Redwood National Park Protects More Than the World's Tallest Trees

Rear View Of Woman Walking By Trees At National Park

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Stretching 131,983 acres through Humboldt County and Del Norte County in California, Redwood National Park protects some of the world’s tallest trees, the most breathtaking ecosystems, and many other natural wonders.

Established in 1968, the park is one of four distinct properties created to save the redwood tree population, including Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwood parks—known together as Redwood National and State Parks.

Explore Redwood National Park with these 10 fascinating facts.

Protecting Trees in Redwood National Park Can Help Fight Climate Change

Coastal redwoods are fast-growing, majestic trees that can live for thousands of years, which helps them store more than twice the amount of carbon as other species like Pacific Northwest conifers or Australia eucalyptus.

According to a study in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, coastal redwood forests store more CO2 than any other forests in the world—about 2,600 metric tons of carbon per hectare (2.4 acres).

The Global Redwood Population Had Decreased 90% When the Park Was Established

Dirt Road in Redwood National Park California

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By the 1960s, wide-scale industrial logging had destroyed nearly 90% of the original redwood forests, especially in parts that were privately owned. The economic boom of the 1950s following WWII, along with rapidly improving technology allowed trees to be cut down faster and cheaper. The logging industry also began using locomotives instead of horses or oxen to move more logs to mills with a more advanced transportation industry.

Redwood National Park Was Designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 

Along with agencies like the Save the Redwoods League, the National Park Service, and the Sierra Club, the United Nations works to combat the destruction of old-growth redwood forests.

Redwood National and State Parks have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980 to protect the ancient trees as well as the intertidal, marine, and freshwater flora and fauna present in the parks.

The Park Includes 37 miles of Coastline Along the Pacific Ocean

California Coast near Redwood National Park

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Although most people know Redwood National Park for its forests, the park also features open prairie lands, major rivers, and 37 miles of California coastline.

Within this coastal ecosystem, there are at least 70 miles of hiking trails offering visitors the chance to experience a different type of landscape within the park—one full of thriving tidepools, sandy beaches, and the rocky bluffs of the Pacific Ocean.

High Ocean Productivity Creates a More Diverse Ecosystem on the Park’s Coast 

Due to the high ocean productivity of the Pacific Northwest coast, the tidepools found along Redwood National Park’s shoreline present an abundant and diverse variation of invertebrate animals.

Especially in the spring and early summer, upwelling currents help bring water that’s enriched with nutrients closer to the surface, acting as a natural fertilizer. These nutrients are important for the algal growth and phytoplankton that support productive marine ecosystems and become the base of the marine food cycle.

At Least 28 Threatened or Endangered Species Have Been Documented

Steller sea lions on rocks

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Between Redwood National Park and its sister state parks, an estimated 28 endangered, threatened, and candidate species occur. These include two plant, two invertebrate, six fish, four sea turtle, six bird, seven marine mammal, and one land mammal species. While all of these animals have suitable habitats inside the park, only eight species occur regularly, including the Steller sea lion, the western snowy plover, and the northern spotted owl.

The Endangered Coho Salmon Is Especially Vulnerable

Logging operations from before the park was established didn’t just harm the forests, but also the streams, creeks, and rivers. The unhealthy watershed and damage to riparian areas caused wildlife, like the endangered Coho salmon, to struggle with low water quality and contaminated streambeds. In the 1940s, salmon populations in Redwood Creek numbered in the hundreds of thousands but fell to about 50% by the early 1990s.

Park Officials Are Restoring Former Logging Roads in Redwood National Park

A large-scale restoration partnership organized by the Save the Redwoods League, the National Park Service, and California State Parks (known collectively as Redwoods Rising) began in 2020 to repair and replace six miles of former logging roads and stream crossings.

Over the next several decades, the restoration project will also aim to restore over 70,000 acres of coastal redwood forests in areas of the park most severely impacted by commercial logging.

Park Management Uses Prescribed Fires to Maintain Landscape Health

Native American tribes once managed plant communities inside the land that would eventually become Redwood National Park by igniting controlled fires to clear brush and encourage new growth.

With the arrival of Euro-Americans, however, the landscape experienced a century of fire suppression that negatively altered the old-growth forests, prairies, and oak woodlands. Today, park resource managers are returning to the practice in order to control invasive plant species, restore native plant diversity, and reduce fire intolerant species.

The Park Is Known for Its Lupine and Rhododendron Blooms

Lupin bloom in Redwood National Park

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Each year in the spring and summer, Redwood National Park comes alive with wildflowers. In fact, many visitors come to the park for the sole purpose of seeing the lupine and rhododendron blooms, rather than the redwood trees.

Apart from those two species, the park also hosts California poppies, forget-me-nots, buttercups, and many others as early as February.

View Article Sources
  1. "Frequently Asked Questions." National Park Service.

  2. Van Pelt, Robert, et al. "Emergent Crowns and Light-Use Complementarity Lead to Global Maximum Biomass and Leaf Area in Sequoia sempervirens Forests." Forest Ecology and Management, vol. 375, 2016, pp. 279-308. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2016.05.018

  3. "Area History." National Park Service.

  4. "Redwood National and State Parks." United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization.

  5. "Basic Information." National Park Service.

  6. "Coastal Trail Sections." National Park Service.

  7. "Threatened and Endangered Species." National Park Service.

  8. "Salmon of Redwood Creek: Salmon's Struggle for Survival." National Park Service.

  9. Carr, Robin. "Redwoods Rising Restoration of More Than 70,000 Acres Begins Across Northern California Redwood Forests, Providing Regional Jobs." Save the Redwoods League, 2020.

  10. "Environmental Factors." National Park Service.