Whitaker Forest History
The Redwood Mountain area, of which Whitaker’s Forest is a part, was considered by John Muir to be one of the finest giant sequoia groves. The huge giant sequoia trees were interspersed with other conifer species. The Forest had a clean, open, park-like appearance which was maintained by periodic fires. Between 1873 and 1879 a sawmill was operated on what is now the headquarters of Whitaker’s Forest. The timber harvest concentrated primarily on sugar pine and ponderosa pine, but 223 giant sequoia were also felled. Two hundred twenty (220) giant sequoia, all over eight feet in diameter, were left within the Forest.After the logging operations ended, bare mineral soil and fires provided favorable conditions for the establishment of giant sequoia, white fir, and incense-cedar. The reproduction of white fir and incense-cedar was very profuse and widespread. Giant sequoia reproduction occurred in groups of various sizes and densities or as single trees. The forest floor was still somewhat open since cattle grazed the herbaceous vegetation and little litter or humus accumulated. Brush species such as bear clover, manzanita, Ceanothus, hazel, alder, and dogwood took over some of the cutover tract.By 1946 other logging operations yielded three million board feet of sugar pine, ponderosa pine, white fir, and incense-cedar. About 5,500 white fir were harvested as Christmas trees between 1939 and 1949. Experiments from 1964 to 1974 were the last major activity on the site, although long-term studies continue to be monitored.