Legacy Logging Roads


Example Of Logging Road Treatment

Larry Damm Crossing Larry Damm Crossing

Left image
Machinery starts the process of removing a logging road.
Credit: NPS: N. Youngblood

Right image
The same site three years after road removal.
Credit: NPS: N. Youngblood

Logging and skid roads criss-cross a hillside
Logging and skid roads as seen along Bond Creek in the 1960s.


Redwood National Park was expanded in 1978 to include the Redwood Creek watershed, and the Mill Creek watershed was included in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park in 2002.

The expansions of the parks' boundaries included hundred of miles of logging roads, and thousands of miles of skid roads that were used to haul trees. These roads are a legacy from logging operations that were common in California last century.

To get logging trucks in and out, temporary bridges were built, streams were blocked, and culverts (drain pipes) were placed to allow water to flow under the roads. These structures do not last forever, and as they fall apart they cause environmental problems to streams and rivers.
A man stands in an eroded road surround by dirt and tree debris.
Example of erosion from a logging road in October 1971. Notice the three redwood trunks now perched on the edge of the road.

David Van de Mark

Logging Roads and Erosion

Without tree roots to bind the soil, erosion will happen very quickly after logging occurs. Rain can cause logging roads to collapse and they will erode very quickly. In some places in watersheds now inside the parks' boundaries, this happened within two years of the forests being logged. This photo taken was taken on a spur road near the K and K line road in the Redwood Creek watershed. It shows a logging road that had recently eroded down about six feet and the culvert exposed. Tons of dirt already had been washed downstream into the creeks and rivers below.
A man stands on the right bank of a landslide.
On January 1st, 1997, failures of an old logging road across McArthur Creek caused more than 10,000 truck-loads of dirt to rapidly erode downstream.


Roads Fail and Habitats Suffer

Logging roads and culverts are not designed to last decades without constant maintenance. Our winter storms can be very powerful, wet, and long lasting. There have been occasional times when these storms have washed away sections of old logging roads where they failed because of rusty culverts, or bad drainage along the seldom use dirt roads. The result of this has been that hillsides have eroded, and the resulting landslides have torn away hundreds of downstream old-growth redwoods, and dumped millions of tons of dirt, debris, and sediment into creeks and rivers. These massive surges in sediment then bury streams, and cause a loss of habitat for many riparian / river species like coho salmon.

Old Logging Road Becomes A New Habitat

A dirt road, trees and tree stumps on a hill. An excavator works in the distance. A dirt road, trees and tree stumps on a hill. An excavator works in the distance.

Left image
Heavy equipment is used to reoccupy logging roads.
Credit: NPS N. Youngblood

Right image
Ten feet of dirt was removed to get to the old hillslope, and logs are placed where the road was.
Credit: NPS / Neal Youngblood

Before and after restoration photos of the Larry Damm logging road near Lost Man Creek. Notice the redwood stump on the left. The rehabiliation of the area removed tons of dirt that was used to make the logging road. For over five decades this road buried the landscape and blocked the natural flow of water. The before and after photos of the redwood stump show how much dirt was removed to restore the natural slope of the land.

Large machinery removes dirt to reveal a natural stream bed.
Treating the Roads

Since 1978, Redwood National Park has reoccupied, treated, stabilized and ultimately removed over 250-miles of logging roads, yet about 100-miles of at risk road remain. Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park also has removed about 70-miles of logging roads, but more than 250-miles of roads are left. However removing old logging roads is costly work. Depending on the landscape, the full re-contouring, removal, and restoration of an old logging road can cost from $80,000 to $400,000 per mile.

In a few places in the parks, removed logging roads have been converted to trails. The Ah-Pah trail is a short, pleasant interpretive trail found on the northern end of the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. Miles of removed logging road north of the Lost Man Creek Trailhead allow visitors to walk through restored habitats too.

It is more than possible that the Redwoods Rising Restoration Program will allow for additional hike or bike trails to be commissioned from old logging roads. But, the process of the parks designating any new trails is a separate process from removing old logging roads.

A stream erodes below a failed culvert.
This collapsing culvert is unable to stop a stream from eroding into an old logging truck bridge crossing.


A Shovel-load Of Prevention Stops A Mountain-side Of Pain

We are active in winter to monitor the miles of old logging roads and culverts in the parks. We call this Storm Patrol. Our Storm Patrol employees do the simple-but important work of making sure culverts are not blocked, mapping crumbling culverts, identifying sections of road needing maintenance, and reporting back to park managers. The goal is to avoid having any more massive landslides caused by failing culverts and collapsing logging roads.

Road Removal and Creek Restoration in the Redwoods.

A dirt road with heavy machinery on the left, with a culvert in the middle A dirt road with heavy machinery on the left, with a culvert in the middle

Left image
A legacy logging road before removal in Redwood National Park
Credit: NPS

Right image
The same site days after restoration showing stream flow and revegation
Credit: NPS

Before and after photos of logging road removal and with the natural water flow restored.

Last updated: May 5, 2021

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