Tag Archives: Redwood National Park

Redwoods Hiking August 2019 – Montgomery Woods to Del Norte Redwoods

1       August 2019 Redwoods Trip

 There was a lot of planning put into this trip but time was set aside for fun hikes as well.  My sister Lisa met me on this trip, she is a very knowledgeable outdoorsperson and a strong hiker. We made an interesting duo arriving at hotels and places to buy food, two older middle-aged people with Monongahela twangs wearing dusty trail clothes and hiking backpacks.  There is unfortunately a certain chill toward people looking a little musty and dusty at North Coast businesses.  Anyhow once credit cards and ID were presented people were friendly enough, but not until then.  In the parks. rangers are immediately friendly to everyone.

2       Montgomery Woods Reserve

The first stop was a scenic late afternoon hike around the Montgomery Woods Reserve loop.    This is a great place to get close to tall trail side redwoods and to see tall trees in their full profile. In the late afternoon the green crowns are lit up by the sun while the lower trunks are in the canyon shadows.  It’s a pretty spectacular sight.

Large and tall tree MWSR middle flat
Tall redwood MWSR lower flat
Late afternoon sun lighting crowns in MWSR

3       Humboldt Redwoods State Park

We spent a good deal of time in Humboldt Redwoods exploring the groves along the Eel River and Bull Creek.   A particularly interesting hike was the new Canoe Creek loop on the River Trail.  There are a lot of huckleberry in the fire recovery areas and it is evident bears are enjoying the huckleberries.  Some good blackberries as well. 

Canoe Creek has a flat near the Eel River with some really nice redwoods.

Humboldt Redwoods has a number of trees that are joining the 350+ redwood club.  We used LiDAR data to find one of these new trees.

Pretty area and tall tree on Canoe Creek flats
Decaying roots of fallen redwood along Bull Creek
Scenic grove along Bull Creek
This redwood along the Eel River is now over 350 feet tall

4       Redwood National Park

On another day we did some hiking in the Redwood Creek area.  There was a small group of fledgling raptors on the hunt in Redwood Creek Canyon, looking for fish in the creek from high above.  They were probably bald eagles.  We saw a bunch of college aged trail runners zipping along Redwood Creek trail in groups of two or three, moving so quickly they made a breeze as they went by. 

Nice redwood group above Redwood Creek
Looking across Redwood Creek
Redwood Creek outflow to Pacific Ocean

5       Del Norte Redwoods State Park

In Del Norte Redwoods we hiked the Damnation Creek trail.   This trail goes from 101 (enter and exit southbound), crosses the old Coastal Highway (Coastal Trail), and then winds down to the Pacific.  It is pretty special to see the blue ocean and hear the surf while still high up at the edge of the redwoods.  I didn’t make it down the switchbacks to the beach, but Lisa did.

Coastal Trail at intersection with Damnation Creek Trail
Sitka spruce in fog a few hundred feet lower on the trail (same day)
Ocean at bottom of Damnation Creek Trail. Check the tide tables before accessing.

It was great to see the redwoods again this year.

Thanks for reading.

Tall Trees Grove in Redwood National Park

1       Formation of Tall Trees Grove

There is not much published research on the age of the northern California redwood forests.  Redwood trees have been on Earth for millions of years in various forms.  The coast redwoods that grow along a narrow belt from Big Sur to extreme southern Oregon are a remnant of the ancient redwood populations.  It is thought they were almost wiped out at the peak of the latest ice age, with only a few groves surviving in canyons around Big Sur.  But then as the glaciers retreated, the jet stream and Pacific inflow moisture shifted northward 400 miles.  The redwoods followed, establishing their present range.

From this we know the Tall Trees Grove cannot be more than 12,000 or so years old.  Whether it is 4,000, 8,000, or 10,000 years old, I don’t know and have never seen anything speculating on the age of the forests in Redwood National Park.   Given redwood trees live to 1,000 to 2,000 years of age it can be estimated there have been at most eight generations of redwoods in this grove.

