Yurok Tribe Reclaims 125 Acres of Redwood Forest Lost During the Gold Rush

Photo by CalTrout/Michael Wier

The Yurok Tribe, historically stripped of 90% of its land during the Gold Rush era, is set to regain a portion of its territory to create a new gateway to the renowned Redwood National and State Parks, annually attracting a million visitors.

Under a groundbreaking memorandum of understanding inked between the tribe, Redwood National and State Parks, and the nonprofit Save the Redwoods League, the Yurok Tribe will be the first Native group to oversee tribal land in partnership with the National Park Service.

Scheduled for 2026, the tribe will assume ownership of 125 acres near Orick in Humboldt County, following the restoration of the local tributary, Prairie Creek. This site will serve as an educational platform, introducing visitors to Yurok customs, culture, and history.

Located amidst the world’s tallest trees, this area, dubbed ‘O Rew in the Yurok Language, sits adjacent to the Redwood National and State Parks, encompassing vast stretches of old-growth forests.

The return of ‘O Rew marks a monumental victory for the Yurok people, demonstrating their relentless determination. It symbolizes a shift in land stewardship, emphasizing Indigenous management practices and traditions.

Photo by Evan-Marie Petit, @evanmariepetit.

Historically exploited for its natural resources, including old-growth redwoods, the property was purchased by Save the Redwoods League in 2013, initiating collaborative efforts with the Yurok Tribe for restoration.

The restoration process includes the removal of a defunct mill site, re-establishing the natural stream channel, and extensive native plantings. The tribe’s focus on salmon habitat restoration aligns with broader efforts to revive dwindling fish populations amid threats like dams, logging, and climate change-induced droughts.

Plans for ‘O Rew encompass the construction of a traditional Yurok village, a visitor and cultural center showcasing sacred artifacts, and the development of new trails, integrating with existing park infrastructure.

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