We learned something new at our first stop in this park. It is the first and only (so far) National Park that is also partnering with a state to co-manage public lands, hence the combined name of Redwood National and State Parks.
The Redwood National Park was established on October 2, 1968 and in 1994 the National Parks Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation signed an agreement to cooperatively manage the Prairie Creek State Park, Del Norte Coast State Park, Jedediah Smith State Park and Redwood National Park. Combined, these parks consist of 131,983 acres in northwestern California, mostly along the coast. In addition to the Redwood groves, they also protect 37 miles of pristine coast, wild rivers and streams and abundant wildlife.
The US 101 route runs right through the heart of the park, providing views of these giant trees. A turn onto the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway led us to the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park as we passed through a vast meadow where we saw a herd of Roosevelt elk grazing just before we arrived at the visitor center. From here, we enjoyed the short but informative 0.3 mile Revelation Trail before continuing our drive north through eight miles of old-growth redwoods. Many of these trees are more than 350 feet tall, nearly 50 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.
We don’t usually spend much time on our campsites but this one, in Klamath, CA, was so serene that we have to share a little bit of that with you. Located, literally, on the edge of the Klamath River not far from its mouth where it empties into the Pacific. The river is quite wide here and so peaceful. The sunset behind the hills on the far bank of the river each night. And right upriver from us was an airboat ride establishment that provided us with great evening entertainment as the hotdog captains would spin their boat in a complete 360 degree turn right before allowing its passengers to disembark. We could hear them all hootin’ and hollerin’ each time and once they even got close enough for us to see their adrenaline-opened eyes and soaked clothes! Looked like a blast.
Across the river, we explored the Coastal Drive Loop, much of it unpaved, with its beautiful views of the Pacific coastline and a WWII radar station disguised as a farm house in the countryside that we came across on the way to Klamath Beach. This early-warning radar station was built by the Army to protect us from any potential invasion. It was constructed with cinderblocks yet included shingled roofs, fake windows and dormers to make it appear like a working farm. It actually housed a diesel generator, electronic equipment and two 50-caliber anti-aircraft machine guns. It was part of a network of observation stations that would report any suspicious boats or planes to the communications center in San Francisco where fighter planes would be dispatched in the event of any hostile activity. Things are clearly not always as they seem.
Another nice drive was Bald Hills Road that led us to Lady Bird Johnson Grove, an old-growth grove where the First Lady dedicated the park back in 1968. Beyond that is the Redwood Creek Overlook with views all the way to the Pacific. Another great vista was the Klamath River Overlook, 600 feet above the Pacific where we could see whales playing in the waves just off shore.
This place was a relaxing way to cap off our month-plus California visit.