Sneaker wavesform when waves combine their energy and are funneled by the Pacific Ocean's togography to create random, powerful surges of water up the beach. These waves are not normal sets of swells that surfers or swimmers might be used to. Sneaker waves are difficult to spot, and within 30-seconds they will run hundreds of feet up the beach slope. The energy they have can easily knock people over who are standing far from the normal surf line. The water here is also very cold, our beaches are steep and thus sneaker waves have unfortunately drowned several park visitors. Check the National Weather Service Eureka webpage for beach hazard statements regarding sneaker waves. Read the Beach Safety brochure to learn more about sneaker waves. Remember: Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean!
Tides can cut off your access points, trapping you between rocks and incoming waves. Always carry -- and know how to use -- a tide table, topographic map, and a watch whenever hiking along the redwood coast! Several points along the coast are only passable at lower tides. Know when the tides will occur and plan your hike according. Strong winds or storms can significantly elevate tides and create hazardous conditions. Be attentive to your surroundings and never underestimate the power of the Pacific Ocean.
This was filmed one morning when the National Weather Service had issued a sneaker wave warning for our coast. This sneaker wave was filmed on Freshwater beach in front of the Kuchel Visitor Center. Ten minutes before this event occurred, the ranger filming the beach had to warn people not to sit on the large log that is then hit by the wave.
Tsunamis are giant waves caused by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions under the sea. This section of the California coast is the most tsunami-prone in the continential United States.
When on the beach, familiarize yourself with the quickest access to high ground (50 feet above sea level). If you feel any earthquake, drop to the ground while the strongest shaking occurs, then leave the beach as soon as you can walk. Shaking of 20 seconds or more means a tsunami is likely. No official warning will follow, so treat the earthquake as a warning to get to high ground.
When elsewhere in the park and you feel an earthquake, remember to drop where you are, seek cover under the nearest piece of furniture, and hold on until the strongest shaking stops. If in a tsunami evaucation zone, head to higher ground as soon as you can walk. Never go near shore to watch a tsunami come in.
A tsunami is a long series of waves with the first wave often not being the largest. Remain on high ground until officials stay it is safe, up to 48 hours or more in some cases.
Learn more about how to survive a tsunami in Redwood National and State Parks by familiarizing yourself with tsunami evacuation routes and maps:
As the largest subspecies of North American elk (bulls can weigh as much as 1,200 pounds), Roosevelt elk are a majestic sight, but can pose hazards depending on the season. Recommended viewing distance is 25 yards (75 feet), but for your safety, farther distances are recommended in the spring and fall.
Calving season-late spring
During calving season, late May through June, female (cow) elk may be extremely defensive of their young. Newborn elk calves may be hidden in vegetation out of view, sometimes near trails. As people approach, a cow may charge aggressively, and could rear up and lash out with her front legs. A single cow or groups of cows with calves should be given a very wide berth, as tempting as it may be to try to get that great photo of a newborn calf!
Rut, breeding season-fall
During the fall rut, or elk breeding season, in late August through October males (bulls) become defensive and aggressive. At this time bulls gather their cows in groups, or harems. They may stomp and charge at both people on foot and vehicles. If you encounter a bull with his harem on a trail, slowly back away and find an alternative route.
If you encounter an elk at close range
If in a group, stay together
Avoid direct eye contact, walk widely around the animal(s) if possible, keeping it in view, watching for signs of aggitation (tongue flickering, head lowering, pawing the ground)
Make noise, so that your position is known to the elk
If an elk charges
Take cover behind, or up in, a tree
Drop a backpack or jacket in front of you to act as a distraction and “barrier” between you and the elk
Make noise, so that your new position remains known to the elk
If you witness an aggressive elk, take note of the location and report it to a park ranger as soon as possible.
Black Bear Safety
Bears are wild! Inviting them into your picnic or camp—on purpose or accidentally—can result in damage to your equipment, you, or the bear. Bears have great memories and can quickly become accustomed to human foods. Once habits form (i.e campgrounds provide food), a bear may become frustrated when food is no longer available. The "habituated" bear expects a reward (food) in exchange for a learned behavior (human encounters). A frustrated and hungry bear that seeks human encounters is dangerous. Wildlife managers, given no other options, may have to destroy the bear. Help save a bear and avoid personal injury by following these precautions:
Prevent a Black Bear Encounter
Use the campground bear-proof lockers for food and all scented items
Dispose of garbage immediately in bearproof trash cans
Carry a bearproof canister when backpacking. Keep a clean camp at all times
Never feed bears
If You Do Encounter a Black Bear
DO NOT RUN. Instead, face the animal, make noise and try to appear as large as possible
If attacked, FIGHT BACK
Please report any sightings to a park ranger
If you witness an aggressive bear, immediately CALL 911
Download an informative black bear safety brochurehere.
