Things I Love Travel

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

April 22, 2015
Armstrong Redwood

Happy Earth Day! Earlier this month I visited Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve in Sonoma, California, and was blown away by the size and beauty of the sequoia trees. I had seen massive sequoias on another trip to California 12 years ago, but had forgotten just how impressive they are.

The calm, majestic grove is just a portion of the primeval redwood forest that covered much of the area before logging operations began in the 19th century. During the 1870s, a lumberman by the name of Colonel James Armstrong recognized the natural value of the forest he was harvesting, and set it aside as a botanical garden and natural park. When he died, his daughter launched a campaign to preserve the forest, and in 1917 the County of Sonoma purchased the property, which it managed until 1934. At this point, the state took over, and in 1936 the forest was opened as Armstrong Redwoods State Park. In 1964, as more and more people began to understand the ecological significance of the park, it’s status was changed to a reserve and it began to receive more protection.

Today, Armstrong Redwoods preserves and educates visitors on the spectacular sequoia sempervirens, commonly known as the coastal redwood.

Armstrong Redwood These coastal redwoods are the tallest living things on earth. They can live to be  500-1,000 years old, grow to a diameter of 12-16 feet, and stand from 200-250 feet tall. A few trees live to be more than 2,000 years-old and reach above 350 feet.

Mapping the age of a redwood

Mapping the age of a redwood


Parson Jones, just 0.1 miles from the park entrance, is the tallest tree in the Armstrong grove. It climbs more than 310 feet high, which is longer than the length of a football field, to give you some perspective.

Armstrong Redwoods


The above photo of a fallen redwood shows how destructive wind can be in the forest, which is why the trees that live the longest are usually found in canyons or sheltered areas. Redwoods have shallow roots, delving only about 12 feet deep into the ground, but extending up to 150 feet around them, interlocking with the roots of other trees along the way for stability. If a tree does fall, it becomes part of the redwood ecology and the trunks are used as homes for other forest creatures.

Witch's Broom redwood

Witch’s Broom Disease

Witch’s Broom Disease, resulting in a bundle of shoots hanging off of a tree, can be caused by a number of things, including infection, infestation, genetic mutation, or adverse environmental conditions.

Colonel Armstrong redwood

The Colonel Armstrong Tree, named after the lumberman who founded the park, is the oldest tree in the grove and estimated to be more than 1,400 years old! Take the easy half-mile hike from the park’s entrance to see it for yourself. Some people believe that ancient trees create something called an energy vortex, and that by stepping into an area holding one of these vortexes you will feel instantly renewed. The area surrounding Colonel Armstrong is known to be one of these places. I’m not sure if it was an energy vortex or the sense of tranquility in the grove, but either way the walk among the trees was a transformational experience.

Redwoods California

The redwoods are so tall it’s impossible to take a photo that does them justice. You’ll just have to see for yourself on your next trip to Sonoma.

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