Hidden Gem to Become Future Redwood Park

Pristine unnamed creeks run through Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve.
Pristine unnamed creeks run through Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve. Photo by Mike Shoys.
Nestled in the wooded hills just a few miles inland from the Sonoma coast lies an oasis of towering old-growth coast redwoods. It is a humbling, inspiring, and spectacularly beautiful place. I have walked through this ancient forest, following a clear, cold stream over waterfalls and emerald pools, deeply woven into this primeval forest, making me feel as though I was the first ever to discover them. I have stumbled upon trees that were saplings when the Italian Renaissance began in the 1300s; trees that have lived through fires, storms, droughts and earthquakes, and among them, one stands today as the oldest known coast redwood tree south of Mendocino County at 1,640 years of age. I have spoken with Kashia tribal leaders whose ancestors hunted and fished for salmon among these trees. With every step in these woods, I am reminded that the trees are truly ambassadors from another time.

For nearly 100 years, this forest has been in private ownership, out of sight and mind from the public, encompassed in a family ranch for generations. Today, this property has been protected forever and, within the next few years, it will be open for the public to enjoy so that current and future generations can walk among these ancient giants.

This pristine 730-acre forest, as large as San Francisco Bay’s Angel Island, is the Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve. The trees are mind-blowing. Rising from a lush forest, rich with wildlife, 319 old-growth coast redwoods stand over 250 feet (the tallest in Muir Woods National Monument is 258), and several are taller than the 305-foot-tall Statue of Liberty. The Reserve is 30 percent larger than Muir Woods and it contains 47 percent more old-growth redwoods.

It is no accident that this forest still stands when almost all of the ancient redwoods once surrounding it were cut down. This forest had someone looking out for it. Harold Richardson was a third-generation Sonoma coast timber man, whose grandfather came to the area in 1876. Harold owned and managed the large coastal family ranch for decades, harvesting selectively to support the ranch. But there was something special about this part of the forest and, as a result, he left it as he found it — leaving the ancient trees alone as an oasis of old growth.

When Harold passed away in 2016 at age 96; his obituary said that “he is survived by his Old Growth Redwood forest” (in addition to his family and friends ). And because of him, we had the opportunity to permanently protect the largest private old-growth redwood forest still standing. We are grateful for his legacy of conservation.

A redwood rises high in Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve
A redwood rises high in Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve, which contains 319 trees over 250 feet tall. Photo by Mike Shoys.
Walking through towering groves of redwoods, the serenity and solitude of this landscape overtake you. With each passing moment, the demands of present-day life recede into the background. The land is truly a time portal to California’s coast redwood range before decades of timber harvests felled 95 percent of the ancient giants that stood sentinel along the coastal range.

And now, as part of the League’s Centennial and as we strive to accelerate the pace and scale of redwood conservation and deepen the public’s understanding of how critical these redwood forests are, we can’t wait to share this gem with you. After a few years of planning and building trails, we’ll open the Reserve to the public.

We are thankful to the generous support of League members, matching challenge grants from an anonymous donor and The Mattson Family Conservation Foundation, and from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation who made the acquisition of this property possible.

Learn more about the Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve .

About the author

President and Chief Enthusiast for the Outdoors (CEO) of Save the Redwoods League, Sam brings more than 25 years of experience in overseeing land conservation programs from the remote wilderness to the inner city.

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5 Responses to “Hidden Gem to Become Future Redwood Park”

  1. Nan Singh-Bowman

    Sorry that was Harold’s legacy

  2. Nan Singh-Bowman

    This is so thrilling. And how wonderful that a lumberman saw the beauty and unspoiled potential in his grove and preserved it.

    I hope that this area does not become like Muir Woods. To allow millions of people to trample a pristine wilderness would give short shrift to Howard’s legacy.

    Thank you

  3. Jeanne Duhem

    Such good news is a true blessing. I’m looking forward to visiting the beauty and the serenity of the Redwood Forest. Thank you for all your efforts in conservation.

  4. Howard Katz

    Even though my annual contributions have been small over the last 10 years or so, I am proud to have helped the League with these purchases. It is comforting to know these trees are protected.

    • Save the Redwoods League

      We’re so very honored to have supporters like you. Thank you so much Howard!


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