For the Trees
A San Francisco building boom during the Gold Rush demanded an increased timber supply. California forests provided miners with convenient sources of lumber and local redwood groves were as good as gold. Commercial logging expanded into the forests of Marin County to meet the demand. As the gold towns grew the redwood trees started to disappear.
Logging of the areas surrounding Muir Woods began in the mid-1800s. Easily accessible areas were logged first, but news of the large trees in isolated Redwood Canyon drew interest. By 1903, more efficient logging and transportation made harvesting timber more convenient. The Tamalpais Land and Water Company leased parcels of land for development. Redwood Canyon was the last holdout.
Conservationists, avid hikers, and the Tamalpais Sportsman's Association had a strong desire to save the Redwood Canyon trees from logging. They appealed to Congressman William Kent, a member of the Sportsman's club and a conservationist, to purchase and protect Redwood Canyon. In 1905, William Kent and his wife, Elizabeth Thatcher Kent, bought the 611 acres of the canyon. The area was soon made available to the public by improving road and rail access and providing basic amenities for visitors.
In 1907, designs for a new reservoir through Redwood Canyon threatened to submerge the magnificent trees. Upon learning of this proposal, Kent began his campaign to convince President Theodore Roosevelt that Redwood Canyon should be preserved and out of reach of the water company. To quickly prevent the reservoir construction from moving forward, William Kent donated 298 acres to the government. This allowed President Roosevelt to formally set aside Kent's gift as a National Monument through the Antiquities Act of 1906, thus preventing any current and future development.
Kent wished to honor the legendary conservationist John Muir by renaming the area of Redwood Canyon to Muir Woods. When Roosevelt suggested changing the name of Muir Woods to reflect Kent's gift, William Kent respectfully declined insisting that his "I've good, husky boys" would be able to carry on his name, and "if these boys cannot keep the name of Kent alive, I am willing it should be forgotten." John Muir sent a letter to William Kent in response to the naming of the Muir Woods National Monument stating "This is the best tree-lover's monument that could be found in all the forests in the world. You have done me great honor and I am proud of it."