California’s Ancient Redwoods Face New Challenge From Wildfires And Warming Climate

These days only park rangers and loggers are allowed in to Big Basin Redwoods State Park following a devastating wildfire that destroyed most of the infrastructure in California's oldest and one of its most iconic state parks. Big Basin is home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coastal redwoods south of San Francisco. Eric Westervelt/NPR

By / Eric Westervelt

After this year’s historic wildfires, California’s oldest state park — Big Basin Redwoods — looks more like a logging village than an iconic hiking and camping mecca.

There’s a near constant buzz of chainsaws. Rumblings from trucks and logging skidders fill the air as crews busily cut charred, fallen trees and chop down “hazard trees” rangers worry will topple on to the park’s roadways.

It’s estimated the wildfire, awkwardly named the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, burned through 97% of Big Basin’s more than 18,000 acres, scorching its 4,400 acres of ancient redwoods and obliterating most of the park’s infrastructure for camping and recreation.