Autumn at Fall Creek, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Fall Creek, part of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains, is accessed in the town of Felton. I was an undergraduate student at UC Santa Cruz, majoring in Environmental Studies, when I first visited Fall Creek on a field trip with my Environmental Interpretation class taught by the wonderful Jenny Anderson. Ever since that class outing in 2001, where we learned about Fall Creek’s rich history and ecological diversity, it has been my favorite hiking spot in the area. On November 11, 2013, a beautiful autumn day, I hiked with a friend to the old limekilns and took a few photographs of trees and mushrooms during the excursion.

Writer John McKinney describes Fall Creek in his acclaimed book Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks:

The forks of Fall Creek, a forest of second-generation redwoods and Douglas fir are some of the attractions of a walk through this isolated area of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Located on the slopes of Ben Lomond Mountain in a wild canyon northwest of Felton, this part of the park also boasts a lush creekside habitat of ferns, big-leaf maple and alder.

Hikers with a historical interest will enjoy traveling to old limekilns and a millsite. In the 1870s, IXL Company built three limekilns, producing nearly a third of the state’s lime supply. Park namesake Henry Cowell took over the business at the turn of the century and under his guidance much of the lime used in the cement necessary to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake was produced at the Fall Creek works. Fall Creek redwoods were logged in order to construct redwood barrels for storing lime and for logs to fire the limekilns.

Today a second generation redwood forest is thriving along Fall Creek.