blanketed much of North America and Europe, redwoods lost ground as climatechanged. The survivors, some over a thousand years old, are limited to the northern and central coasts of California, and to southern Oregon. In this century, they faced near-extinction by logging; today, only 100,000 acres of old-growth redwoods remain about 5 percent of the forests of a century ago.

Many of these fragments are preserved in 32 parks in California, but only in Redwood National Park can you experience the trees' complete ecological habitat, from coast to inland ridgetop prairie. Their power is cumulative: the longer you're among them, the more awesome they become.

Unique in the national park system, Redwood includes three state parks set aside in the 1920s-Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast, and Prairie Creek-that together preserve 28,000 acres. Establishment of the national park added substantial holdings of old-growth trees and adjoining land to provide watershed protection for many of the old giants.

This park's view of the redwoods is lusher and greener than that of the parks to the south. Farther from population centers (about a 6-1/2-hour drive from the Golden Gate Bridge), it allows a quieter, more wilderness-like experience in the natural habitats of Roosevelt elk, cougar, and black bear. And its three distinct climates-beach, redwood forest, and prairie offer more recreational choices.

Getting into the national park

U.S. 101, the park's main artery, curves through a sampling of tall trees. But short side trips let you delve deep into the heart of these mysterious forests, walk a wave-pounded beach, or picnic on warm inland prairies.

On the map at far right, different color circles show our choices of the best 2hour, half-day, and full-day or longer diversions.

At each end of the park, an information center is open from 8 to 6 daily. Northbound, stop at Orick Redwood Information Center, 40 miles north of Eureka. Southbound, visit Hiouchi Redwood Information Center, 4 miles east of U.S. 101 on U.S. 199.

Five 2- hoar outings

These make quick but inspiring walks or driving detours; you'll be tempted to linger longer.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, This area shows off 600-year-old trees, some 300 feet tall, along an easily accessible 1 -mile loop trail. A dozen interpretive signs give rewarding insight into the intricacies of old-growth redwood habitat; at the trailhead, pick up a free brochure for the self-guided walk. From U.S. 101, 2-1/2 miles north of Orick, turn east at Bald Hills Road and go 2 miles. Rangers guide free interpretive walks at 11 daily.

Prairie picnic on Bald Hills Road The view from prairie, across redwoods, to the distant ocean is one you won't find in any other redwood park. It's just what the national park's founders wanted to preserve: an unbroken array of landscape and range of climate from redwood hilltops to the sea. It's also a sure bet for a warm picnic-if you don't mind sharing the view with the resident elk. Drive past Lady Bird Johnson Grove and Tall Trees Grove turnoffs and follow the road as it becomes bumpier and more rutted (trailers not advised). Starting 8 miles from U.S. 101, you'll see plenty of perfect picnic spots in open prairie.

Coastal views from Klamath Overlook. A 1-mile trail northwest of Klamath takes you to a spectacular south-facing ocean overlook. This is the coast at its wildest, with seals barking hoarsely at the mouth of the Klamath and miles of craggy cliffs plunging down to meet the waves. On a clear day, it's hard to tear yourself away. Heading west on the Requa exit off U.S. 101, drive 2-1/2 miles past the Requa Inn and uphill to parking.

Howland Hill Road through the redwoods. This 8-mile, one-lane dirt road (it's open both ways, with frequent wide spots for passing) gets you deep into the redwoods without hiking, The giant trees form the boundaries; their backlit upper branches hang a lacy curtain over the road. From start to finish, allow about 40 minutes. Late-afternoon light is best for westbound drives, early morning for eastbound. From U.S. 101 near Crescent City, turn east on Elk Valley Road; shortly turn right on Howland Hill Road. Westbound on U.S. 199, turn left on South Fork Road, then right on Douglas Park Road (becomes Howland Hill). For an easy walk through a dry-floored grove, stop at Stout Grove, 2 miles from South Fork Road.

Swim and picnic along the South Fork of the Smith Riven If the redwood groves closer to the coast are mist-shrouded and chilly, you'll find warm, dry air just a short drive east. The Smith overflows with record-size steelhead trout in winter, but summer and fall you'll find calm swimming pools and a few minor rapids waiting to take an intrepid inner-tuber for a ride. Despite the drought elsewhere in the state, the Smith is running at normal levels. Rangers will be leading free beginner-level inflatable kayak trips down the Smith twice daily well into August. Ask at the Hiouchi Ranger Station.