Mountain lions (also known as: cougars, pumas, panthers) are large, seldom seen forest inhabitants. Still, mountain lion sightings have increased in recent years and like any wild animal, they can be dangerous. The following suggestions are recommended in lion country:
Prevent an encounter
If possible, do not hike alone
Keep children in sight; do not let them run ahead of you on the trail
Keep a clean camp
Be alert to your surroundings
Report all lion sightings to a ranger immediately
If you encounter a mountain lion
DO NOT RUN
Do not crouch or bend over
Stand up and face the mountain lion
Pick up young children
Appear large; wave your arms or jacket
Slowly back away, do not turn your back to the animal
If a mountain lion attacks
FIGHT BACK aggressively
Shout and make noise
Do not turn your back to the animal
Download an informative mountain lion brochurehere.
Poison Oak grows as a low shrub in clumps or long vines throughout Redwood National and State Parks. If you see a vine climbing up a tree that has a reddish color in the stem or leaves, chances are great that it is Poison Oak. On the ground, look for fuzzy or waxy green leaves in clusters of three. In the fall, the leaves will change to a reddish color. Poison Oak may have yellow-white berries.
How is poison oak spread?
When the oils from Poison Oak come in contact with human skin it may cause a rash. Most commonly in Redwood National and State Parks, visitors come in indirect contact with Poison Oak, that is, the plant's oil is often and unknowingly stuck to clothing, pets, camping gear, and other items that have come in contact with the plant. The hardest part of dealing with indirect exposure is the fact that the plant's oil lingers (sometimes for years) on virtually any surface until it's washed off with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
If you think you may be working around poison oak, wear long sleeves, long pants tucked into boots, and impermeable gloves.
Wash your pet if it may have brushed up against poison ivy, oak, or sumac. Use pet shampoo and water while wearing rubber gloves, such as dishwashing gloves. Most pets are not sensitive to poison oak, but the oil can stick to their fur and cause a reaction in someone who pets them.
If you think you have come in contact with Poison Oak, immediately wash the area with soap and cold water.
The sooner you cleanse the skin, the greater the chance that you can remove the plant's oil and/or help prevent further spread.
In Redwood National and State Parks, ticks dwell in tall grass, bushes, and wooded areas. In the summer months, as temperatures increase, ticks become more active. Ticks can infect humans with bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause serious illness. As you venture into these habitats, follow these guidelines to protect yourself.
Removing a tick
Ticks should be removed from pets and humans as soon as they are noticed.
Ticks should be removed carefully and slowly. If the attached tick is broken, the mouthparts left in the skin may transmit disease or cause secondary infection.
Using a pair of pointed precision tweezers; grasp the tick by the head or mouth parts where it enters the skin.
DO NOT grasp the tick by the body. With a slow, smooth motion, pull firmly and steadily outward. DO NOT twist the tick.
DO NOT apply petroleum jelly, a hot match, alcohol or any other irritant to the tick. This can cause the tick to burrow more deeply, and expel more bacteria into the blood.
Clean the wound with disinfectant.
Monitor the bite for a rash for three to 30 days.
Be alert for symptoms of Lyme disease. If a rash or other early symptoms develop, see a physician immediately.
Common Lyme disease symptoms
A slowly expanding red rash at the site of the tick bite which usually appears within a week to a month after the bite.
Flu-like symptoms such as, fatigue, headache, neck stiffness, jaw discomfort, pain or stiffness in muscles or joints, slight fever, swollen glands, or reddening of the eyes.
When hiking, tuck your pant legs into your socks and your shirt into your pants.
Wear closed shoes and light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
Inspect clothes and exposed skin frequently while outdoors.
Do not sit on the ground or on logs in bushy areas.
Keep long hair tied back.
After your hike, inspect your body thoroughly for ticks.
Keep in mind while visiting Redwood National and State Parks that the majority of the roads are state and county highways. For this reason, it is highly unsafe to stop in the roadway to view wildlife. When stopping, locate and use pullouts to ensure that traffic is not blocked. Ensure that your vehicle is not stoppped in tall grass as a hot vehicle can ignite any vegetation below. Also be sure to observe any posted speed limits and take caution construction zones.