Our 2016 Travels travel blog

Jedediah Smith Redwoods picnic area

A tadpole in the Smith River

Smith River

Douglas Squirrel

Coastal Redwoods

Smith River

Jedediah Smith Redwoods Campground


Today was another travel day, a short one. We drove south on US-199 for about 77 miles. US-199 is a two-lane, paved road. In Oregon, the shoulders are wide and there are frequent passing lanes. In California, the lanes and shoulders are narrower and there are turnouts to pull into to let cars pass. It was a nice ride, mostly through forest and a few small towns. There is an eight-mile stretch along the Smith River in California near the end of the drive where the road is very narrow and winding with no shoulder. I took it slowly. The speed limit is 55 mph but there are lots of 25 to 45 mph curves. I probably didn’t go over 35 mph in that stretch. I expected more of the road to be like that, so it was a pleasant surprise that there were only eight miles of it. It took two hours to go the 77 miles.

We got to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park at noon. The campgrounds here are all in the Redwoods state parks. Only backcountry campsites are located in the National Park. Noon is check-out time. Check-in time isn’t until 2 PM. The ranger wouldn’t let us go to our site before two. The roads in the park are narrow and wind through the big trees. In a car, it wouldn’t be a problem. In the motorhome, it was a very close squeeze in a few spots. We drove down to the day-use area and parked among the tall redwoods and Douglas firs. We ate lunch then walked down to the Smith River. The shoreline is very rocky. We walked carefully down to the water’s edge. There were tadpoles swimming around near shore. There were people swimming in the cold water too. There is a half-mile nature trail across from where we were parked. We walked that. It’s an easy trail through the forest. Eventually it came to the river and then to a camping area. The trail is a half-mile loop but we couldn’t figure out where it went in the campground. We turned around and went back the way we came.

By the time we got back to our motorhome, it was after two. We returned to the campground and found our site. I got backed in among the tall trees. It is a large site with bushes all around it but we face the road and can see the campsites on both sides of us. The campsites here aren’t very deep. We barely fit in this site. The maximum RV size allowed is 36 feet. Ours is 35 feet. We have this site reserved for three nights and then another site for five nights. This one was listed as a handicap site. It was the only large site available for the first couple nights we are here, so I reserved it. Now that we are here, it doesn’t appear to be a handicap site and we could have stayed in it the entire time. I may check to see if it is still available for the weekend. We get a Spring phone signal here but no Verizon WiFi.

After we got set up, we walked around the campground a little. There is a small visitor center here with a gift shop and a few exhibits. We stopped there to look at the exhibits and get some National Park information. We walked over to the site we are moving to on Friday. It is supposed to be 36 feet long but it doesn’t look that big to me. I hope we fit in it.

Redwood National and State Parks consists of three state parks and the national park. They are jointly managed as one park unit. The state parks were established to preserve the Redwoods, the tallest living things on Earth. They can grow to be 380 feet tall and 22 feet in diameter, making them taller and thinner than giant sequoias. Redwoods are ancient conifers. Their ancestors grew across Europe, Asia and North America when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. There are three subfamilies of redwoods. The coast redwoods we came here to see, the giant sequoias we saw at Sequoia National Park and the dawn redwoods, the smallest of the three, which grow in China.

Coast redwoods can live for 2,000 years. The bark of mature trees is twelve inches thick and almost impervious to insects and fire. These huge trees grow from little seeds the size of tomato seeds which grown in little cones the size of a large olive. They can also grow from sprouts off a mature tree’s root system. Their root systems are shallow and broad. They don’t have a tap root. Roots grow down from a few inches to thirteen feet underground and spread out 60 to 80 feet. Redwoods can be blown over by high winds.

In 1800, there were an estimated two million acres of redwood forests in coastal California. When gold fever subsided in the mid-1800s, logging took over. Only five percent of the old-growth redwood forests survived. Of those, over 35 percent are preserved in Redwood National and State Parks.

In 1917, three men traveled from San Francisco to see the redwoods. They were so impressed by them that they established the Save the Redwoods League. Since then, the non-profit organization has raised the money to purchase 181,000 acres of redwood forest and surrounding land, some of which became the Redwood State Parks. Prairie Creek was created in 1923, Del Norte in 1925 and Jedediah Smith in 1929. Redwood National Park was established in 1968 and expanded in 1978. It encircles the three state parks to better protect the entire ecosystem. The parks have been managed cooperatively since 1994.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park was named for fur trapper and explorer Jedediah Strong Smith. He was the first non-native known to have traveled overland from the Mississippi River across the Sierra Nevada to the Pacific Coast in 1821 at the age of 22.

The weather was perfect here today. The highs are supposed to be around 70 for the next few days and lows in the mid-40s.

Weather: low 46°, high 90°, sunny

Birds: ravens, Steller’s jays, thrush

Other Wildlife: Douglas squirrel, chipmunk

Elevation: 452 feet

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