The trees in the Redwood National Forest along the Humboldt Coast are world renown for their size and age. Looking up and noticing that 300-foot tall, thousand-year-old trees shelter you is a grounding experience.
Comprised of the Redwood State Park, California’sÂ Del Norte Coast,Â Jedediah SmithÂ andÂ Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks, the Redwood National ForestÂ contains 139,000 acres of amazing forests with giant trees and unlimited adventures.
Located entirely withinÂ Del NorteÂ andÂ Humboldt Counties, the four parks, together, protect 45% of all remainingÂ coast redwoodÂ old-growth forests, totaling at least 38,982 acres. TheseÂ treesÂ are the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on Earth. Learn about them with this video:
In 1850,Â old-growthÂ redwood forest covered more than 2,000,000 acresÂ of the California coast. The northern portion of that area, originally inhabited byÂ Native Americans, attracted many lumbermen and others turned gold miners when a minorÂ gold rushÂ brought them to the region. Failing in efforts to strike it rich in gold, these men turned toward harvesting the giant trees for booming development inÂ San FranciscoÂ and other places on the West Coast.
After many decades of unrestrictedÂ clear-cut logging, serious efforts toward conservation began. By the 1920s the work of theÂ Save-the-Redwoods League, founded in 1918 to preserve remaining old-growth redwoods, resulted in the establishment ofÂ Prairie Creek,Â Del Norte Coast, andÂ Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks. Now the area is protected.
Though we often simply refer toÂ the worldâ€™s tallest living trees on Californiaâ€™s North Coast as â€œredwoods,â€ there are in fact three distinct redwood species: dawn redwood, giant sequoia, and coast redwood. Much like the members of your family, the species in this subfamilyÂ share a common ancestry and many similar characteristics while maintaining their own unique identities.
Fossil evidence suggests that redwoods descended from a group of conifers that thrived across Europe, Asia, and North America when dinosaurs roamed the Earthâ€”in the Jurassic period more than 145 million years ago. As Earthâ€™s climate gradually and generally became cooler and drier, redwoods became restricted to three distinct geographic regions and evolved into the three species we know today.
All redwoods are cone-bearing trees and get their common name from their reddish-brown bark and heartwood. And, by whatever name, these magnificent trees have the uncanny ability to inspire awe and mystery:
Thought to have been extinct for millions of years, the dawn redwood was rediscovered in 1944 by a forester in the Sichuan-Hubei region of China. Also popular as an ornamental today, the tree is easily distinguished from its California relatives by its smaller size and deciduous leaves. Distribution: Central China.
Height: To 140 feet (43 m).
Diameter: To 6 feet (2 m).
Leaves: Deciduous; needle-like with small stalk, arranged opposite each other.
Cone size: Like a large olive; shed yearly.
Seed size: Like a tomato seed.
Reproduction: By seed only.
Quick-growing and long-lived (some over 3,000 years), no tree is more massive than the giant sequoia. The General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park is the most massive living thing on Earth, with an estimated total volume of over 50,000 cubic feet.
Distribution: Western slopes of Sierra Nevada Mountains in Central California.
Height: To 314 feet (96 m).
Diameter (DBH): To 30 feet (9 m).
Age: To more than 3,000 years.
Leaves: Evergreen; awl-shaped, attached at base.
Cone size: Like a chicken egg; can stay on tree for two decades.
Seed size: Like an oat flake.
Reproduction: By seed only.
Habitat/climate: Seedlings require abundant light, are frost tolerant, and drought resistant.
Coast redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. Dense forest stands grow on nutrient-rich river bars and flood plains, protected from the wind. Heavy winter rains and fog from the Pacific Ocean keeps the trees continually damp, even during summer droughts.
Distribution: Northern California coast, and into southernmost coastal Oregon.
Height: To 379 feet (115 m).
Diameter (DBH): To 26 feet (8 m).
Age: To more than 2,000 years.
Leaves: Evergreen; both needle- and awl shaped, attached at base.
Cone size: Like a large olive; shed after 1-2 years.
Seed Size: Like a tomato seed.
Reproduction: By seed or sprout.
Habitat/climate: Seedlings are shade tolerant but frost sensitive; require abundant moisture.
While the beautiful redwoods of NorCal are protected by government agencies, they are also under severe danger.
David Milarch’s near-death experience inspired a personal quest: to archive the genetics of the world’s largest trees before they’re gone. This short film from The Story Group documents his effort to save the redwood champions of Northern California from the effects of climate change: