Westfall Ranch: Enhancing the Ancient Headwaters Forest

In the scenic redwoods country near Eureka, California, lies Headwaters Forest Reserve. You might remember Headwaters as the subject of a very contentious, very public, decade-long struggle in the 1990s to protect ancient redwoods from continued logging.

Headwaters Forest Reserve. Photo courtesy Humboldt State University
Headwaters Forest Reserve. Photo courtesy Humboldt State University

When you walk among its massive, moss-draped giants, it’s easy to see why so many people fought so hard for their preservation. With 3,000 acres of old-growth redwoods, Headwaters is home to some of the rarest, most beautiful, and most important forest in the world. This ancient forest has grown here for millions of years. Today, it includes towering redwoods over 2,000 years old. This pristine landscape is the headwaters of the Elk River and Salmon Creek.

I’ve explored a lot of forests, but when I walked the trail through the Headwaters Forest Reserve, I was overcome with the quiet, almost unfathomable significance of the place. The nearly 7,500-acre Headwaters is a dramatic remnant of the superlative wilderness that covered the coast of northern California just 150 years ago. It is the forest that sparked the “timber wars” of 1990s, it’s the starting line for a restoration vision that is healing the redwood forest, and it’s a spectacular demonstration that the redwood forests of California sequester more carbon per acre than any other ecosystem in the world. This is an important place.

But you can still see signs of  past damage. The League has been working to restore this special place after decades of clear-cutting in the surrounding forests have fragmented the habitat, choked the streams with erosion runoff, and stifled coho salmon recovery. Over the summer of 2015, we helped to decommission old logging roads, remove sediment from the Elk River, and plant thousands of redwood trees to restore this once magnificent landscape.

And now, we have the opportunity to greatly enhance our positive impact here.

The Elk River passes right from the Headwaters forest to Andy Westfall’s 77-acre ranch. Andy and his family have been excellent stewards of their vibrant pasture, healthy young redwood forest, and the mile-long section of the Elk River that flows through it.

Westfall Ranch’s 77 acres include a stunning second-growth redwood forest.
Westfall Ranch’s 77 acres include a stunning second-growth redwood forest.

The Westfall family and the League are eager to protect this land, restore its salmon habitat, and connect more people to this breathtaking part of the coast redwood range.

And now, the League has secured an agreement to purchase the property for $1.1 million. We’re especially excited about this project because it will further all three of our mission goals: to protect, restore, and connect people with the redwood forest. Here’s how:

With your help, we can permanently protect Westfall Ranch as an addition to the Headwaters Forest Reserve – complete with its gorgeous second-growth redwood forest, mile of Elk River, and idyllic meadows. Safeguarding the ranch creates a critical buffer for the sensitive natural treasures in the Headwaters reserve next door.

You can make it possible to restore the Elk River’s salmon habitat on the Westfall property. Stewardship plans call for us to  remove sediment and put large fallen trees back into the stream system to re-establish deep, clear pools and create more shade and cover for salmon.

For all its significance, public access to the Headwaters Forest Reserve is limited. Westfall Ranch will become a better, more accessible entry point, with new hiking trails to connect more visitors with this unique forest and greatly enhance their experience.

Now is our chance. Learn more about Westfall and how we can help the redwood forest, waterways and wildlife in and around Headwaters today.

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.

bear reading the blog
Get the latest redwood updates in your inbox

Leave a Reply