2       Human History of Tall Trees Grove

Native Americans have lived in the Redwood National Park area for several thousand years.  Again, I have not read anything more precise, so from that will go with 10,000 years.  In the most recent times, just before European settlement, about five hundred Native Americans identified as the Chilula tribe lived on the northeast side of redwood creek near the inflow to the Pacific Ocean.  Some of the open berry fields on the first part of Redwood Creek trail going south were probably maintained by the Chilula through controlled fires.  In the summer the Chilula hiked south along Redwood Creek and then through Tall Trees Grove and up a trail to the Bald Hills.  This indicates the trail from the Tall Trees Grove parking area to the Tall Trees Grove is substantially an improved Chilula foot path.

3       Identification of Tall Tree and Establishment of Redwood National Park

In 1963 Paul Zahl and his family spent the summer around Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.  Zahl was employed by National Geographic Society and tasked to document the redwood parks and to look for new areas with very tall redwoods.  At some point in 1963, Zahl was sitting on a hill across from the south part of Tall Trees Grove, and noted a very tall tree in the grove.  Surveyors were hired and the tree was measured at 368 feet.  It was on Arcata Redwood Company land.  The president of that company, Howard Libbey, pledged not to cut the grove while plans were being made for the establishment of Redwood National Park.  There was a lot of back and forth as to the location of the park but eventually the Redwood Creek watershed won out and the park was established five years later. 

There is a little bit of intrigue associated with the actual tallest tree in the 1960’s.  Correspondence exits between Paul Zinke (Humboldt Redwoods area researcher) and Rudolf Becking (Redwood National Park area researcher) regarding possibly taller trees at the confluence of Bull Creek and Eel River in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  But it was decided to keep the issue low key to help get Redwood National Park established.  Google “letter from Paul Zinke to Rudolf Becking” and follow the results to see a copy of this 1966 letter.

4       Tall Trees Grove Logistics

It is well documented on the park web sites a certain procedure needs to be followed to access Tall Trees Grove.  The visitor center just south of Orick or the one in Crescent City provide permits to use the Tall Trees Grove access road along with the combination for the locked gate that sits at the entrance of the access road. The access road is a maintained old logging road and heads south from Bald Hills Road just past the Redwood Creek overlook to the Tall Trees Grove parking lot on the hill above Redwood Creek.  Be sure to shut and lock the gate after pulling through and drive the six or so winding miles on the unpaved road at a moderate pace to keep the dust down and the stones out of your wheels. The trail from the hillside parking area down to Tall Trees Grove is not difficult but it is steep coming back up, about 700 feet elevation gain in a little over a mile.  There are five or so rest benches along the trail.

Some people camp along Redwood Creek a short distance from Tall Trees Grove.  If you are doing this let the ranger know when getting your Tall Trees Grove permit, you will then receive a bear proof cannister for your food.  There are a lot of black bears in the Tall Trees Grove area that eat fish, frogs, crustaceans and the bark of young redwoods.  Then there are also mountain lions which follow the deer down to the creek.

5       Tall Trees Grove Itself

Tall Trees Grove itself it not large. The flat with the tallest trees is about 30 acres then there are another 100 or so acres of mixed old growth forest on the hillside. However there is a high density of very tall redwoods. The grove has four of the fifty tallest trees in the world (National Geographic (Nugget), Paul Zahl, Howard Libbey (Tall Tree), and the Redwood Creek Giant.

The grove also has a nice Big Leaf Maple forest right by the creek.  It is possible these maples are in a part of the grove that is subject to flood inundation.

In the summer when the water is low the gravel bars along Redwood Creek can be accessed to provide views of Tall Trees Grove and the surrounding area.  This is the most special and scenic part of seeing Tall Trees Grove.

On the hike up take time to appreciate the hillside forest, noting the large redwoods all along the trail as well as tall Douglas firs higher up.  There is a nice rhododendron bloom on this trail in June. Thanks for reading.

Rhododendron on hill along Tall Trees Grove trail
Hillside Douglas fir fallen over Tall Trees Grove trail
Redwood NP Tall Trees Grove north side from Redwood creek
National Geographic Redwood, a trail side tree in Tall Trees Grove

Easy and Scenic Redwoods Hiking – The Great Northern Redwood Parks From South to North

1      Hendy Woods

 Hendy Woods is about 125 miles north of San Francisco.  Do a rest stop in Cloverdale, the driving west on Route 128 is windy and slow for a while, but then things level out when the scenic Anderson Valley is reached.  Hendy Woods is small but has some big and tall redwoods, a few above 340 feet in height.  The loop trails are easy level hiking.

