Big Basin’s Story: How a Wildfire Completely Changed California’s Oldest State Park

On August 18, 2020, the CZU Lightning Complex Fire blazed through California’s oldest state park – the Big Basin Redwoods. The fire completely destroyed 97 percent of the park, burning visitor buildings, residences, vehicles, and campgrounds. It was destruction on a grand scale.

For nearly two years, the park has been closed to visitors. On July 22, 2022, the park partially reopened, to visitors, completing the long and arduous recovery process. It will take years for visitors to be able to access the entirety of the park, but the partial reopening was a step in the right direction.

The wildfire in Big Basin is a story all too familiar for Northern California residents over the past four years. It’s important to learn about these situations, how they might impact you, and what strategies are used by officials for safety and recovery in these terrible situations.

The Mountain Parks Foundation created a short documentary outlining the fire, its impact on the park, and the recovery process. The 11-minute film is a touching tribute to this devastating fire and its ongoing recovery:

Here is a description of the film from the Mountain Parks Foundation:

On August 16th 2020, wild fires broke out in San Mateo and Santa Cruz county due to a thunderstorm producing thousands of lightning bolts. On August 18th, things took a turn for the worse when winds changed and started to move the fires toward Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Sparks from the main fire started to blow into Big Basin causing multiple spot fires to appear in the park. Quickly, the fires conjoined and swept through Big Basin.

Within 24 hours 97% of Big Basin was burned, including 100 structures, 85 miles of trails, 20 staff homes, countless Redwood (and other) trees and the newly built Nature Museum, which was planned to open in 2021. Recovery of the park takes time and a lot of effort.

Mountain Parks Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1973. It is one of the first California State Park Cooperating Associations, and has a partnership with California State Parks to support multi-faceted educational programs at Henry Cowell and Big Basin.

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

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