Muir Beach Parking Lot Closed June-November 2013
This alert applies to Muir Beach, but not nearby Muir Woods. Muir Beach parking lot closed June-November 2013 for construction. Restrooms and parking will not be available at Muir Beach during this period. Check back for updates or call (415)561-3054.
Dipsea Foot Bridge at the Annex Lot is BACK!
The Dipsea foot bridge at the Annex Lot is back in place. Thanks to all who took the Deer Park Fire Road detour. Taking those extra steps helped to protect Redwood Creek and the endangered juvenile coho.
NPS photo by Christopher Weatherby
Visitors to Muir Woods Not All Human
May's early warm spell drew many to visit Muir Woods and not all of them were human! Ladybugs (a.k.a. ladybird beetles) wafted in on warm breezes, carried in from the circulating air rising from their Central California breeding grounds and brought to landfall in the coast as the currents cool. Many of us plan a visit to watch them fly, bright sparks of orange in the park's sunny spots and during foggy spells finding each other to form clusters that grow through the summer.
In the plaza, the swallowtails will soon nectar on the extravagant blossoms of the buckeye. The striking echo blue flits near the ground. The tortoiseshells cruise the edges. Veined whites traipsing among the grassy slopes, and the occasional buckeye, mourning cloak and anglewing flutter in forest clearings.
Caring maintenance staff watch out for caterpillars when doing work and nearby neighbors carefully tend the verge leading up to the Muir Beach Overlook so quail, fox and snake still have a home where pedestrians can safely walk, too. Take a walk soon to see these little things among the tall trees!
NPS photo by Lou Sian
Three cheers for trillium
Three reasons to check out this early spring wildflower. First, sample the delights of a walk in the March woods, second is a fun way to look more closely at a beautiful plant, and third is the surprise of discovering we have two species to seek!
Trillium blooms in earliest spring, thus its nickname "wake robin". This flower is often out before robins return from winter. Trillium is simply Latin for "parts in three". Look closely at the "tri" flower parts, and also the leaf whorls that open in a group of three. Continue focus on the leaves to see the inter-joined network of veins, atypical for members of the lily family.
Trilliums produce but one flower per plant and our two species are easily identified by them as well as where they grow. Trillium ovatum or wake robin has a white flower raised on a slender stalk above the leaves and opens pure white and fragrant, then slowly fades to a deep rose, a sign to pollinators that the nectar has dried up. Look for this species in the redwood forest. The current display on the Hillside Trail is breathtaking, to match the views downward into the canyon. T. chloropetalum, Pacific giant trillium, has a much larger flower sitting smack in the middle of the leaves. It has quite a range of colors varying from white to maroon-red, often occurring in the same patch of giant trillium. Look for giant trillium in mixed hardwood forests, at the edge of the redwoods in Muir Woods, and the lowest parts of Steep Ravine.
The spring wildflower parade is off to a great start. Others to seek at this time include Hounds-tongue, redwood sorrel, milkmaids and the last of the fetid adders-tongue.
NPS photo by Ranger Tim Jordan
A tree falls and we were all there to hear it
A large, old redwood tree fell on December 21, 2012 at 1:15 PM during the Muir Woods Winter Solstice. Few people were in the park at the time because of an early morning storm.
The redwood tree, a sibling to the one standing, snapped at the trunk, fell across the Main Trail in Bohemian Grove, busted fences, crashed into nearby trees, felled two trees - splitting one in half - and sank into the debris-strewn forest floor. We're not certain why it fell, but it is fire scarred and so full of rot that it was difficult to age. We believe it was over 500 years old and approximately 115 feet tall when it fell.
Visitors heard the tree falling from a third of a mile away. It sounded like thunder as the massive tree hurtled to the ground. Artist and sound recording expert Dan Dugan - demonstrating nature sounds for the Muir Woods Winter Solstice Program - recorded three successive impacts of trees falling like dominoes. Click to hear Dan Dugan's recording of the tree.
Also in the same area are the umbrella-shaped trees. Coast redwoods standing in the path of falling trees, often adapt to changing light conditions over the course of their long lives by growing branches oriented to the light.
The fallen tree adds logs and snags to the area, thus increasing the complexity of the old growth redwood forest. Snags provide important habitat for nesting birds and bats, shelter from predators and adverse weather, and aerial freshwater catchments for plants and animals.
In time, the log and snag will decompose into a rich surface of soil and decayed bark for moss, ferns, other plants, and fungi - a boon for birds, redwood snails, salamanders, banana slugs, chipmunks, and fox.
