In what is now Humboldt Redwoods State Park, gigantic ancient coast redwoods stand tall above a lush, sun-dappled understory, creating scenery so magnificent that in 1917, it compelled three men to remove their hats and speak only in whispers. The forest’s breathtaking majesty was so powerful that it inspired these men to establish Save the Redwoods League the following year to protect such places for future generations.
Starting with one grove of colossal redwoods in 1921, the League has protected nearly all of the park’s 53,000 acres, an area almost twice the size of San Francisco. Today, this park protects the largest expanse of ancient redwoods on Earth.
More than 5,100 of the park’s acres are protected thanks to a long relationship between the League and The Garden Club of America (GCA) The work started around 1930, when the organizations joined efforts to purchase 2,500 acres, now part of The Garden Club of America Grove. Along the 6-mile River Trail, visitors can experience the lush and hushed grove, its carpets of sorrel, and the wild and scenic Eel River. It wasn’t always so.
In 2003, a fire engulfed seven footbridges along the River Trail, rendering the route impassable. Landslides followed in 2006, and park budget cuts prevented California State Parks from rehabilitating areas. So in 2013, the League and the GCA joined forces to reopen the trail and restore access to the GCA grove for the public to enjoy. Thanks to generous GCA clubs and their members across the nation, the campaign raised $430,000.
Improvements followed, including building three footbridges and retainer walls, clearing underbrush, and adding directional signs along the trail. Four more footbridges are planned.
The campaign also provided funds for the new amenities now welcoming visitors at the grove’s day-use area, including wheelchair-accessible picnic tables, parking, a rebuilt kiosk, and interpretive panels, all in time for last spring’s visitors to step into wonderland.
“Establishing the GCA Grove was The Garden Club of America’s first nationwide conservation effort,” said Dede Petri, President of The Garden Club of America. “Now over 80 years later, we are delighted to continue our collaboration with Save the Redwoods League and pleased to have played a major role in reopening the River Trail for members and the public.”
Learn more about the The Garden Club of America Grove, and get tips on visiting.