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Muir Woods National Monument Exploration

You may not think of salmon when visiting the redwoods in Muir Woods, but it's home to a population of Coho Salmon.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 6 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours

Overview:  You may not think of salmon when visiting the redwoods in Muir Woods, but it’s home to a population of Coho Salmon. Redwood forests... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Riffle on Redwood Creek

Female Coho look for areas like these in Redwood Creek to lay their eggs. The loose gravel and steady water flow protect the eggs and ensure a supply of oxygen.

After spawning, female coho use their bodies to dig a nest, or redd, in gravel at the bottom of Redwood Creek. The eggs will remain buried in the creek bottom until they hatch.

A... More

2. Wild Cucumber

Wild Cucumber (Marah fabaceus) is also known as Man Root, due to the large tuberous root underground. The root is toxic and was reportedly used by Native American groups to stun fish, making them much easier to catch.

You can recognize Wild Cucumber (Marah fabaceus) by its curly vines or spiky green seed pods in the summer.

Milk Maids ... More

3. Oregon Forestsnail

Saw this lovely mollusk climbing a mossy trunk , shell alomst 2" in diameter. Best guess is the Oregon Forestsnail (Allogona townsendiana). Any other ideas?

4. Tree Break

When a redwood topples, it often takes down a number of other trees, thanks to its massive height and weight. If it falls into the creek, it's good news for salmon, since it creates new habitat.

The Muir Woods redwoods are old-growth trees. They escaped much of the logging common to the California coast thanks to the steep terrain surrounding the... More

5. Redwood Sorrel

This may look like clover, but Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregano) isn't part of the clover family. It thrives in the low light of the redwood understory.

The Big Leaf Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum) can be found in local nurseries, but in Muir Woods, they're rare. There are only three populations left in Marin County. This plant was... More

6. It's a Burl

Lumpy burls are usually found at the base of redwood trees, but this tree's burl is high overhead. Redwoods use burls as one method of reproduction. They can simply sprout new growth from the burl if the main tree is stressed or damaged.

7. Witch’s Butter (Tremella mesenterica)

Witch's Butter (Tremella mesenterica) is a jelly fungus that is actually a parasite. It feeds on another type of fungus that lives on dead wood.

The flame-like ripples of the False Turkey-tail, or Stereum hirsutum, are lovely, but too tough to be edible. Common in Bay Area woodlands, Stereum hirsutum is easy to mistake for Trametes versicolor,... More

8. Fetid Adder’s Tongue

In order to spread its seed far and wide, the Fetid Adder's Tongue, or Slinkpod (Scoliopus bigelovii) grows its seed pods on long, thin stalks. As they grow larger, the stalks bend away from the plant and touch the ground. Each has a packet of nutrients that attracts ants and other insects, which help carry the seeds even further.

The Fetid... More

9. Yellow Waxy Cap

The Yellow Waxy Cap (Hygrocybe flavescens) is a bright yellow mushroom often found in redwood forests.

These dark mushrooms (Bulgaria inquinans) definitely resemble gum drops and live on decomposing wood.

Likely these are Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), sought after by mushroom hunters for their culinary uses. Anyone able to confirm?

10. Albino Redwood

This is a redwood tree, but its needles are white. They're lacking chlorophyll, the green substance that helps plants do photosynthesis. Because it can't make food on its own, this tree acts like a parasite, tapping into the roots of another redwood.

There are only a handful of known albino redwoods in California. They can only survive by living... More

11. Shady Pools

Pools like these, created by toppled trees, are crucial for Coho Salmon, who like cold, clean water. Returning salmon rest in pools like these as they head up the creek to spawn. Juvenile salmon rely on creek pools to protect them. Today, the Park Service is in the process of adding wood pack to Redwood Creek, since it was once their policy to... More

12. Convergent Ladybugs

Throughout the winter in the Bay Area, you may see large groups of ladybugs clustering together. These Convergent Lady Beetles (Hippodamia convergens) come together for their winter hibernation and huddle together to conserve warmth and energy.

13. Spawning Salmon

In December and January, Coho return to Redwood Creek, completing their three year life cycle. They rely on winter rains to raise the level of the creek, which breeches a sandbar that often forms at the outlet to the ocean. The salmon return to the creeks they were born in to mate and lay eggs.

Image. Richard James.

After spawning, the Coho... More