This old tree is an elder of the forest. It lived a good life and continues to provide life to others. Please treat it respectfully when in the park.
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Coho Spawning in Muir Woods Confirmed
On December 4, visitors and NPS staff observed coho salmon,Oncorhyncus kisutch, spawning downstream of Bridges 1 and 2, as well as at the second boardwalk near the wide benches, confirming that coho salmon have made it up to Muir Woods to spawn. However, heavy rains the next day muddied Redwood Creek, making the large anadromous fish difficult to see. With clearing skies, spawners may be easier to spot as the water clears to a beautiful opalescence. Adult coho are up to 2 feet in length and 14 pounds in weight. Coho salmon in Central California are endangered, so commercial and sport fishing are prohibited. Based on juvenile counts in the spring and fall of 2009, the numbers of returning adults should improve for the 2012-2013 salmon run, says NPS Fish Biologist Michael Reichmuth..
Adult coho, returning to their natal creek in 2012, left as juveniles during the winter of 2009-2010. Though no one knows for sure where salmon go once they leave Redwood Creek, some say they swim as far north as Alaska. They grow fat and oily on the rich nutrients of the cold, deep ocean. Their nutrient-rich bodies feed a multitude of species from humans to animals to the redwood trees. They are Nature's way of bringing the deep ocean nutrients to the inland plants and animals.
During the stormy, rain-soaked winter, the female coho uses her tail and the power of water to create a vortex to move cobbles and dig a nest or redd. When the redd is deep and clean enough, she will lay her eggs. The male coho will fertilize or milt the eggs as she covers and protects her eggs with cobbles. Coho salmon die just days after spawning.
As California enters its drier Spring season, the water in Redwood Creek recedes. The eggs develop and emerge as fry in the Spring when the creek is low and slow. No bottom-feeder, the elegant salmon will spend the next 18 months in the freshwater creek, feeding off of the insects suspended or floating in the cold, clear water of Redwood Creek. In the summer and fall, salmon fingerlings make their way downstream to Muir Beach just three miles away. At Muir Beach, they transform from freshwater fish to salt-water, ocean fish.
The National Park Service and its partner, the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy are engaged in the multi-year project, the Redwood Creek Restoration at Muir Beach. Among many things, this ecological restoration project will improve habitat at the creek mouth where freshwater fingerlings transform into saltwater smolts before heading out to the deeper ocean. The smolt phase is key in the salmon life cycle for the population's successful return from the ocean. If the estuarine habitat is in good condition, the smolts will bulk up on a rich diet of insects, amphipods, and even the juvenile stages of amphibians and fish, before they enter the sea to find their next meal.
The coho population in Redwood Creek is endangered, and very few (around 25 individuals) come back to spawn. But, it is hoped that with improved smolt-rearing habitat, their spawning numbers will increase. To see coho spawning, check our website, www.nps.gov/muwo, or join our Twitter feed, @muirwoodsnps, or call our wildlife hotline, (415)388-2595, and we'll post updates of salmon in Redwood Creek.
NPS Photo by Ranger Tim Jordan.
Sometime around June 12, 2012, people began seeing the fledging activities of a barred owl family of four from the Main Trail. Above Redwood Creek between the entrance arch and Bridge 1 in Muir Woods, the adult barred owls were hunting during the daytime for Sonoma chipmunks, mice, and crayfish, and feeding them to their two owlets perched on nearby trees. Two owlets were born last winter and have flown downstream from Camp Alice Eastwood under the watchful eyes of their parents.
The barred owls are not native to Muir Woods, but have pushed west with each successful generation. Indigenous to the northeast United States and Canada, the invasive species have made their way to Washington, Oregon and California. The first barred owl in Muir Woods was documented in 2002. Muir Woods is the southwestern-most location thus far for a pair of nesting barred owls. They are having a detrimental impact on the federally-listed native population of northern spotted owl by competing for food and nesting sites, and their overt behavior of disrupting northern spotted owl nests.
NPS Photo by Ranger Lou Sian
Shhh. Baby Sleeping.
Spring is when does have their young in Muir Woods. This fawn born last March rests in a bed of redwood sorrel and waits for its mother to return. The spots on its back and lying still and quiet are its defence against predators. Note its floppy ears. Black-tailed deer often leave their young to forage alone. Do not disturb. Mom will be back though it may take hours.
Did You Know?
Redwood Creek is home to some of California’s last remaining native run of Coho Salmon and Steelhead Trout. Every year after our first winter heavy rains the adult fish return from the Pacific Ocean to spawn.