~20 million years before present: Coast redwoods begin growing in California. Coast Redwoods grow elsewhere in the world up to ~60 million years before present, until which time present-day coastal California was covered by a shallow sea.
13,000 years before present: The redwood canyon is part of the homeland of the Huimen, a tribe of the Coast Miwok people. The present-day land of Marin County and Muir Woods is the land of the Coast Miwok, a part of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.
September 1903: Prominent Marin and San Francisco residents meet to discuss the prospects of Mt. Tamalpais being a National Park. Speakers at the event included William Kent and Gifford Pichot. The movement later fails after a crucial landowner raises the price by over 60%.
November 1904: The California Club, a women's club based in San Francisco and started by Laura Lyon White, picks up the campaign. This time, their sole goal was to save Redwood Canyon. This includes pledging to raise $80,000 to purchase the forest, and raising public support.
1905: William Kent and Elizabeth Thacher Kent acquire the property now known as Muir Woods. They purchase 611 acres at the time, for the discounted sum of $45,000. Though the Kents are considered wealthy, they do not have much in the way of liquid assets; they secure a loan from a sympathetic banker friend. Elizabeth questions the expense, but is convinced by her husband's (perhaps joking) response: "If we lost all the money we have and saved these trees, it would be worthwhile, wouldn't it?"
1907: The North Coast Water Company filed a lawsuit to develop a reservoir in Muir Woods. Although the Kent’s purchased the land in the forest a year earlier, the North Coast Water Company had purchased the water rights in the canyon. The company was hesitant to use those water rights previously because there was a lot of public support surrounding the forest. This was probably due to the combined influence of the campaign started by the California Club, and increased hiking access to Mount Tamalpais. However after the 1906 earthquake, the public became more sympathetic to the logging of redwood trees to rebuild cities. The North Coast Water Company used this opportunity to pursue their reservoir.
1907: The Mt. Tamalpais Railroad, which William Kent was a large shareholder of, added a branch descending into Muir Woods. The railroad was renowned for its remarkable steep and curved track. It’s windy route up Mount Tamalpais provided visitors with panoramic views of the Bay Area. Once the line was opened to Muir Woods, visitors could glide down to see the redwood forest in a gravity car. This opened up access to the forest, and increased visitation.
January 9, 1908: Proclamation of Muir Woods National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt, consisting of 295 acres. Muir Woods becomes the 7th National Monument, and the first created from land donated by a private individual. William Kent requested that it be named for conservationist John Muir. The donation of the land to the federal government canceled the lawsuit filed by the North Coast Water Company.
May 1, 1910: A commemorative plaque is placed and a redwood tree is dedicated to Gifford Pinchot, Head of the U.S. Forest Service and one of the people instrumental in the founding of Muir Woods National Monument. Pinchot is not present for the dedication ceremony. The plaque can be found at Founder’s Grove.
August 25, 1916: President Woodrow Wilson signs the Organic Act which creates the National Park Service, a new federal bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for protecting the 35 national parks and monuments managed by the department and those yet to be established.
July 1925: The Muir Woods Toll Road Company begins construction on a new road to the Monument. Initially called the Frank Valley Toll Road, it is carved from an old pack-mule trail, which snaked down the lower, southwest slope of Mt. Tamalpais until it descends into Frank Valley. In 1939, the State takes over administration and maintenance of this road, and the toll is removed. Today, this is the most popular route used to access the park.
December 1928: The Kent Memorial is erected at the Kent Tree in Fern Canyon, along present-day Fern Creek. The official dedication for the tree took place on May 5th of 1929. Kent tree was the tallest tree in the park, and Kent's favorite tree. Surprisingly, it was a Douglas fir, not a redwood. The tree is no longer standing, but the memorial is still there.
July 2, 1929: The Great Fire of 1929 burns 2,500 acres and 117 homes over three days on Mount Tamalpais in Mill Valley.
October 31, 1929: The last train car of the Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railway rides up the mountain. Decreased ridership due to increased automobile usage and damage from the July 1929 fire result of a loss in profit.
October 1933: Often called the "busiest month" in the history of Muir Woods, this month saw the arrival of the Civilian Conservation Corps, or the CCC, to the park. Up to 200 men were stationed at this new camp, initially called Muir Woods Camp NM-3 The "NM" stood for National Monument. The camp was later changed to Camp Mt. Tamalpais SP-23, with the "SP" referring to State Park.
The men begin work in Muir Woods and the surrounding Tamalpais State Park. Projects include a revetment (rockwork stream banks) in Redwood Creek; construction of a stone-faced concrete bridge on Fern Creek; construction of utility buildings and benches; and the construction of the Sidney B. Cushing Memorial Amphitheater (the "Mountain Theater"), near Rock Springs, on Mt. Tamalpais. The CCC completes its last project in Muir Woods in May 1941, and is disbanded shortly thereafter.
May 27, 1937: The Golden Gate Bridge is completed. Visitation to the park triples in one year, reaching over 180,000 visitors.
May 19, 1945: Delegates from all over the world meet to draft and sign the Charter of the United Nations. President Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, shortly before he is to have opened the United Nations Conference. On May 19, the delegates hold a commemorative ceremony in tribute to his memory in Muir Woods' Cathedral Grove, where a dedication plaque is placed in his honor.
May 19, 1995: The United Nations and the National Park Service hold a special commemorative ceremony in tribute to the life of Franklin D. Roosevelt and to honor the founding of the United Nations and its achievements in its first fifty years.
July 8th, 1996: An 800 year old redwood tree topples in the Cathedral Grove of Muir Woods National Monument. About 50 awestruck visitors watch as the 200-feet-tall, 12-feet-wide redwood monarch falls with a roar that could be heard all the way to the parking lot, almost one half mile away. The tree, which topples gracefully up-slope causes no damage and requires no clean up. The tree remains where it fell, providing nutrients to the soil, nesting for birds, bedding for plants and water for everything. It can be viewed today in its final resting place just to the left of the United Nations plaque honoring Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the Cathedral Grove of Muir Woods.
January 9, 2008: Muir Woods celebrates its centennial, with 100 years as a National Monument.
Last updated: September 22, 2022