California Coast Redwood Trees
Scott Gese

California Coast Redwood Trees

These Giants of the forest grow nowhere else in the world

They can only be found along the Northern California coast and into Southern Oregon. In fact, exactly fourteen and a half miles up the Oregon coast, the redwoods abruptly stop. And nobody seems to know why.

It's generally believed that the last ice age limited the Coast Redwoods to their present range, a narrow 450-mile strip along the Pacific Ocean from central California to southern Oregon. It's called the redwood belt. Here you'll find moderate year-round temperatures, heavy winter rains and dense summer fog. It's the perfect condition for these trees to thrive.

Unlike the Giant Sequoia Redwood, which is more massive and can be found further inland, the Coast Redwood tree is a bit slimmer, but taller. They can reach dizzying heights of more than 350 feet. The tallest is recorded at 379.1 feet. That's the equivalent of a thirty-seven-story building. 

These trees have been known to live for up to 2000 years. Although typically, coastal redwoods live between 500 to 800 years. Here's something to think about. The oldest redwoods sprouted during the time of the Roman Empire, around 27 BC. 

The most distinguishing characteristic of the coast redwood (besides its height) is the reddish brown bark. A chemical component called Tannin is what gives it the reddish color. This "redwood" is what the tree is named after. The high tannin content also protects the bark from fungus disease, pest infestations and even periodic fires.

Considering it's massive height, the trees root system is relatively shallow, but they avoid falling during a storm by spreading their roots very wide and interlocking with the roots of surrounding coast redwood trees. The term "strength in numbers" holds true even in nature.  

The main trunk of a coast redwood can be up to twenty-five feet in diameter near its base, and in some cases it can extend upward from the ground for more than two hundred and fifty feet before the first strong branches emerge and the crown of the tree begins to flare. A single branch can be as thick as 5 feet in diameter. 

Just 175 years ago, coast redwoods could be found growing up and down the coasts of Oregon and California. However, much of those redwood forests have been harvested. Cut down for use as lumber or fuel to drive factories during the gold rush years.

Today, only about 3-5% of the original trees remain and the oldest redwood trees can only be found in county, state, or federal parks.

In the eighteen-forties, when American settlers arrived in Northern California, the redwood forest amounted to roughly two million acres of virgin, old-growth trees. Loggers began cutting down the redwoods with axes and handsaws, using the wood for making barns, houses, fences, and railroad ties. In the nineteen-twenties and thirties, the introduction of logging machinery, chainsaws, and Caterpillar tractors vastly increased the speed of logging along the northern coast of California, and the old-growth redwood forests began to rapidly disappear.

Go further north in California to see the older, wider and taller trees. 

One of the best places to visit these magnificent redwood trees would be the Redwood National State Park system in Humboldt County, California. Nearly half of the remaining redwoods can be found in this park system where you can hike, bike, horseback ride and camp on over 200 miles of trails

Find out more about these mighty redwood trees

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