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Redwood National Park - Guide to California's Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park Map

The Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) are located in the United States, along the coast of northern California. Comprising Redwood National Park (created 1968) and California's Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks (dating from the 1920s), the combined RNSP contain 133,000 acres (540 km2). Located entirely within Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, the four parks, together, protect 45% of all remaining Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) old-growth forests, totaling at least 38,982 acres (157.75 km2). These trees are the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on Earth. In addition to the redwood forests, the parks preserve other indigenous flora, fauna, grassland prairie, cultural resources, portions of rivers and other streams, and 37 miles (60 km) of pristine coastline.

In 1850, old-growth redwood forest covered more than 2,000,000 acres (8,100 km2) of the California coast. The northern portion of that area, originally inhabited by Native Americans, attracted many lumbermen and others turned gold miners when a minor gold rush 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 in San Francisco and other places on the West Coast. After many decades of unobstructed clear-cut logging, serious efforts toward conservation began. By the 1920s the work of the Save-the-Redwoods League, founded in 1918 to preserve remaining old-growth redwoods, resulted in the establishment of Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks among others. Redwood National Park was created in 1968, by which time nearly 90% of the original redwood trees had been logged. The National Park Service (NPS) and the California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) administratively combined Redwood National Park with the three abutting Redwood State Parks in 1994 for the purpose of cooperative forest management and stabilization of forests and watersheds as a single unit.

The ecosystem of the RNSP preserves a number of threatened animal species such as the Brown Pelican, Tidewater Goby, Bald Eagle, Chinook Salmon, Northern Spotted Owl, and Steller's Sea Lion. In recognition of the rare ecosystem and cultural history found in the parks, the United Nations designated them a World Heritage Site on September 5, 1980 and an International Biosphere Reserve on June 30, 1983.

As California created a state park system, beginning in 1927, three of the preserved redwood areas became Prairie Creek Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks. A fourth became Humboldt Redwoods State Park, by far the largest of the individual Redwood State Parks, but not in the Redwood National and State Park system.

The park has served as a filming location for numerous films. The Endor scenes for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi were filmed in the Tall Trees Redwood Grove in the northern part of Humboldt County. Scenes for The Lost World: Jurassic Park as well as the movie Outbreak were filmed at the nearby Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and at Patrick's Point State Park.

Redwoods' also used as Jurassic Forests of Colorado in Walking with Dinosaurs in "Time of the Titans" and 2007 IMAX film Dinosaurs Alive!, where they used as Triassic Forests of New Mexico, which was based on Petrified wood in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

Recreation Redwood National Park

The DeMartin Redwood Youth Hostel, a low-amenities shared lodging facility (near Klamath), has now closed. There are no hotels or motels within the parks boundaries. However, nearby towns such as Klamath, Requa, and Orick provide small hotels and inns, with extensive lodging options available in the regional trading centers of Crescent City on the northern end of the park and Arcata and Eureka located to the south. The park is 340 miles (550 km) north of San Francisco, California, and 330 miles (530 km) south of Portland, Oregon; U.S. Route 101 passes through it from north to south. The Smith River National Recreation Area, part of the Six Rivers National Forest, is adjacent to the north end of RNSP.

Use park headquaters address in a GPS to get driving directions to Redwood National Park:

1111 Second St
Crescent City, CA 95531

Camping in Redwood National Park

While the state parks have front country campsites that can be driven to, the federal sections of the park do not, and hiking is the only way to reach back country campsites. These are at Mill Creek campground in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith campground in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, which together have 251 campsites; the Elk Prairie campground in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park which has 75; and the Gold Bluffs Beach campground which has 25 campsites. Other nearby state parks have additional front country camping. Here are the primary campground in Redwood National Park:

Jedediah Smith Campground

Situated in a magnificent old-growth redwood grove on the banks of the wild and scenic Smith River, this campground offers hiking trails, swimming, fishing, and seasonal campfire programs.

Mill Creek Campground

Sleep beneath towering maples, alders, and young coast redwoods, with access to Mill Creek, miles of varied hiking trails, and seasonal campfire programs.

Elk Prairie Campground

Enjoy ancient coast redwoods, grazing Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer in Elk Prairie, easy access to over 70 miles of hiking and biking trails, and seasonal campfire programs.

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

Experience the wild Pacific coastline and grazing Roosevelt elk in this campground, with easy access to a secluded stretch of beach, Fern Canyon, and 70 miles of hiking and biking trails.

Back country camping is by permit only and is only allowed in designated sites, except on gravel bars along Redwood Creek. Access to the back country is highly regulated to prevent overuse while permitting as many groups as possible to explore the forest. Camping in the back country is therefore limited to five consecutive nights, and 15 nights in any one year. Proper food storage to minimize encounters with bears is strongly enforced, and hikers and backpackers are required to take out any trash they generate.

The park has three visitor centers, where guided nature walks and general information are available, along with two additional information points. Each campground offers campfire talks during the summer months as well as guided tours. The parks have many picnic areas, which are all easily accessed by vehicle.

Hiking in Redwood National Park

Almost 200 miles (320 km) of hiking trails exist in the parks, but during the rainy season some temporary footbridges are removed, as they would be destroyed by high streams. Throughout the year, trails are often wet and hikers need to be well prepared for rainy weather and consult information centers for updates on trail conditions.

Horseback riding and mountain biking are popular but are only allowed on certain trails. Kayaking is popular along the seacoast and in the various rivers and streams. Kayakers and canoeists frequently travel the Smith River, which is the longest undammed river remaining in California. Fishing for salmon and steelhead, a highly prized anadromous form of rainbow trout over 16 inches (41 cm), is best in the Smith and Klamath rivers. A California sport fishing license is required to fish any of the rivers and streams. Hunting is not permitted anywhere in the parks, but is allowed in nearby National Forests.

