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Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument is located in Marin County, California, 12 miles (19 km) north of San Francisco. Muir Woods is part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area and is located at coordinates 37°. 53′ 19″ N, 122° 35′ 12″ W. Muir Woods protects 554 acres (2.24 square km) of old-growth forest (1, 2) populated by Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) (1, 2, 3, 4) and is one of the last remaining stands in the immediate San Francisco Bay Area. National Park Service guides in seven languages (English, Chinese Traditional, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, German, and French) for planning your visit to Muir Woods are here. Muir Woods is a very popular place. In 2005, Muir Woods had 776,000 visitors! One of the nice features of Muir Woods is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of paved (or wooden walkway-covered), wheelchair-accessible trails. There are a number of paved walking trails, as well as unpaved walking trails that lead into the hills to connect with trails outside the park. A Trail Map (PDF) is here. Bicycles are allowed only on fire roads.

The history of Muir Woods, as with the history of many places in California, has some conflict and some great historic moments. By the early 20th Century, most of the forests of Sequoia sempervirens in California had been cut down by the logging industry. Just north of the San Francisco Bay, one valley, known as Sequoia Canyon, remained unlogged, mostly as the result of its inaccessibility. A U.S. Congressman, William Kent, and his wife, Elizabeth Thacher Kent purchased 611 acres (2.47 square km) for $45,000 (USD) to protect the redwoods and the mountain above them. In 1907, a water company planned to dam Redwood Creek, which would have flooded the valley. When William Kent objected, the water company took him to court. Kent bypassed the local courts by donating 295 acres (1.2 square km) to the federal government! President Theodore Roosevelt declared the land a national monument on January 9, 1908. (A 100th anniversary celebration of the park was held on January 9, 2008.) At the insistence of William Kent, the monument was named in honor of John Muir, who was instrumental in the establishment of the National Parks system. In the spring of 1945, delegates from 50 countries met in San Francisco to create and sign the United Nations Charter. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died shortly before he was to open the conference. On May 19, delegates held a memorial ceremony for Franklin Roosevelt in Cathedral Grove of Muir Woods. A plaque is placed there in his honor.

The tallest redwood in Muir Woods is 258 feet (79 m) tall. The oldest tree is at least 1200 years old, and the average age is between 500 and 800 years old. Three of the most common trees of the understory (1, 2, 3) of the woods are the California Bay Laurel, the Bigleaf Maple, and the Tanoak. All three species have adapted to the lower light levels present under the redwoods. Redwood Creek is the spawning ground of Coho or silver salmon and Steelhead Trout. Occasionally, one can see pileated woodpeckers and Northern Spotted Owls among the 50 species of birds that make Muir Woods their home. Although they are decreasing in numbers elsewhere (as the result of biological competition and politically motivated reductions in their habitat), the Northern Spotted Owl seems to be thriving in Muir Woods, and a National Park Service project is monitoring their progress. Mammals include the American Shrew Mole, deer, and again since 2003, black bear, along with 11 species of bats!

Muir Woods is a truly beautiful (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) place! You may want to plan your visit to avoid as many of the crowds as possible. Read the Wikipedia article and the park literature cited above for more information. Moonlight walks are held on nights with full moons, but reservations are required.


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