Now And Then: Muir Woods

Ghost of the Golden Gate: Muir Woods

Federally protected as a National Monument since 1908, this primeval forest is both refuge and laboratory, revealing our relationship with the living landscape. Walking among old growth coast redwoods, cooling their roots in the fresh water of Redwood Creek and lifting their crowns to reach the sun and fog.

Click and drag center circle back and forth, to compare then and now image.
 
rotary club group picture wooden walkway
GGNRA Park Archives
Ted Barone

Rotary Club of Mill Valley 1938

Muir Woods satisfied the human need for solitude and nature, as well as a gathering place for families and organizations. Over the years, the National Park Service has developed an understanding of the importance of keeping people off of the shallow roots of these mighty trees and have constructed wooden walkways through the most heavily used sections of the park. Many of the older trees are 500-600 years old with a few nearly 1,500 years old. The last major fire in the valley occurred in 1845. 




 
ceremony in the forest forest pathway
GGNRA Park Archives
Ted Barone

Muir Woods Commemorative Ceremony 1945

In May, 1945, the United Nations Organizing Committee meeting in San Francisco held a ceremony in Cathedral Grove in honor of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a month after his death.




 
men building a bridge park visitors crossing a bridge
GGNRA Park Archives
Ted Barone

Muir Woods Fern Creek 1934

The Civilian Conservation Corps was a New Deal agency designed to give the unemployed a job and housing in the midst of the Great Depression. The CCC built a number of facilities in national parks across the country including bridges and buildings in Muir Woods., operating in Muir Woods and Mt. Tamalpais State Park (established 1930).




 
toll road and sign toll road
GGNRA Park Archives
Ted Barone

Muir Woods Toll Road 1925

The Bohemian Club selected Redwood Canyon (then called Sequoia Canyon) as the location of their annual encampment in the Summer of 1892. However, the only way to get from Mill Valley to the canyon was on a rough trail over Throckmorton Ridge. So, the “High Jinks” committee built a road following the old trail. It was named Sequoia Valley Road, completed in 1892. The Bohemian Club never came back for their summer program as members complained of the cold and fog. After World War I, automobile traffic increased. The Dipsea Highway (Hwy 1 along the old Sausalito-Bolinas Road) was completed in 1924, The Muir Woods Toll Road and Ridgecrest Highway opened in 1925. And the Panoramic Highway opened in 1928.




 
muir beach rock muir beach rock
GGNRA Park Archives
Ted Barone

Muir Beach 1928

The contour of the beach has changed over time, impacted by agricultural and housing development on the land, and, of course, tidal changes through the seasons. The National Park Service and its neighbors, including Green Gulch Farms, have been very active in recent years, restoring the marsh lands upstreaming from the beach to a more natural status, and reintroducing coho salmon to Redwood Creek.




 
scenic muir beach scenic muir beach
GGNRA Park Archives
Ted Barone

Scenic Homesites Muir Beach 1928

Starting in 1859, Samuel Throckmorton subdivided the old Rancho Sausalito into a number of smaller ranches. Most went to Swiss and Portuguese dairy farmers to capitalize on the increasing demand for milk from the rapidly growing San Francisco market. With the improvements to the Sausalito/Bolinas Road (Route 1) and increasing awareness of the physical beauty of the West Marin coastline, plans for development emerged. Homesites at Muir Beach for $100! That’s the equivalent of roughly $1,500 in today’s purchasing power. 




 
muir woods inn muir woods
GGNRA Park Archives
Ted Barone

Second Muir Woods Inn 1914

The first Muir Woods Inn, located at what is now called Camp Alice Eastwood (named for a prominent amateur naturalist and a founder of the California Academy of Sciences), was positioned too far from the valley floor so a new inn was constructed much closer and at a lower elevation.




 
automobile on muir woods trail muir woods trail
GGNRA Park Archives
Ted Barone

Automobile on Muir Woods Trail c. 1920

After World War I and increased use of the automobile, the mountain railway began to lose business. The old Sausalito-Bolinas Road was improved into the Dipsea Highway (Route 1) in 1924. William Kent died in 1928 and the great fire of 1929 severely damaged the rail line. It closed in the summer of 1930. The main entrance to the park was moved from its north end by Camp Alice Eastwood south to its current location along the old Sequoia Valley Road.




 
tavern grassy hill
GGNRA Park Archives
Ted Barone

Gravity Cars from the Tavern of Tamalpais 1916

Passengers on the “Crookedest Railroad” had a choice of coasting back to Mill Valley or Muir Woods by gravity car or they could return by regular mountain train. The entire trip included an 8 ¼ mile descent with more than 200 curves, 2200 feet of elevation, and maximum 7% grade. The railroad operated four trains a day on weekdays and seven on Sundays. Some came to eat and stay at the lodges, many used them as a starting point for hikes on the mountain. It’s busiest year was 1915 with 102,000 passengers, coinciding with the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. The rail company heavily promoted Muir Woods, maintaining a ticket office at the San Francisco Ferry Building offering tourists a complete trip by ferry and train to Mt. Tam and Muir Woods.




 
inn by the ocean overlooking the bay
GGNRA Park Archives
Ted Barone

West Point Inn and Southern Marin December 1906

William Kent devised a plan in 1902 to extend the railway from the West Point down Steep Ravine to Willow Camp (Stinson Beach). Instead of a rail line, a stage road was built. In 1904, the railroad built a second, smaller inn at West Point. This panoramic view is of the West Point Inn and San Francisco Bay. Tall ships are in the distance as is fog. Once the Inn was built, Cushing began to plan a branch line down into Redwood Canyon and Muir Woods. It became operational in 1908, departing from the “Double Bowknot” at Mesa Station. 
 




 
stationed train park visitors on a path
GGNRA Park Archives
Ted Barone

Mesa Station

The Muir Woods branch line descended from the “double bowknot” at Mesa Station. The line descended to Throckmorton Ridge and then into the upper reaches of Redwood Canyon along the west side of Fern Canyon. 
 




Last updated: August 13, 2018

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