Reimagining Big Basin Redwoods

New hauntingly beautiful post-fire images from Big Basin, and the latest news on the park's recovery plan

With blackened trunks of coast redwood, madrone, and coast live oak dotting a sepia-toned landscape, Big Basin Redwoods State Park has come to symbolize the healing that’s needed across California’s forestlands in an era of climate change and unprecedented wildfire seasons. But look closely enough, and signs of regeneration emerge. It will take patience, a plan, and all Californians to restore our oldest and one of the most iconic state parks.

After 97% of Big Basin burned in the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire, the park remains completely closed for at least the next year. The Rancho Del Oso Nature and History Center is slated to open on Memorial Day weekend, but the Rancho Del Oso trails will remain closed due to fire damage and hazards. California State Parks has been working closely with FEMA and Cal OES to address repair needs throughout all of its park lands. The total cost for all state parks is expected to be approximately $200 million, with most of the costs associated with repairs at Big Basin. There is no set timeline to complete the recovery, planning, and rebuilding.

Initial recovery at the park has included hazard tree removal, culvert replacement, and facility and infrastructure assessment. State Parks will prioritize projects such as restoring access bridges and protecting road infrastructure and water sources. In consultation with partners, stakeholders, local communities, and the public, planning and reconstructing will involve reimagining the park for climate resilience and equitable public access for millions of Californians and visitors.

State Park environmental scientists and research partners are monitoring the impacts of the fire on different ecosystems throughout the park. Thanks to coast redwoods’ signature resilience, most of the scorched redwoods trees in Big Basin have begun to re-sprout from buds at their bases and along their branches and trunks. Hardwood trees such as madrone, live oak, and tan oak are sprouting from their bases as well, and many of the ferns, shrubs, and understory plants have started to re-grow. While some species’ regrowth has been delayed because of the recent dry winter, wildflowers are beginning to bloom and tree seedlings are beginning to germinate and grow. Researchers will also assess the impacts to wildlife species that depend on the old-growth redwood forest.

Photographer Max Whittaker recently toured the damage at Big Basin with California State Parks staff and captured some hauntingly beautiful images of this fire-impacted forest eight months later.

Signs of regrowth appear eight months after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire scorched 97% of coast redwoods in Big Basin, California's first state park.

Signs of regrowth appear eight months after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire scorched 97% of coast redwoods in Big Basin, California's first state park.

Eight months after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire destroyed 97% of Big Basin, California's first state park.

Eight months after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire destroyed 97% of Big Basin, California's first state park.

Eight months after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire destroyed 97% of Big Basin, California's first state park.

Signs of regrowth appear eight months after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire scorched 97% of coast redwoods in Big Basin, California's first state park.

Signs of regrowth appear eight months after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire scorched 97% of coast redwoods in Big Basin, California's first state park.

Signs of regrowth appear eight months after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire scorched 97% of coast redwoods in Big Basin, California's first state park.

Signs of regrowth appear eight months after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire scorched 97% of coast redwoods in Big Basin, California's first state park.

Signs of regrowth appear eight months after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire scorched 97% of coast redwoods in Big Basin, California's first state park.

Signs of regrowth appear eight months after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire scorched 97% of coast redwoods in Big Basin, California's first state park.

Signs of regrowth appear eight months after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire scorched 97% of coast redwoods in Big Basin, California's first state park.

Signs of regrowth appear eight months after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire scorched 97% of coast redwoods in Big Basin, California's first state park.

Save the Redwoods League is working closely with California State Parks and other agencies to rebuild park infrastructure damaged by fires so that these vital facilities can reopen as soon as possible. You can support these important efforts with a donation to the League’s Wildfire Fund today.

To help ensure California is prepared for the upcoming fire season, please send a note to your representative encouraging them to fully fund wildfire preparedness immediately.

About the author

Jessica joined the League in 2011 as the Land Project and Stewardship Manager. She has worked in land conservation since 2005 in land project and stewardship management.

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2 Responses to “Reimagining Big Basin Redwoods”

  1. Antonin Guttman

    I saw two CZU Complex fire severity maps, showing the boundary of Big Basin, with Save the Redwoods League at the top. I can’t find them on the web site – could you give me a link? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Save the Redwoods League

      Hi Antonin, we think that this CZU fire severity map might be the one you are seeking.

      Reply

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