For easy access to swimming and picnic sites, stop at Jedediah Smith Redwoods' campground; day-use fee is $3 per car.

Three half-day trips

Choose a foray through the tallest trees, a hike on a coastal ridge, or a canyon-beach excursion.

Tall Trees Grove. The tallest (368 feet), and second, third, and sixth tallest measured trees in the world sprouted about 700 years ago along the alluvial terraces of Redwood Creek. Now a 1-1/4 mile hike down to the tallest tree takes you past vivid examples of how a redwood forest grows. Fallen logs are green with new growth extracting nutrition from the dead limbs; lush fern and redwood sorrel carpet the trail; and dogwood, rhododendron, and azalea brighten the grove in their seasons. A shuttle bus to the trailhead leaves from Orick information center four times daily through September 5, then three times daily through September 16. Cost is $3 for adults, $1 for ages 5 through 15. On the 40-minute ride, a ranger describes the logging damage and present reforestation efforts in the Redwood Creek basin. Bring water; the hike back to the trailhead is steep. From there, you can shuttle back to the visitor center.

Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs Beach. Eroded by Home Creek, the 60-foot walls of Fern Canyon are a tapestry of maidenhair, five-finger, and sword ferns. The most dramatic lighting occurs in early morning and late afternoon. An easy 3/4mile hike to the canyon's end takes you several times across the shallow creek, so wear shoes you can get wet.

Turn northwest off U.S. 101 at Davison Road (at Rolf's Park Motel and Restaurant), cross a cattle bridge, and follow a very bumpy, winding gravel road about 6-1/2 miles to Gold Bluffs Beach Campground; continue another ]'/2 miles to the parking lot (no vehicles over 20 feet long are allowed).

Don't miss a walk on Gold Bluffs Beach, dotted with agates, shells, and perfect skipping rocks.

Flint Ridge redwood hike. After a mile of hiking through jungle-like coastal growth, you suddenly enter redwoods -in fact, you'll be in one of the lushest environments of the park. Of all our part-day trips, this imparts the greatest sense of wilderness far from civilization and alive with the sounds and signs of wildlife.

One mile south of the Klamath River, take the Coastal Drive exit from U.S. 101 and head west on Klamath Beach Road. As the road crests the ocean-view ridge, took for a parking lot on the right. The trail begins across the road; follow the sign for Coastal Trail, then bear right at the first fork (the left fork dead-ends at Flint Ridge Campground).

Two-full-day trips

Consider either of these if you can stay a night or more in or near the park, leaving time to venture on longer trails.

Tall Trees and Redwood Creek trails.

These bring you to the heart of the national park's redwoods-and the heart of the early controversy. As the 8.2-mile (one-way) hike crosses Redwood Creek, you'll pass from the uncut forest to streamside terraces recovering from the clear-cutting of 30 years ago. After about a mile, you'll reenter old-growth as you follow the creekside trail; it takes you through the "worm" of untouched redwoods back out to nearU.S. 101.

Take the tall trees shuttle from Orick visitor center; hike down the Tall Trees Trail, and hike back to the visitor center on Redwood Creek Trail (10 miles in all). Or you can hike in and out on the same trail for an overnight trip. There's good camping on the gravel bars in Redwood Creek; for a permit, stop by either visitor center, Coastal traiL A spectacular, relatively easy route through the park, this 30-mile trail leads through redwood forests and along beaches and coastal cliffs. Most sections pass through wilderness, though two small portions travel on paved road: along Coastal Drive just south of the Klamath, and on U.S. 101 crossing the Klamath. Through September, start the trail at Orick information center; in late fall and winter, check with rangers before crossing the mouth of Redwood Creek.

Our map shows the route; for details, get Trails of Redwood National Park and California State Parks (see last paragraph), Getting help with camping and lodging

Crescent City and Eureka anchor the north and south ends; motels and services abound in each. Write to Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce, Box 246, Crescent City 95531, or to EurekaHumboldt County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 1034 Second St., Eureka 95501. Reserve state park campsites through

MISTIX, (800) 444-7275. The national park sites go on a first-come basis. For back-country camping, get a free permit at either visitor center.

