Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument is a United States National Monument managed by the National Park Service, named after naturalist John Muir. It is located on Mount Tamalpais near the West coast, in southwestern Marin County, California. It is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and is 12 miles (19 km) north of San Francisco. It protects 554 acres (224 ha),[4] of which 240 acres (97 ha) are old growth coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) forests, one of a few such stands remaining in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Caern of The Western Eye

Bohemian Grove

The Muir Woods National Monument is an old-growth coastal redwood forest. Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the forest is regularly shrouded in a coastal marine layer fog, contributing to a wet environment that encourages vigorous plant growth. The fog is also vital for the growth of the redwoods as they use moisture from the fog during droughty seasons, in particular the dry summer.

One hundred fifty million years ago ancestors of redwood and sequoia trees grew throughout the United States. Today, the Sequoia sempervirens can be found only in a narrow, cool coastal belt from Monterey County, California, in the south to Oregon in the north.

Before the logging industry came to California, there were an estimated 2 million acres (8,000 km2) of old growth forest containing redwoods growing in a narrow strip along the coast.

By the early 20th century, most of these forests had been cut down. Just north of the San Francisco Bay, one valley named Redwood Canyon remained uncut, mainly due to its relative inaccessibility.

This was noticed by William Kent, a rising California politician who would soon be elected to the U.S. Congress. He and his wife, Elizabeth Thacher Kent, purchased 611 acres (247 ha) of land from the Tamalpais Land and Water Company for $45,000 with the goal of protecting the redwoods and the mountain above them. The deal was facilitated by banker Lovell White and his activist wife, Laura Lyon White.

In 1907, a water company in nearby Sausalito planned to dam Redwood Creek, thereby flooding the valley. When Kent objected to the plan, the water company threatened to use eminent domain and took him to court to attempt to force the project to move ahead. Kent sidestepped the water company's plot by donating 295 acres (119 ha) of the redwood forest to the federal government, thus bypassing the local courts.

Muir Woods became a national monument in 1908 before the National Park Service existed when it was signed into law under the Antiquities Act by president Theodore Rosevelt. Prior to this, Muir Woods was called "Redwoods Canyon" before it was bought by the Kent family. The family bought the area to protect and preserve it and worked to get President Roosevelt to declare it a monument. In legislation written to protect Muir Woods, it was described as, "of extraordinary scientific interest and importance because of the primeval character of the forest in which it is located, and of the character, age and size of the trees". Once declared a national monument, Muir Woods was immediately protected and placed under the care of the United States Government. The Antiquities Act was the first of its kind to provide protection for natural resources.

The main attraction of Muir Woods are the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) trees. They are known for their height, and are related to the giant sequoia of the Sierra Nevada. While redwoods can grow to nearly 380 feet (115 m), the tallest tree in the Muir Woods is 258 feet (79 m). The trees come from a seed no bigger than that of a tomato seed. Most of the redwoods in the monument are between 500 and 800 years old. The oldest is at least 1,200 years old.

Other tree species grow in the understory of the redwood groves. Three of the most common are the California bay laurel, the bigleaf maple and the tanoak. Each of these species has developed a unique adaptation to the low level of dappled sunlight that reaches them through the redwoods overhead. The California bay laurel has a strong root system that allows the tree to lean towards openings in the canopy. The bigleaf maple, true to its name, has developed the largest leaf of any maple species allowing it to capture more of the dim light. The tanoak has a unique internal leaf structure that enables it to make effective use of the light that filters through the canopy.

The monument is home to a variety of mammals ranging in size from the 4 inch American shrew mole to the (much larger) black-tailed subspecies of mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus. The majority of the mammals are nocturnal or are burrowing animals living under the ground or the dense litter on the forest floor. Most commonly seen are Sonoma chipmunks, and western gray squirrels.

Bears historically roamed the area but were largely exterminated by habitat destruction. In 2003 a male black bear was spotted wandering in various areas of Marin County, including Muir Woods.

There are 11 species of bats that call the monument home, often using hollows burned into the redwoods by past fires as a maternity colony.

In November 2010 sea otters (Enhydra lutris) have been spotted swimming in the new stream channel constructed in the lagoon area of Redwood Creek.

Muir Woods, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is a park which caters to pedestrians, as parking of vehicles is only allowed at the very entrance. Hiking trails vary in the level of difficulty and distance. Picnicking, camping and pets are not permitted.

The popularity of Muir Woods as a tourist destination has created a great deal of congestion and delay on the two lane California State Highway 1. As a result, many civilians and residents living near Muir Woods and affected by the increased traffic on the pathway to the national monument have voiced concern with the National Park Service. In response, policy was designed that would create a parking reservation system, detailed road shoulder parking limits and enhanced parking enforcement in order to combat the negative externalities caused by Muir Woods.

However, according to the Mount Tam Task Force, created to address the traffic concerns created by Muir Woods, the policy aimed towards fixing the issue has proved ineffective. The introduction of a website where all parking and shuttle reservations can be made, has helped to decongest the traffic to an extent. Despite the number of attending visitors trending downward at Muir Woods, parking and congestion remain a problem for tourists and locals alike.

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