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Muir Woods - Getting There by Train

For many people who live in the Bay Area their first visit to Muir Woods is their first encounter with the Big Trees. This is as true today as it was a hundred years ago.

Passenger Cars going to Muir Woods had “Muir Woods” on the side.

Muir Woods is a way off the beaten track. It is north and west of San Francisco. So, how did visitors 100 years ago from the Bay Area take a day trip to Muir Woods? The Northwestern Pacific owned Mount Tam railroad was, in fact, named, “Mount Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway”.  In the photo below you can see that the Muir Woods passenger cars had “Muir Woods” on them. The Mount Tam railway had a 2.5-mile spur line to take visitors Muir Woods.

Passenger Cars going to Muir Woods
had “Muir Woods” on the side

Before the logging industry came to California, there were an estimated 2 million acres of old growth forest containing redwoods growing in a narrow strip along the coast. By the early 20th century, most of these forests had been cut down. Just north and west of San Francisco, one valley named Redwood Canyon remained uncut, mainly due to its relative inaccessibility.

This was noticed by U.S. Congressman William Kent. He and his wife, Elizabeth purchased 611 acres of land from the Tamalpais Land and Water Company for $45,000 with the goal of protecting the redwoods and the mountain above them.

Entrance to Muir Woods

Entrance to Muir Woods

In 1907, a water company in nearby Sausalito planned to dam Rewood Creek which runs through Muir Woods and flood the valley. When Kent objected to the plan, the water company took him to court to attempt to force the project to move ahead. Kent sidestepped the water company's plot by donating 295 acres of the redwood forest to the federal government, thus bypassing the local courts.

Looking up one of the Big Ones in Muir Woods

On January 9, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the land a national Monument, the first to be created from land donated by a private individual. The original suggested name of the monument was the Kent Monument but Kent insisted the monument be named after naturalist John Muir, whose environmental campaigns helped to establish the National Park system.

Pathway through the Redwoods in Muir Woods