Hendy Woods from Navarro River
Hendy Woods upper loop trail

2      Montgomery Woods Reserve

Montgomery Woods is 30 winding miles north of Hendy Woods.  This is a pretty famous redwood park.  It has a couple trees that are in the top 20 in height among all redwoods.  There is a short hike from the parking lot to the grove that has a pretty good elevation change but is very doable if a measured pace is followed.  The trail is very nice, looping around both sides of the grove and allowing hikers to walk right among the tall trees.

Montgomery Woods Reserve natural earthen dam
Montgomery Woods upper flat

3      Richardson Grove

Richardson Grove is about 100 miles north of Montgomery Woods.  The short drive through this grove along 101 is spectacular.  Slow down and enjoy it.  The tallest redwoods in the park are at the visitor center and are about 340 feet in height, but there are a bunch of big and tall redwoods right along 101.

Richardson Grove visitor center deck trees
Richardson Grove tall redwoods at visitor center

4      Humboldt Redwoods

The heart of Humboldt Redwoods is about 40 miles north of Richardson Grove.  The Founders Grove and nearby Rockefeller Loop have very nice mostly level trails, with a number of trees over 360 feet tall. 

Humboldt Redwoods chaos at Dyerville Giant
Humboldt Redwoods Rockefeller Loop

5      Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is about 100 miles north of Humboldt Redwoods.  The tallest trees in the world grow in the remote Redwood Creek Valley and are 380 feet tall.   However if you want to drive deep into a big redwood forest with easy hiking do the Lost Man Trail.  There are big trees in Lost Man as well as a few over 350 feet tall. Another good Redwood National Park trail near Klamath is up Flint Ridge, it is well constructed and the climb is scenic and gradual.

Redwood National Park Lost Man Trail
Redwood National Park Flint Ridge

6      Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Prairie Creek Redwoods is just north of Redwood National Park and has many trails through fine redwood forests.  The great trail network starts at the visitor center and there are also a lot of trails accessible along Drury Parkway and Cal Barrel Road. Lots of the largest (by volume) redwood trees are in Prairie Creek.  The trails near Prairie Creek are relatively flat and then there are some trails going up the hillsides that have nice gradual ascents.

Prairie Creek Redwoods near visitor center
Prairie Creek Redwoods Irvine Trail

7      Del Norte Redwoods State Park

The heart of Del Norte Redwoods is about 20 miles north of Prairie Creek Redwoods.  There are few trails and they are pretty steep.  The section of the Damnation Creek trail from 101 to the old Coastal Highway is steep but not very long, the climb out is not a problem.  The old Coastal trail at the Damnation creek intersection is very scenic and follows the outline of a big canyon.

Del Norte Redwoods Coastal Trail

8      Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Jedediah Smith Redwoods is about 15 miles north of Del Norte Redwoods.  The Boy Scout trail goes from the east to west end of the park.  It has a couple small hills and is about a five mile hike out and back.  It is well worth the time and effort, don’t make a race of it and keep your eyes open for many big redwoods, some right along the trail.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods Boy Scout trail eastern section
Jedediah Smith Redwoods Boy Scout trail western section
Jedediah Smith Redwoods Boy Scout trail western end

Thanks for reading.

Redwood Thunder

1      Redwood Thunder

Redwood thunder is an uncommon but not rare event. It occurs when a large redwood tree falls to the forest floor, sometimes striking and taking other redwoods, firs, spruce, oaks, and maples with it. A cubic foot of redwood weighs 50 pounds, so if a moderately large 20,000 cubic foot redwood topples that is a million pounds, or 500 tons of wood crashing to the earth.

For redwood thunder to occur usually soaked soil and wind are required, though if the tree fractures on itself soaked soil is not an ingredient.  Sometimes before redwood thunder occurs the tree will lean against an adjacent tree, with the trunks and branches rubbing with the wind and making screeching sounds like giant stringed instruments.

