Muir Woods

at 12:35 AM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

I understand that Muir Woods plays a prominent role in the latest "Planet of the Apes" movie. And while the film was not actually shot there, tourists are flocking to see that magnificent forest. But we almost lost those trees. In 1906, as we all know, an earthquake and resulting fire destroyed much of San Francisco. In the rush to rebuild the city, thousands of convenient acres of redwood trees were logged. Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties were especially hard-hit.

However, there was a nice stand of redwoods in southern Marin that was not immediately logged. The reason? The hills were too steep to drag the trees over to Mill Valley and there was no good ocean access for the logging schooners. So several hundred acres of timber on the upper end of Frank Valley in southern Marin County were saved.

However, some entrepreneurs proposed damming the creek to create a reservoir, which would have inundated the forest. William Kent, a local and successful businessman used his own personal funds to purchase and save the trees. President Theodore Roosevelt accepted the gift from Kent on behalf of the citizens of the United States and declared it one of our first National Monuments. He wanted to name it for Mr. Kent, but Kent politely refused the honor, stating that if his own sons could not carry on his name then the name was not worth saving.

Mr. Kent preferred to tribute John Muir, who had recently lost one of the bitterest battles of his life. The Hetch Hetchy reservoir drowned one of the most magnificent valleys in Yosemite. Muir was delighted that these dam builders had been stopped in Marin. He said that a glacier had been named for him as well as a mountain. But he noted that while the glaciers would melt and the mountain would erode away, redwood trees already spanning 100 million years would outlast them all. He did have a way with words.

This is Michael Ellis, with a Perspective.