About the Park
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park brochure
Redwood National and State Parks visitor guide
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park consists of old-growth redwoods, prairies, and ten miles of scenic Gold Bluffs Beach. Designated as a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, with over 280 Save-the-Redwoods League memorial groves. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park includes 75 miles of hiking trails, bicycle trails, a self-guided nature trail, accessible trails for individuals with physical or visual limitations, and backpacking opportunities.
Prairie Creek is part of Redwood National and State Parks, which has five park information centers near the towns of Orick and Crescent City. 707-465-7335.
Visitor Center with exhibits open year round
Nature Store open year round
Interpretive talks & guided walks (seasonal)
Keep it Crumb Clean
Visitors are required to watch this short video about the impact human food has on park wildlife.
Hike and Bike Day
The “Hike and Bike Day” on the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway is hosted the first Saturday of the month from October – May. With the closure of the parkway to all motorized vehicles, this event is a great chance to skate, stroll, roll, saunter or skip your way through 10-miles of old-growth redwoods! Bring your leashed pets too! Note, this event does not occur June-September, during peak summer visitation.
Rules & Notifications
Redwood National and State Parks Current Conditions
Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Jedediah-Smith Redwoods, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks are the only parks in the California State Parks system that accept the Federal Access Pass discount.
Miners Ridge and Ossagon backcountry camps are permanently closed. Davison E-Camp backcountry camp is currently closed due to service reductions
- Davison Road, the access road to Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs Beach, cannot accommodate vehicles more than 8' wide and 24' long. No trailers are allowed.
- Don't feed wildlife, and keep your camp free of all traces of food.
- Store food in an animal-proof food locker.
- Place all your garbage in an animal-proof trash can.
- Dogs are prohibited in Fern Canyon and on all trails within Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Dogs are allowed on the beach, in campgrounds, in parking lots, and on roads within the park, but must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times.
- The Newton B Drury Parkway is closed to vehicles on the first Saturday of each month from October to May for Hike and Bike Day. The parkway closes on the evening before the event and reopens Sunday morning.
- Elk Prairie and Gold Bluffs Beach are both dry campgrounds: meaning no electricity, water, or sewage connections for RVs.
- No seasonal footbridges available over the creek in Fern Canyon.
Offshore and beneath Prairie Creek’s forest lies a mixture of twisted rocks. Over 20 million years, more than 8 miles of sandstone, shale, serpentine, chert, and greenstone (a blend called Franciscan Complex) have built up in layers from the original ocean floor. These sediment layers resulted from repeated tectonic plate collisions. Three tectonic plates—North American, Pacific, and Gorda—all meet offshore at the Mendocino Triple Junction south of Eureka. Particles from each plate collision float along the ocean floor until they are deposited. Sea stacks—rock towers that have broken off from the main land mass—protrude from offshore waters.
For more information about geology in Redwood National and State Parks, go to the National Park Service website.
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. See Save the Redwoods League's Understanding Climate Change.
Research in the Park
With the help of Save the Redwoods League and other funding partners, Prairie Creek and other redwood state parks have become living laboratories for scientists. Some recent findings from Prairie Creek include:
- Mats of soil up to 265 feet high in old-growth redwood forests provide ideal habitat for a whole ecosystem of plant and animal species. Such ecosystems don’t exist on logged land.
- They can live on the ground as well in old-growth redwoods. So why would a wandering salamander bother to climb a tree? For the quality of the food apparently. Springtails are more abundant up in the heights—and they’re softer and bulkier than the salamander’s other favorite food: mites.
- Will the fungi and bacteria that live in Prairie Creek soil be able to adapt to climate change? Nobody knows for sure, but it was encouraging to find that when soil from Prairie Creek was transplanted to dryer, more southerly parks, its microbe mix gradually changed to mimic local conditions.
To find out more about research in California's redwood parks, go to Redwood Research.
Yurok people have lived in and around today’s Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park for generations. The temperate climate and abundant wildlife of the North Coast promoted a culturally rich way of life that continues today. Yurok people built villages of redwood planks along major waterways. Traveling by dugout canoe, they fished for salmon. They also gathered plants and hunted elk, deer, and other small game.
When gold was found near today’s Fern Canyon in 1850, the Yurok people were overwhelmed by an influx of settlers. Conflict over the land took many forms. The Native people were hunted down; any who survived the attacks were forced onto reservations. Newly introduced diseases further decimated their numbers.
Today the Yurok have made a remarkable recovery. As the most populous tribe in California, over 6,000 Yurok live in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. Tribal members are building a future by revitalizing their ancestral language and traditions based on customs of the past.
"Settling" the North Coast
The first marine explorers along the Humboldt–Del Norte coast were Spaniard Bartolome Ferrelo in 1543, Englishman Sir Francis Drake in 1570, and Spaniard Sebastian Vizcaino in 1602. The first shore landing, near Trinidad Head, was by Bruno Hezeta and Juan Bodega in 1775.
In May 1850, miners crossing today’s Gold Bluffs Beach saw bits of gold in the sand. Removing the gold proved too laborious, so the prospectors moved on. New settlers needed rawmaterials for building their homes and towns. By the 1890s, several short-line railroads and steam donkeys had helped create a boom in commercial logging. Lumber quickly became the West’s top industry—Eureka alone had nine sawmills.
By the end of the 19th century, farms, ranches and dairies had been developed along the North Coast. Today, several of these historical dairies remain a vital part of the North Coast’s economy.
Conservation and State Parks
Between 1880 and the early 1900s, logging denuded thousands of acres of what were once old-growth redwoods. Alarmed conservationists established Save the Redwoods League to protect redwood groves in 1918. The League and the State of California were able to buy thousands of acres adjoining Prairie Creek. By 1923, some of the grandest old-growth stands on the planet had been acquired by the State.
A national work program called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began during the Great Depression of the 1930s. CCC members camped at Elk Prairie while building Prairie Creek’s visitor center, trail system, campground, and picnic facilities.
Redwood National and State Parks
In October 1968, the National Park Service created Redwood National Park in Del Norte and Humboldt counties.
On September 5, 1980, the United Nations designated Redwood National and State Parks as a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve.
In 1994, NPS and California State Parks agreed to co-manage four parks: Redwood National Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Both entities agreed that managing the parks together would ensure commitment to greater protection and preservation of more than 105,000 acres of coast redwood forest.