Millions of years ago, ancient species of redwood and sequoia trees could be found growing throughout the United States. Now, the coastal redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) can only be found in a specific belt of land stretching from northern California to southern Oregon. Although there used to be approximately 2 million acres of old growth redwoods before the logging industry arrived in California, most of those trees have now disappeared and been cut down over time.
One of the redwood forests to survive resides in Redwood Canyon, the valley where the old-growth forests of Muir Woods still live. In 1905, Politician William Kent noticed the beauty and scarcity of these redwood forests and decided to pay $45,000 for 611 acres of Redwood Canyon to protect the trees from logging.
Two years later, Kent donated 295 acres of land to the U.S. Government under Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency in order to protect the land from the North Coast Water Company. Following Kent’s suggestion, the U.S. government named the park Muir Woods to honor naturalist John Muir and designated the land as a national monument.
People heard about the scenic beauty of the park and began flocking there in crowds. By 1913, Muir Woods began attracting up to 40,000 visitors per year! A decade later, cars were banned from the park to preserve the paths and reduce damage done to the woods.
Today, the park currently protects 554 acres of coastal land, 240 acres of which are covered in old growth redwoods. Similar to other Bay Area icons like Alcatraz Island, Muir Woods receives over a million visitors per year.