Fishing in Redwood National Park

Rivers at RNSP are world-renowned for fishing and no less loved for recreation and sheer beauty. The Smith River, named for explorer Jedediah Smith, arises in the Siskiyou Mountains and flows through the parks' north section. It is now California's last major free-flowing river and is famous for salmon and steelhead. The Klamath River, also a salmon and steelhead river, crosses the midsection of these parks. Redwood Creek flows through the parks' southern section.

The three large river systems within the park — the Smith River, the Klamath River, and Redwood Creek — have cut deep gorges through the forest and mountainous terrain. Redwood Creek follows the Grogan Fault northwest, with many small tributaries. The Klamath River, the largest in the North Coast region, provides important habitat for wildlife along its banks and in its estuary. The Smith River is also important for wildlife and has been named a Wild and Scenic River.

Stream flow depends on the amount of rainfall in the parks. The rainy season usually stretches from October through April, but the Smith and Klamath rivers also receive water from snowmelt in the mountains to the east.

Though there are no natural ponds or lakes in the parks; there are lagoons and marshes, results of oceanic and tectonic processes. Also within the parks' boundaries are the estuaries at the mouths of the Klamath River and Redwood Creek. These estuaries provide several uses for humans and wildlife: a transition and nursery area for fish, valuable habitat for fresh and saltwater species, recreational area for park visitors and nearby communities, and a supply of water for farming and ranching.

Wildlife Viewing in Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park Rosewell Elk

A variety of wildlife species call RNSP home. The diversity of ecosystems in the parks means that creatures as different as black bears, sea stars, and bald eagles can be seen by a lucky visitor in a single day. In addition to the more common inhabitants, many threatened and endangered species rely on the parks' old-growth forests, open prairies, estuaries, and the coastline for crucial havens of survival.

Marine mammals such as sea lions and gray whales are among the most visible wildlife in the parks. Visitors are also likely to see Roosevelt elk browsing in the prairies. Pelicans, ospreys, and gulls are frequently spotted along the coast. Of course, tidepool creatures aren't likely to run very far at your approach, so anenomes and crabs are easy to spot too. Often Roosevelt Elk found grasing in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park of Redwood National Park system.

While you're out watching wildlife at RNSP, remember that all wildlife is protected in the parks. Never feed or approach animals such as bears, mountain lions, elk, chipmunks, racoons, rabbits, or birds.

Wildlife of the Forest in Redwood National Forest

Cool and shady, the coniferous forests at RNSP provide important habitat to the area's many species of wildlife. Old-growth redwood forests are vital to species such as the northern spotted owl and banana slugs. Among the creatures you may encounter while visiting the forests at RNSP:

American black bear, Pacific tree frog, northern spotted owl

Wildlife of the Ocean in Redwood National Forest

Rocky and jagged, the RNSP coastline is a meeting place of ocean and continent where a unique collection of life has adapted to the harsh environment. Buffeted by the salty sea winds, salt-tolerant vegetation springs up among the beaches and steep cliffs that dominate this stretch of California's North Coast. Among the seastacks, brown pelicans and seals find a comfortable home; crabs and colorful anemones crowd the tidepools along the sea's edge.

Nowhere at RNSP is the wildlife more diverse than along the coast and in the Pacific Ocean. An enormous variety of bird species, tidepool inhabitants, sea life, and other creatures dwell in the differing environments provided by the ocean. Among the wildlife you may encounter during your visit to the RNSP coast:

Steller's sea lion, Ochre sea star, brown pelican

Wildlife of River and Stream in Redwood National Forest

Whether it's the Smith River, Redwood Creek, the Klamath River, or any of the area's smaller streams, an impressive array of wildlife has made use of the freshwater habitats at RNSP. Waterfowl, fish, mammals, and smaller creatures are linked strands in the web of life. Among the creatures you may encounter while visiting a freshwater source at RNSP:

Mountain lion,Coho salmon, great blue heron

Wildlife of the Prairies in Redwood National Forest

Amidst the dense forests of RNSP, grassy prairies provide a haven for wildlife by offering food sources unavailable elsewhere. Abundant sunlight and higher temperatures contribute to different vegetative growth. Roosevelt elk in particular are drawn to the profusion of grasses that thrive in the prairies. A few creatures you may see when you visit the prairies at RNSP:

Roosevelt elk, Song sparrow, Western fence lizard

Whale Watching in Redwood National Forest

Gray whales migrate just offshore along the California coastline as they travel from Alaska to Baja California; a 10,000-mile round trip journey. The best time to view these 45-foot marine mammals are December/January and March/April. Watch for their spouts that are shaped like a heart.

Climate in Redwood National Forest

Weather in RNSP is greatly influenced by the Pacific Ocean. Coastal temperatures generally range between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit (4–15 °C) all year round, while further from the coast summers are hotter and drier, and winters are colder. Redwoods mostly grow a mile or two (1.5–3 km) from the coast, but never more than 50 miles (80 km) from it. In this temperate but humid coastal zone, the trees receive moisture from both heavy winter rains and persistent summer fog. The presence and consistency of the summer fog is actually more important to overall health of the trees than heavy precipitation. This fact is born out in annual precipitation totals, which range between 25 and 122 inches (63 and 310 cm) annually, with healthy redwood forests throughout the areas of less precipitation because excessive needs for water are mitigated by the ever-present summer fog and the cooler temperatures it ensures. Snow is uncommon even on peaks above 1,500 feet (460 m), further exemplifying the mild, temperate nature of this northern latitude.

Here is a detailed list of other National Parks of California besides Redwood National Park.

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