All redwood trees eventually topple, or at least break off down to a low point on the trunk.  If a given old growth redwood has a one in a thousand chance of falling in any given year than that means, based on acres of old growth redwoods, the average annual tree fall count in the large redwood parks is about 300 trees, per park.

If there are multiple trees involved in a tree fall or if the tree falls across a creek, the tree fall is noticeable in Google Earth.  If you hike the same trails over several years you will for sure see trees that have recently fallen.  Their upper trunks are huge and their logs run sometimes more than a football field along the forest floor.

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2      Examples of Tree Falls

 

Here are several examples of tree falls I ran across in 2016.  Included are a picture I took of the tree fall accompanied by before and after Google Earth views of the tree fall areas (using Google Earth historical imagery).

In Humboldt redwoods a neighbor of the big Dyerville Giant log fell in the late spring 2016.  Its trunk shattered and splintered into sections where it struck the Dyerville Giant log.

Tree fall across Dyerville Giant in Founders Grove
Tree fall across Dyerville Giant in Founders Grove

 

Founders Grove - tree to fall marked with X. (Image from Google Earth)
Founders Grove – tree to fall marked with X. (Image from Google Earth)

 

Founders Grove - space left by fallen tree marked by X. (image from Google Earth)
Founders Grove – space left by fallen tree marked by X. (Image from Google Earth)

 

Another recent tree fall in Humboldt was in the area where a seasonal foot bridge is put in to link the Rockefeller Redwood area to the Giant Tree area on either side of Bull Creek in the upper Bull Creek Flats.  The new big log is used a lot to cross the creek, though it would be a pretty tough eight foot or so fall from the log to the rocky creek bottom if your foot or the bark slipped.

Log across Bull Creek in Giant Tree area
Log across Bull Creek in Giant Tree area

 

Bull Creek Giant Tree area - tree to fall marked with X. (Image from Google Earth)
Bull Creek Giant Tree area – tree to fall marked with X. (Image from Google Earth)

 

Bull Creek Giant Tree area, empty area where fallen tree was standing marked with X (Image from Google Earth)
Bull Creek Giant Tree area, empty area where fallen tree was standing marked with X (Image from Google Earth)

 

A third fall in Humboldt occurred in Harper Flat.  The tall north side of a twin trunk redwood fell in the last couple years.

Harper Flat fallen tree, north side of pair (still from I Phone video)
Harper Flat fallen tree, north side of pair (still from I Phone video)

 

Harper Flat - tree to fall marked with X (Image from Google Earth)
Harper Flat – tree to fall marked with X (Image from Google Earth)

 

Harper Flat - area left by fallen tree marked by X (Image from Google Earth)
Harper Flat – area left by fallen tree marked by X (Image from Google Earth)

 

The final example is in an area of tall hillside redwoods on the east side of Redwood Creek a little north of McArthur creek near the seasonal foot bridge.  Here the tree fall took out a number of redwoods and the whole group of fallen trees is slowly sliding down toward Redwood Creek.

Redwood Creek tree fall area, trees are slowly sliding downhill.
Redwood Creek tree fall area, trees are slowly sliding downhill.

 

Redwood Creek hillside above north seasonal foot bridge, trees to fall marked with X (Image from Google Earth)
Redwood Creek east hillside above north seasonal foot bridge, trees to fall marked with X (Image from Google Earth)

 

Redwood Creek east hillside above north seasonal foot bridge, area where trees stood marked with X (Image from Google Earth)
Redwood Creek east hillside above north seasonal foot bridge, area where trees stood marked with X (Image from Google Earth)

3      What Can Be Learned From Fallen Redwoods

 

A recently fallen redwood is a great opportunity for whole tree research once the soil in the fall area has stabilized.   The root system and affixed soils can be studied without any digging, this is the big primary benefit.  But also core samples can be extracted without having to climb and core living trees.  The canopy structure can be measured and reviewed without climbing and an unlimited amount of destructive sampling can be done.

Thanks for reading.

