Muir Woods was once home to the Coast Miwok people. They started fires to
open up the forest. Since deer feed primarily on the kinds of vegetation which springs up after a fire, this
With the Gold Rush there came a great need for timber, meat, crops and land. Soon, deer,
elk, bear, cougar and coyote began disappearing because of over-hunting . Most easily accessible Bay Area timber, including the redwood stands of
Marin County, were logged between 1840 and 1870. Muir Woods, then known as Redwood Canyon, underwent little logging because it was not accessible.
Around 1890, local conservationists began realizing how vulnerable Redwood Canyon was to advancing civilization. William Kent, a Marin County resident, philanthropist, politician and businessman was urged to purchase the land in order to protect it. Convinced of the forest’s value, Kent purchased 600 acres of Redwood Canyon In 1905 for $45,000. A lot of money in those days.
In 1907, the North Coast Water Company, successor to the Tamalpais Land and Water
Company, started legal proceedings for a reservoir in Redwood Canyon. So, at the urging of John Muir, a philosopher, scientist, author and clearly one of the first
conservationists, Kent and his wife donated 295 acres to the Federal Government. Back then, the
Antiquities Act (1906) allowed the President of the United States, without the consent of Congress, to set aside
land of scientific or historic value.
Named in John's honor, Muir Woods was proclaimed a National Monument on January 9, 1908. The
Water Company suit was thrown out shortly thereafter and soon, tourism began.
By 1913, 40,000 visitors each year were trampling the woods. The fragile understory vegetation was being harmed. So in 1924, cars were banned from the redwood groves and trails were marked.
As visitors continued to multiply, the sheer volume of people resulted in further trampling and destruction. Heavy traffic compacted soil around the redwoods and exposed roots to wear and tear. More restrictions were needed to minimize damage to the land so picnicking
was eliminated, fences erected on the more heavily used trails, and collection of plants, animals, or rocks became
prohibited. As well, small tracts of adjacent private land have been added to the Monument over the years to eliminate
Today, restoration work is rebuilding the soil, revegetating trampled areas and returning the abundant biodiversity as well as revitalizing the streams
and rebuilding the threatened populations of salmon and trout.