Big Basin Redwoods State Park reopens July 22 for first time since massive fire

In the latest milestone of its recovery, Big Basin Redwoods State Park—California’s oldest state park and home to ancient redwoods nearly 100 feet high—will reopen to the public on July 22 for the first time since a historic wildfire nearly all of his landscape two years ago.

“We expect the public to be prepared,” said Chris Spohrer, superintendent of the Santa Cruz District of State Parks. “There are limited facilities. There is no electricity. There is no running water. There is no internet.”

People arriving by car should book in advance to limit overcrowding and the number of vehicles in the still-recovering landscape, state parks officials said Thursday.

A new reservation system starts taking reservations on Friday at noon. A maximum of 45 vehicles at a time are allowed in the park’s former headquarters. People who come to the park by bus, walking or cycling do not need to make a reservation.

Highway 236, which runs for 8 miles through the park, will also reopen on July 22. Reservations are not necessary to drive on the road, but motorists are not allowed to stop and walk into the forest due to safety concerns and lack of facilities.

Reservations can be made at www.cognitoforms.com/FSCSP1/BigBasinParking or by calling (831) 338-8867. Most places are available 60 days in advance. A limited number of reservations will be released three days before the visit date, parks officials said.

The parking fee is $6 per vehicle plus a $2 reservation fee.

The fire that devastated Big Basin was the worst in the area’s history. Ignited by multiple lightning strikes on August 16, 2020, the fire, the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, burned 86,509 acres, an area nearly three times the size of the city of San Francisco, in the rural counties of Santa Cruz and San Mateo.

Flames destroyed 1,490 buildings, mostly around the town of Boulder Creek, making it the 12th most devastating fire in state history and a disaster that caused more damage in Santa Cruz County than the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

In total, 97% of the Big Basin’s 18,000 hectares burned down. The fire destroyed campgrounds, the park’s beloved 1930s headquarters, outdoor amphitheater, museum, gift shops, forest rangers’ homes and dozens of wooden bridges.

But the massive trees held out. Although the fire killed thousands of Douglas firs and other trees, nearly all of the Big Basin’s famous jungle redwoods, reaching as high as 300 feet high and dating back 2,000 years, survived, biologists say, though many have burns to their bodies. trunks or scorched branches that last for decades.

“It’s been a remarkable recovery,” Spohrer said. “There is significant regrowth in almost all redwoods. They have green shoots. There are trees that have died in the forest that have been removed and many shrubs and flowering plants are returning. The landscape is recovering well.”

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