Big Basin Recovery
On August 18, 2020, the CZU Lightning Complex Fire swept through Big Basin Redwoods State Park, burning over 97% of the land and destroying most of the park's buildings and infrastructure. State Parks, with the help of its partners, volunteers and members of the public, intends to rebuild and reopen Big Basin, but it will be a lengthy process. Until then, the park remains closed due to dangerous conditions caused by the fire damage. Thank you for your continued support as we rebuild this beloved park for a more resilient future. Updates on Big Basin’s recovery progress and other related information will be shared on this page. Check back regularly for the latest news.
When will the park reopen?
There is no set timeline for Big Basin Redwoods State Park to reopen. California State Parks understands the need for visitors to access and recreate in this iconic park. The department and the Santa Cruz District are constantly balancing public safety, hazardous conditions, and infrastructure concerns with the need for access. It is important to remember that although an initial assessment of fire-related damage has been concluded for Big Basin, additional damage may occur as the region continues to experience high winds and active weather patterns.
Can I hike/bike/drive through Big Basin Redwoods State Park now?
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is currently closed to all vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian access to ensure the safety of the public. Hazardous conditions exist and a temporary closure order has been enacted to restrict public access. State Parks will continue to assess conditions and will evaluate ways in which it can provide limited access while maintaining the obligation of safeguarding the public and park employees.
What buildings and natural features were damaged or destroyed?
More than 97% of Big Basin (17,792 of 18,224 acres) was within the fire perimeter of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire. The fire burned with different intensity in different portions of the park, affecting ecosystems and habitats differently. State Park Environmental Scientists and research partners continue to consider the impact of the fire on different ecosystems. Nearly all of the buildings and infrastructure were damaged. This includes about 100 structures, all of the campgrounds and all trail networks.
How are the redwood trees/plant life doing?
Redwood trees are remarkably resilient, and the majority of scorched redwood trees in Big Basin have begun to re-sprout from buds at their bases and along their branches. Hardwood trees, including madrone, live oak, and tan oak are sprouting from their bases. Many of the ferns, shrubs and understory plants have started to re-grow.
How is the wildlife doing?
Researchers will be assessing the impacts to species that depend on the old growth redwood forest. Most animals in the forest have ways to escape fire. Many flee the area or seek refuge in safe spots. Some species take advantage of the fire -- such as woodpeckers returning to dead trees and deer browsing on new shoots. Other species will shift to unburned areas until their habitat re-grows.
What caused a fire of this magnitude?
The severity of a fire is influenced by many things, including topography, weather and vegetation. The CZU Lightning Complex Fire occurred during a week of record high temperatures and low humidity that dried the vegetation. Thousands of dry lightning strikes ignited hundreds of fires across California at the same time. In the Santa Cruz Mountains, several lightning fires combined to create the larger fire that swept into Big Basin.
What are the rebuilding plans and timeline?
The initial recovery phase is underway. This phase involves hazard tree removal, culvert replacement, and facility and infrastructure assessment. State Parks has identified early high priority projects such as restoring access bridges and protecting road infrastructure and water sources. The department continues to gather information to inform planning decisions. Expect a transparent, robust planning process in the months ahead to include partners, stakeholders, local communities and the general public.
Will you rebuild everything exactly as it was?
Planning and rebuilding will involve re-imagining the park for climate resiliency and equitable public access for decades to come. Big Basin holds a special place in the heart of millions of visitors. It is with this great responsibility that the rebuilding process will incorporate transparency and public input to best serve the park in the future while retaining the heritage and memories of the past.
How long will it take to rebuild?
The forest is still healing from a fire of this magnitude and the planning process is still in its infancy. State Parks continues to assess funding needs for post wildfire recovery and will identify those needs and communicate them through the state budget process. There is no set timeline to complete the recovery, planning, and ultimately, re-building of Big Basin.
Will we be able to visit or camp before rebuilding is finished? Will we be able to hike on the trails before rebuilding is finished?
State Parks continues to weigh public access in fire-impacted areas and will have a clearer picture of public use as the department progresses through the coming months. At this time, it is safe to say that there will be limited access into fire-affected parks prior to completion of re-building the parks and/or facilities. State Parks continues to assess trail networks, trail signs, opportunities for camping, and safety protocols as it coordinates a responsible use plan for the public.
How can I support the rebuilding efforts?
Thank you for loving Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The planning process for the park will rely on input from stakeholders and the public. Please follow along for opportunities to help plan for the future of this treasured park.
• To make a donation, visit our partners' webpages listed in the "How to Donate to Recovey Effort" section.
• To offer volunteer support, fill out a volunteer application form.
Mountain Parks Foundation (MPF) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide resources that enrich visitors’ experiences at Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Prior to the fire, MPF was funding a new nature museum and education programs at Big Basin. MPF has developed a recovery and restoration fund for rebuilding Big Basin.
Sempervirens Fund is California’s first land trust and the only organization dedicated exclusively to protecting the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Save the Redwoods League is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect and restore California redwoods and connect people to the peace and beauty of redwood forests. Together they are raising support for the Big Basin Recovery Fund, with 100% of proceeds going to California State Parks for the immediate recovery of Big Basin Redwoods State Park. This fund will lay the groundwork for the long-term rebuilding of this treasure of the California State Parks system.
Donate to Sempervirens Fund to support the Big Basin Recovery Fund
Donate to Save the Redwoods League to support the Big Basin Recovery Fund
Sempervirens Fund has also created a Santa Cruz Redwoods Restoration Fund to restore redwoods in the rest of the Santa Cruz mountains affected by the wildfires.
Donate to Sempervirens Fund to support the Santa Cruz Redwoods Restoration Fund
Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks (Friends) is a vital partner with California State Parks, creatively working to ensure our cherished local parks and beaches are thriving and available to all. They are creating the Friends Fire Relief Fund for direct, short-term assistance as well as longer-term recovery efforts at Big Basin Redwoods State Park and other parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex Fires.