Redwood National Park comprises a region of coastal mountains bordering the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco. It is covered with a magnificent forest of coastal redwood trees, the tallest and most impressive trees in the world. The marine and land life are equally remarkable, in particular the sea lions, the bald eagle and the endangered California brown pelican.
Redwood National Park comprises a region of coastal mountains bordering the Pacific (to 930 m above sea level) north of San Francisco. It is covered with a magnificent forest of sequoia redwood trees, the tallest and most impressive trees in the world. The marine and land life are equally remarkable, in particular the sea lions, the bald eagle and the endangered California brown pelican.
The park was established specifically to protect these trees, because it is only here and in Oregon that they now survive. Descendants of the giant evergreens that grew during the age of the dinosaurs, redwoods thrived in moist temperate regions of the world. They take 400 years to mature and some of the survivors are more than 2,000 years old. Their thick, sapless bark protects them from fire, but landslides and wind can topple old trees. Cultural landscapes reflect American Indian history. The Indians used fallen redwood trees to build canoes and houses; commercial logging began during the gold rush era. Logging of redwoods continues and is debated by the timber industry and environmentalists. The trees stand as majestic reminders of the slow evolution of nature.
The area transcends two distinctive physiographic environments: the coastline, and the mountains of the Coast Range. The park's 55 km coastline consists of steep, rocky cliffs broken by rolling slopes and broad sandy beaches. Gently rounded summits contrast with steep slopes and deeply incised streams. Bedrock is primarily highly deformed Cretaceous deep water marine sandstones, siltstones and shales. Lesser amounts of chert, volcanic greenstones and metamorphic rocks occur as blocks within the sedimentary rocks.
The predominant vegetation type is coastal redwood forest. There are 15,800 ha of old-growth redwood, 20,800 ha are cut over and the balance comprises other vegetation types. The redwoods are surviving remnants of the group of trees that were once found throughout many of the moist temperate regions of the world, but are now confined to the wet regions on the west coast of North America. As slope and dryness increase, the forest is superseded by prairie vegetation.
There are 75 species of mammal. Freshwater marshes, ponds and streams provide valuable nesting and feeding areas for several species of migratory waterfowl. Several offshore rocks in the area are important nesting sites for seabirds. Threatened birds include the endangered brown pelican, southern bald eagle and American falcon.
Archaeological surveys, test excavations, research and consultations conducted over the past 20 years have resulted in the recording of 50 prehistoric archaeological sites, 19 historic sites and at least 21 places of significance to local Indian communities. The archaeological sites span 4,500 years and represent changing settlement and subsistence systems. Historic resources include examples of early trails, homestead and ranching, fishing, dairy, mining and logging industries, and military structure.
The redwood forests represent some 42% of the remaining old growth redwood stands, a small fragment of once extensive cover. Legal protection is total, but sport fishing is allowed. The principal National Park Service zoning classification comprises natural, historic and park development enclaves.
The parks' mosaic of habitats includes prairie/oak woodlands, mighty rivers and streams and 55 km of pristine Pacific coastline.
2 October 1968, under Public Law 90-545, when three existing state parks were fused with the addition of about 11,340ha of privately owned land with 19,440ha added 27 March 1978. Inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1980. Comprises part of California Coastal Ranges Biosphere Reserve.