The new AYH Redwood Hostel, opened last summer in a pioneer building at Wilson Creek, 6 miles north of Klamath, has 30 beds at $6.50 per night. It's popular; to reserve, call (707) 482-8265.

In the park, you'll also find several small motels along U.S. Highway 101. Late August and September are the busiest months because of salmon fishing; be sure to make reservations well in advance. One woodsy standout, overlooking the mouth of the Klamath, is the Requa Inn (4828205; rates for rooms with river views and quaint touches-such as claw-foot bathtubs run $45 to $66). It's also a reliable stop for breakfast or dinner.

For park maps and information, write to Redwood National Park, 1111 Second St., Crescent City 95531; 464-6101. For maps of the three state parks, write to Department of Parks and Recreation, Box 942896, Sacramento 94296, or call the district headquarters at 445-6547.

A saga of cutting, controversy, compromise

Ever since the turn of the century, a great many people in California have been working to keep a heritage of untouched redwood forest for present and future generations to enjoy.

The first state redwood park, Big Basin, was established in 1902. Almost 60 years later, with the sound of chain saws ever louder in the background, the push to create a national park that would preserve some of the tallest and largest virgin groves took on new urgency In 1968, years of pressure from the Save-the-Redwoods League, the Sierra Club, and private citizens paid off: Congress, with great fanfare, incorporated three state redwood parks and 30,000 acres of newly purchased land into Redwood National Park.

But it was a compromise. Conservationists argued bitterly that the park added only a "worm" of tall trees along Redwood Creek, leaving most of the old-growth acreage open for logging. A decade of efforts to expand the park ensued, during which many of the acres in controversy were logged. By 1978, when the park was finally enlarged, much of the annexed land had already been logged into a bleak landscape of almost barren hills.

Still, the additional land did include a third of the Redwood Creek watershed, giving the Park Service more control of the ecological system in the park's southern end. The expansion also included environmental control over acreage bordering the park: any logging near the park would have to meet erosion-control standards set by the Park Service.

Since that time, Redwood National Park land management crews have been trying to rehabilitate the disturbed areas: replanting with red alder, Douglas fir, and redwood saplings; recontouring hillsides to erase logging roads; and digging out debrisclogged riverbeds so fish can spawn again.

Their work has paid off. Erosion-control and reforestation practices have been so effective that land management experts from around the world have visited the park to study its program. While the clear-cut lands aren't yet covered by 200-foot redwoods (it will take 200 to 300 years for them to reach that mature height), the environment is being prepared to protect the existing old-growth trees and support the fragile needs of young saplings.

Adding new land, proposing a new park

Though only spotty groves of old-growth redwoods remain outside all parks, the state park service and the Save-the-Redwoods League are working together to raise funds to buy additional acreage for state parks. These lands, which don't necessarily contain old-growth trees, would offer the watershed protection needed to buffer preserved oldgrowth groves from the potential dangers of upstream logging. For details on efforts to expand parks, write to Save-the-Redwoods League, 114 Sansome St., Room 605, San Francisco 94104.

The Smith River (California's largest undammed one) is being considered for designation as a wild river park. Advocates point out that in addition to establishing a new recreation area and protecting the river itself from development, the proposed park would also eliminate logging near the river. This would provide vital watershed protection for the northern portion of Redwood National Park. For details, write to Congressman Tom Lantos, 1707 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Redwood National Park, California
Date:Aug 1, 1988
Previous Article:New views of Fisherman's Wharf.
Next Article:What's Navajo about this taco? Mostly the fry bread ... and the knife and fork.

Related Articles
Meandering along California's "lost coast." (Mattole Road, California)
Wild rhododendrons on their home turf; north coast reserves, just off U.S. 101 or State 1.
The Smith flows green ... and wild.
The loneliest national parks.
Untamed Uncrowded Unforgettable.
Redwood empire: this stretch of California encompasses sweeping ocean vistas and breathtaking redwood forests.
America's 'Top 100 Family Campgrounds' Announced by ReserveAmerica; New Award Listings to Include the Outdoor Recreation Awards Including 'Top Spots'...

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters