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Gentle Giants of the Redwood National and State Parks

Updated on May 31, 2017


The gentle giants known as Coastal Redwoods, that grow from the northern coast of California, to the southern coast of Oregon, are some of the most famous National treasures the United States has to offer. Redwoods are among the oldest living organisms on earth and may obtain a height exceeding more than 350 feet tall. Additionally, some members of the species may live as many as 2,000 years.

Redwoods have extremely shallow root systems that might only reach about 12 feet deep and spread to about 80 feet wide. These trees have learned to survive for ages by growing close together in clusters and intermingling their root systems.

The protective bark of Redwood trees can achieve more than one foot in thickness. This provides these trees their distinct fluted appearances and protects them against such threats as insects, fires, diseases and funguses.

With a realistic lifespan of about 700 years, Redwoods can weigh more than 5,000 tons and lose their lower limbs the higher they grow. Redwoods receive about one-third of their water needs from coastal fogs. Redwoods also possess a high tannin polyphenol content.

Redwoods ideally prefer to live on sheltered slopes found slightly inland, with a river or stream nearby them. They also desire areas that contain very little snowfall, no salt spray from coastlines, and moderate Summer temperatures. Therefore, Redwoods enjoy the approximately 122 inches of rainfall each year, that is provided by their coastal Northern California homes.

Above the 150-foot tall mark, the limbs of Redwoods can accommodate tree-sized trunks, known as reiterations, growing on them. These growths may develop soils at their bases and contain forest floor plants, mollusks, earthworms, and salamanders.

Redwoods can regenerate themselves with high success rates, especially through stems regarded as burls. These are found on the tree's trunk, and usually at the tree's base. Burls produce genetically identical saplings of the original parent tree.


The Redwood National and State Parks are found along the Northern California coast, and offer approximately 133,000 acres spread between the Redwoods National Park, the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. This location protects what remains of the more than 2,000,000 acres of old-growth Redwood forests left from miners, who failed to strike it rich during the Gold Rush that brought them to the area. To survive, these miners turned to harvesting Redwoods for sprawling West Coast towns such as San Francisco.

Several different forms of faunas, floras, streams, rivers, grassland prairies and coastlines indigenous to the area are also protected by the Redwood National and State Parks.


Designated a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and possessing at least 50 Prehistoric archaeological locales dating as far back as 4,500 years ago, the Redwood National Park was created in 1968. The park protects many endangered animal species including Bald Eagles, Brown Pelicans, Chinook Salmon, Tidewater Gobles, Northern Spotted Owls, and Steller's Sea Lions.

Providing seacoast, prairie, and river zones, other types of animals residing in the Redwood National Park include Black Bears, bobcats, seagulls, ospreys, and Double-Crested Cormorants. Great Blue Herons, Pacific Grant Salamanders, Roosevelt Elk, Big Brown Bats, Northern Flying Squirrels, and mountain lions also take up residence in the park. River Otters, beavers, Black-Tailed Deer, coyotes, Harbor Seals, Pacific Grey Whales, and dolphins will also be seen.

Coast Douglas Firs, Sitka Spruces, Evergreen Tanoaks, mandrones, California Laurels, Red Alders, and Bigleaf Maples are among the most common forms of trees that live well in the park. Other forms of vegetation that grow abundantly in the Redwood National Park include blackberries, salmonberries, Sword Ferns, and huckleberries.

Popular activities afforded by the Redwood National Park include backcountry hiking, camping, 200 miles of trails, and horseback riding. If that is not enough to keep visitors occupied while visiting the park they can also enjoy mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing the Smith River, hunting in the nearby National Forests, picnicking, and campfire talks with guided tours. Should fishing be their forte, they can experience catching salmon, rainbow trout, and steelhead.


In conjunction with the Redwood National Park, and through conservation efforts begun in 1918, California established the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and its Mill Creek Addition. These parks possess eight miles of wild coastline and are filled with about 50 percent old-growth Coast Redwood trees.

The Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park contains a ground cover of several species of trees including Red Alders, firs, and second-growth Redwoods. There is also a mixed understory of mandrane, tanoak, bigleaf maple, and California Bay trees found in this park.

The Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park presents the Footsteps Rock Trail, and the Damnation Creek Trail, off its rocky, generally inaccessible sea coast. The half-mile long, sandy, Wilson Beach, that because of frequent rough seas, rocky conditions, and steep beach sloop is not safe for swimming, is also offered by the park. The False Klamath Cove may also be found there.


Running four miles long, the Damnation Creek Trail provides an 1,100-foot drop in elevation, pristine scenic woodlands, and a vast assortment of old-growth trees. The Damnation Creek Trail is most often covered in heavy fog from the Pacific Ocean. The trail is located in close proximity to the famous Highway 101, and offers its most impressive Redwoods at the top of the uphill trail. Rhododendrones and huckleberries can be found at the foot of the trail nearby a rocky, sand-less, beach.


Created in 1929, and the last developed of all the Redwood Parks, the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is found nine miles east of Crescent City. Del Norte's only incorporated city is the location of the Headquarters of the Redwood National Park.

The 9,500-acre park provides several old-growth Redwood groves, as well as the world's largest Redwood trees, that typically stand about 340 feet tall and have 20-foot diameters. Eighteen miles of hiking trails, including the Mill Creek Trail, and part of the Hiouchi Trail, are offered by the park. There are also more than 100 campsites.

Plenty of wildlife species reside in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, among which Bald Eagles, Black Bears, rainbow trout, chipmunks, raccoons, and black-tailed deer will be found. The park is also home to many squirrels, mountain lions, bobcats, beavers, foxes, river otters, pileated woodpeckers, marbled murrelets, spotted owls, and several other varieties of animals.

Various tree species that reside in the park include mandranes, tanoaks, bigleaf maples, vine maples, Red Alders, and California Bay trees.


The Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is located near Orick, on the banks of the Redwood Creek that flows from the Broad Camp Mountain, in the Coast Mountain Ranges, to the Pacific Ocean near Eureka. The approximately 14,000-acre park is full of old-growth Redwood trees and provides a centerpiece meadow along the nine-mile long Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway.

The Parkway honors the fourth Director of the American National Park Service and his efforts to create the Redwood National and State Parks This Parkway also contains a famous Roosevelt Elk population.

The Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park possesses Gold Bluffs Beach and Fern Canyon, with its 33 to 49-foot tall sheer walls. These were featured in the major motion picture known as Jurassic Park II: The Lost World, as well as the Documentary entitled Dinosaurs Alive, and the Miniseries called Walking With Dinosaurs.

The park also houses Atlas Grove, and the famous Redwood known as Iluvatar, the third largest Coast Redwood tree in existence. Other Redwoods living in the area include the popular Corkscrew, Big Tree, Cathedral, Godwood Creek Giant, and Gemini.

Several species of trees are found in the park including Sitka Spruces, Western Hemlocks, and Coast Douglas Firs. Hiking is extremely popular in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, especially the Miners Ridge Trail, and the James Irving Loop Trail, which are considered some of the world's best Redwood hikes.

Additional popular hiking trails in the park include the historic Ah Pah Trail, from Boyes Prairie to Elk Prairie, the Ah Pah Interpretive Trail, the Brown Creek Loop Trail through an exceptionally dense old-growth Redwood forest, and the Pacific Creek Trail.

Hikers may also explore the Big Tree Loop Trail, from the park's Headquarters to Big Tree, the Friendship Ridge Trail, that leads to a popular park waterfall, the West Ridge and Rhododendron North Trail, that leads through several canyons and Redwood Uplands, and the West Ridge and Prairie Creek South Trail, that is considered one of the park's most scenic hikes.

If that is not enough for them, hikers can trek the Rhododendrone and Cal Barrel Trail, that leads to the famous Redwood tree known as Cathedral, and the Ten Taypo-Hope Creek Trail through a rhododendrone-filled old-growth Redwood forest.


Hyperion is the tallest tree in the Redwood National Park. This massive tree stands 379.1-feet tall. Other impressive Redwoods found in this park include Helois, at 376.2-feet tall, Icarus, at 371.2-feet tall, Stratosphere Giant, at 371.1-feet tall, and Tall Tree, at 357.8 feet tall.

Containing 42,500 cubic feet, and found in the Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park, Lost Monarch possesses the most volume of all Redwood trees.


Including Star Wars: Episode VI-Return of the Jedi, Jurassic Park II: The Lost World, Outbreak, and the Walking With Dinosaurs series, several major motion pictures have been at least partially filmed in the Redwood National Park.


Is there any wonder that Redwoods are indeed some of the most famous national treasures the United States has to offer?


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