Muir Woods Named to National Register
Photo by Noorkhan
Muir Woods, the majestic redwood grove just north of San Francisco, commemorated its 100th anniversary as a national monument on January 9 by getting listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Speaking to an assembled gathering of politicians, park rangers, and members of the public, park historian Stephen Haller said the grove was listed not only because of its ancient trees, but because it was one of the birthplaces of the modern conservation movement.
Actor and storyteller Garth Gilchrist, below, addressed the crowd in John Muir guise, recalling words the Sierra Club's founder spoke in 1897: "God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods, but he cannot save them from fools—only Uncle Sam can do that."
By the end of the 19th century, more than 97 percent of the old-growth redwood forests on the California coast had been chopped down, and pressure was mounting to log the valley then known as Redwood Canyon, tucked into the folds of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County a few miles north of the Golden Gate. Seeing the threat, U.S. Representative William Kent, heir to a Chicago meat-packing fortune, purchased 611 acres of the canyon in 1905 in order to protect the trees. But when the 1906 earthquake and fire created a need for lumber and a reliable water source, the local water company proposed damming Redwood Creek and filed condemnation papers to take Kent's land.
Kent foiled the ploy by donating 298 acres to the federal government in 1907, and the following year President Theodore Roosevelt declared it the nation's 10th national monument. Roosevelt wanted to name the grove after Kent, but the congressman insisted it be named after Muir. The monument was later expanded to 550 acres, and Kent went on to co-author the act of Congress that created the National Park Service in 1916. He lived out his days in what is now Kentfield, California, in the lee of Mt. Tamalpais.