Distribution of Tree Height in an Old Growth Redwood Forest

1      Old Growth Redwoods

 

Old growth redwoods – that phrase invokes a lot of different feelings in people. Certainly in the present the phrase describes the large never cut forests in the redwood parks. Forests full of giant trees, some by rivers or streams and others along hillsides. Forests covered with needles and sorrel and forests covered with ferns. Forests with deer moving through them to reach the creeks, all the while shadowed by mountain lions. Forests with black bear dens. Remote and rugged but never more than a few miles from a highway.

Two parks with many acres of old growth redwoods as well as the ten tallest trees in the world are Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park.   Each parks contains hundreds of thousands of old growth redwood trees.   Here is the math:

Park Acres Old Growth Redwoods # Redwood Trees > 100 cm per Hectare # Acres per Hectare # Old Growth Redwood Trees
HRSP                    17,000 50 2.47                            344,130
RNP                    19,640 50 2.47                            397,571

 

The redwood density figure is a general rounding of the findings in a redwood plots study underway at Humboldt State University.

If that number seems too high, well…. Here are two pictures.   These are from the Redwood Creek Overlook on Bald Hills Road in Redwood National Park.   The old growth forests and patches are very distinctive.   If you go to that overlook and put a strong pair of binoculars on those forests it is an impressive site.   Many big and tall trees all growing along Redwood Creek and the surrounding feeder creeks and hillsides. I can’t imagine a more spectacular forest. It is kind of intimidating.

Redwood Creek Overlook looking west northwest.
Redwood Creek Overlook looking west northwest.

 

Redwood Creek Overlook west southwest view
Redwood Creek Overlook west southwest view

 

2      Height Distribution for the Tallest Trees

 

Thorough ground based searches combined with LiDAR technology have given a pretty complete picture of tree height in all parks with the exception of the Headwaters Reserve. The tallest redwoods, those over 365 feet, are all in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park, with the exception of two trees in the exceptional Montgomery Woods Reserve. Then all the trees over 370 feet (there are only ten or so) are in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park.

 

Trees over 350 feet.  Each line represents a tree.
Trees over 350 feet. Each line represents a tree.

 

There are two things that are apparent when viewing these graphs. First, the distribution patterns are very similar between the parks. And second, there are a lot more tall trees in HRSP than in RNP. Based on this data paired with the history of each park the explanation is certainly this: In Humboldt most of the forests with the tallest trees are intact. In Redwood National Park most of the forests with the tallest trees have been thinned or removed.

 

3      Height Distribution for Old Growth Redwood Trees

 

Noting the steepness of the curve on the tall trees graph it is evident there is some type of “bell shaped” distribution where there are many trees of a certain height, say 350 feet, then the trees get fewer and fewer at 360 feet and even more scarce at 370 feet.

Using this information and the total number of old growth redwoods we can infer the number of trees of certain heights:

Std Deviations Expected Pct of Trees Less Than HRSP Expected Trees RNP Expected Trees HRSP + RNP Expected Trees
2 97.725%                      7,829                      9,045                              16,874
3 99.865%                          465                          537                                1,001
4 99.997%                            11                            13                                      23
4.5 99.99966%                              1                              1                                        3
5 99.99997% 0.0981 0.1133 0.21

Looking at the results of expected trees versus actual tree populations, it is evident four standard deviations describes 368 feet or so redwoods, while 4.5 standard deviations describes the very tallest redwoods (380 feet).

Then with some calculations and interpolation, we can arrive at three standard deviations corresponding to a 338 foot redwood tree.   This then results with the following very approximate distribution of tree height in old growth redwood forests in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park.

Std Dev Height Feet
4.5 383
4 368
3 338
2 308
1 278
0 248
-1 218
-2 188
-3 158
-4 128
-4.5 113

 

So the average old growth redwood in Humboldt and Redwood NP is 250 feet tall.  Remember this covers all old growth trees at all elevations that are at least 3.28 feet in diameter.

Then there are 1,000 trees over 338 feet in height.

What do you think?

 

4      Old Growth Redwood Groves Close Ups

 

For some closer in views of old growth, here are pictures from two of my favorite areas in the redwood parks.   There are views like this all over the redwood parks.

 

Humboldt Bull Creek outflow
Humboldt Bull Creek outflow

 

Redwood NP Lost Man Creek area
Redwood NP Lost Man Creek area

 

Thanks for viewing and reading.