The California Redwoods
In our post about the California Gold Rush, we talked about how the discovery of gold led settlers to California in droves. Towns sprang up where there weren't any before, and by the late 1800s, settlements in California, including towns like San Francisco, were bustling.
The part of the story that is not often told is the effect that this huge expansion into California had on nature. There was massive deforestation because resources were needed to build all of these new towns. Many trees were cut down, especially the California Redwood trees.
California Redwoods are the tallest trees on earth with some reaching as high as 379 feet (115.5 m). They are also thought to live up to 1800 years. The Redwoods were especially coveted because of the quality and value of their lumber. Experts estimate that up to 95% of these trees have been lost in the last 200 years and they are now considered an endangered species.
In 1918, conservationists created an organization called the Save-the-Redwoods League with the mission of protecting and restoring the redwood forests that had been so decimated by the demand for lumber. By soliciting donations and money from the state of California, the league was able to purchase enough land to save parts of the forest. In 1927, the state of California itself began its state parks program. In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill creating Redwood National Park, a park that would be protected by the U.S. Federal Government in addition to the protections provided by the state of California. The park is located in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, which are both in the Northwestern-most parts of California, some 200 miles from San Francisco.
The parks average about half a million visitors per year, and tens of thousands make overnight camping stays. Most visitors come in the summer months but Redwood National Forest is open year round if you are a planning a visit. The visitors come to see the famous giant redwoods but the parks boast abundant wildlife as well, including birds, bears, elk, and beautiful beds of fern. Potential visitors are encouraged to visit the Visitor Center webpage.
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