Muir Woods National Monument

From Academic Kids

Muir Woods

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Designation National Monument
Location California, USA
Nearest city Mill Valley
Coordinates Template:Coor dms
Area 554 acres
224 ha
Date of establishment January 9, 1908
Visitation 776,548 (2004)
Governing body National Park Service
IUCN category III (Natural Monument)

The park, a unit of the National Park Service, protects 554 acres (2 km²) of forested area populated by Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), one of the last remaining stands in the San Francisco Bay Area.




The Monument is located in Northern California, on the west coast of the United States. The woodland park is 12 miles (19 km) north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, near the Pacific coast.


Looking up at coastal redwoods.
Looking up at coastal redwoods.
The Monument is an old-growth coastal redwood forest. Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the forest is regularly shrouded in coastal fogs, 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 the dry summer months.


The Monument is cool and moist year round with average daytime temperatures between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (4 to 21 C).


Before the logging industry came to California, there were an estimated 2 million acres (809,371 ha) 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 Sequoia Canyon remained uncut, mainly due to its relative inaccessability.

This did not go unoticed by U.S. Congressman William Kent. 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.

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 took him to court to attempt to force the damming project to move ahead. Kent sidestepped the water company's ploy by donating 295 acres (1.2 km²) of the redwood forest to the Federal Government, thus bypassing the local courts.

On January 9, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the land a national monument, the first to be created from land donated by a private individual. The original suggested name of the Monument was the Kent monument but Kent insisted the Monument be named after naturalist John Muir.

In December of 1928, the Kent Memorial was erected at the Kent Tree in Fern Canyon.

In the spring of 1945, delegates from 50 countries met in San Francisco to draft and sign the United Nations Charter. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, shortly before he was to have opened the United Nations Conference. On May 19, the delegates held a commemorative ceremony in tribute to his memory in Muir Woods' Cathedral Grove, where a dedication plaque was placed in his honor.

In 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was completed and park attendance triples, reaching over 180,000.



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Undergrowth of a redwood canopy demonstrating the deep shadow under the trees. Note the clearing in the background showing other trees growing in the light.

The star attraction of the Muir Woods is the Coast Redwood. These relatives of the Giant Sequoia are known for their height. While redwoods can grow to nearly 370 feet (112 m), the tallest tree in the Muir Woods is 258 feet (79 m). The average age of the redwoods in the Monument are between 600 and 800 years old with the oldest being at least 1,100 years old.

While overshadowed (and shaded) by their tall cousins, other tree species grow in the understory of the woods. 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 reached them through the redwoods growing 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.



Two species of salmon spawn each winter in Redwood Creek, which runs through the Monument: Coho or silver salmon and Steelhead salmon.


Muir Woods is home to over 50 species of bird. This relatively low number is due to the lack of insects. The tannin in the trees repels the insects and the volume of flowers and fruits produced by plants below the canopy is limited by the shade of the redwoods.

It is occassionally possible to see Northern Spotted Owls or pileated woodpeckers in the forest. While decreasing in numbers elsewhere, the Spotted Owls appear to be thriving in the Monument and other evergreen forests in the area. A National Park Service monitoring project of the owls is ongoing within the Monument. The project has found that adult owls are finding mates, raising young to adulthood and the young are having new broods of their own.


The Monument is home to a variety of mammals ranging in size from the shrew mole to much larger deer. The majority of the mammals are not seen as they are nocturnal or are burrowing animals living under the ground or the dense litter on the forest floor.

Bears used to roam this area but had not been seen in the area until 2003 when a male black bear was spotted wandering in various areas of Marin County including the Muir Woods Monument.

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




There are no camping or lodging facilities in the Muir Woods. The Monument is a day use area only.

Comfort facilities

  • Restrooms
  • Aramark Cafe and Gift Shop - deli food items and souvenirs. Also has a permanent display of historic photographs.
  • 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of paved, wheelchair accessible trails

Interpretive facilities

  • Visitors Center with permanent and changing exhibits. Also contains a gift shop.


Hiking and biking

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One of the paved trails in Muir Woods
The monument has a number of paved walking trails where visitors can get a close look at the magnificent giants. Other unpaved walking trails lead up the hills to connect with trails outside of the Monument boundaries.

Bicycles are only allowed on fire roads.

Ranger led activities

Ranger led walks on a number of different topics, including discussions on the watershed, wildflowers, and tidepools are held on weekends. Moonlight walks are held on nights with a full moon. Reservations are required for the moonlight walks.

Daily presentations are possible if staffing permits.

Special events are held for the summer and winter solstices.


Wedding are allowed in the Monument with a proper permit.

External links

fr:Muir woods national monument


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