Science & Nature
Richardson Grove’s old-growth redwood forest thrives in the area’s alluvial soils and mild climate. Many trees in the grove are more than 1,000 years old; several are more than 300 feet tall. Strolling among these towering giants is an unforgettable experience. One can see some of the world’s tallest coast redwoods, a walk-through tree, and the fallen tree growth-ring exhibit that has drawn visitors to the park since 1933.
Redwood sorrel, ferns, and mosses take advantage of the deep shade in the heart of the forest. Younger redwoods, Douglas-fir, California laurel, oaks, and madrones compete for sunlight and moisture outside the established groves. Undergrowth includes huckleberry, hazel, Douglas iris, calypso orchids, poison oak, and redwood violets.
The South Fork of the Eel River (named for an eel-like creature called the Pacific lamprey) runs through the park. During fall and winter, spawning salmon and steelhead return to the river. Wildlife includes black-tailed deer, gray foxes, and river otters. Occasional visitors include bears and mountain lions.
Native birds include bald eagles, great blue herons, osprey, belted kingfishers, California quail, and acorn and pileated woodpeckers. Endangered marbled murrelet chicks and eggs can fall prey to ravens, crows, and jays if food scraps dropped by visitors attract these corvids.
Visitors are required to watch this short video about the impact human food has on park wildlife.
Be sure to ask park staff about the “bat tree” where Yuma myotis roost. These little brown bats are welcome residents that help to reduce the mosquito population.
Scientists studying the effects of rising global temperatures have found that the size and longevity of redwoods helps them store more climate-altering carbon dioxide than other plants. Even old redwoods continue to grow, each year adding more carbon-filled wood than smaller, younger trees. After redwoods die, their rot-resistant wood holds onto that carbon for a long time.
Research in the Park
To find out more about scientific research in California's redwood parks, go to this Save the Redwood League site.