A Brief History of Humboldt Redwoods State Park

[First Inhabitants]
[Railroads and Highways ]

First Inhabitants

The Sinkyone Indians who lived in this region for thousands of years, had relatively little impact on the redwood forest. They were hunters and gatherers for whom salmon and tanoak acorns were staples. Redwood planks were used for housing. Redwood root fibers were used for basket making. Redwood logs were used to make canoes.

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The first non-native Americans to pass through this immediate vicinity were on their way from the Trinity gold fields to San Francisco in 1850. Part of the group chose to follow the Eel River south from the coast. The leader of the group, L.K. Wood, was badly mauled by a grizzly bear near the present southern boundary of the park.

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In 1875, Tosaldo Johnson was the first homesteader in the area. He worked 160 acres near the present-day Albee Creek campground. During the late 1870s, his nearest neighbors were the Myers family who had 160 acres where the town of Myers Flat now stands.

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Railroads and Highways

The Northwestern Pacific Railroad came to this area in 1914 and the original "Redwood Highway" was constructed in 1922. These new transportation facilities opened up this entire area to large-scale logging and tourism.

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In 1917, the organizers of the Save-the Redwoods League visited the area that is now Humboldt Redwoods State Park. They could see that the magnificent redwood forests of this area would be lost within a few years unless something was done to save them. Their concern and foresight led to the creation of the League in 1918. In 1921, the League made its first purchase of redwoods in what was to become the present state park. Since then more than 100 memorial groves have been established within Humboldt Redwoods State Park with the help of League funds. In 1927, an act of the state legislature called for the development of a statewide system of parks, and in the following year the state's first state park bond act provided $6 million in matching funds for the acquisition of state park lands. The League immediately began to accumulate private funds for redwood park acquisition purposes and in 1930, J.D. Rockefeller gave the League by far the largest single gift it had received up to that time - $2 million dollars to purchase some 10,000 acres along Bull Creek. The Pacific Lumber Company owned the land and agreed to postpone logging until the League and the State of California could purchase the area.

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Today, Humboldt Redwoods State Park includes more than 51,000 acres. The entire Bull Creek watershed has been acquired little by little with the help of the Save-the-Redwoods League and its many generous donors. The need to acquire the watershed became painfully obvious after hundreds of magnificent redwoods were lost during the floods of 1955 and 1964. Heavy rains washed down thousands of tons of gravel and debris from upper parts of the watershed that had been badly damaged by logging and subsequent fires.

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But the story isn't over. Many restoration projects are currently underway, including reforestation projects, prescribed burns, fire road and trail maintenance work. Hillsides are being stabilized and silt-choked streams are being restored both to protect salmon and steelhead spawning grounds as well as redwoods.

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Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the California State Park System need your continued support. Without the foresight of dedicated people in past generations, magnificent natural areas like this would not exist today. Conversely, only if our generation is willing to preserve our park lands and other natural areas, will places like this exist for our grandchildren and future generations.

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Revised: 15 November 1996
Copyright © 1996 Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Association