Muir Woods National Monument
In the Bay area of California lies one of the last old-growth forests in the world. Created in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Muir Woods National Monument was the tenth National Monument ever created, and is located only eight miles North of San Francisco. The creation of the monument is due in large part to William Kent, who bought the property and then donated it to the federal government with the intention of preserving the natural old growth forest. Kent also requested that the monument be named after celebrated author John Muir, who said of the area that it “is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.” Muir Woods hosted a special event in 1945, when United Nations delegates who were meeting in San Francisco came to the woods to set up a memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The Redwood Valley in which Muir Woods is located is classified as having a Mediterranean climate, which means that there are cooler, wetter winters and milder summers. Muir Woods, due to its geographic location, is cooler and wetter than surrounding area. The fogs that form within and above the trees on the rugged and ravined landscape contribute a large portion to the high humidity in the woods. The trees, of course, are the most important factor in the ecology of the forests. The average age of a redwood tree in the forest is 600-800 years, although redwood trees can live up to 2,200 years! However, even when dead the trees play a vital role is sustaining the biodiversity of the woods. When a tree dies it either becomes a snag or a fallen tree. Snags are simple standing trees that have died. They provide shelter for bats and food for insects, which in turn provides food for birds! When a tree falls, an amazing thing happens. As it slowly disintegrates it turns into fertile dirt, which then catches seeds that grow into new redwood trees and ferns. This is just one example of the self-sustaining system of the redwood forests. Fallen trees are also needed in the rivers and streams for creating waterfalls and ponds which salmon, otters, and other animals need as a suitable habitat. There is a saying in the park that goes: half the life of the tree is spent standing up, and half the life is spent on the ground.
There is a surprising lack of animals in the redwood forests. In a year, only 50 species of birds were observed, which is well below the typical number in large, old-growth forests. This is due to the trees themselves! Redwood trees are so large that they only allow a small amount of light to filter through to the forest floor, preventing edible plants such as berries and fruits from growing. Redwoods also have a high amount of tannin in their bark, which repels insects. The low amount of insects in the forest contributes to the low number of birds and other animals, as bugs are a foundational layer to most food chains. However, there are a certain amount of playful animals. River otters can be seen weaving in and out of streams, and banana slugs provide good luck if you remove them from the trail and give them a kiss!
When should I go to the park?
The woods are open every day of the year from 8:00 am to sunset, and the visitor center is open at 9:00 am. The weather is fairly balanced all year long. Expect it to be cooler and wetter in the winter months, and cool but drier in the summer.
How much does it cost to get into the woods?
There is a fee of $10 per person aged 16 years and older. Children have free access to the woods.
What should I do in the woods?
The woods are made for walking! There are daily programs to attend in the woods with no reservations necessary. Or, you can purchase a self-guided program for $1. You can easily wander the trails for as long as you desire. The main trails are wheelchair accessible.
Where should I stay?
San Francisco is only 8 miles away from the park gates, and so you should have no shortage of hotel options.
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