“Nestled in the wooded hills along the Sonoma coast lies a hidden wonder that has remained largely untouched for thousands of years — 730 acres of pristine forest known as Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve. These are the tallest and biggest ancient redwoods on private lands in Sonoma County, rising as high as a 32-story building from a lush, magical forest rich with wildlife.” — Save the Redwoods

In 1876, a young transplant from New Hampshire named Herbert Archer Richardson ventured west to Sonoma County, establishing the seaside hamlet of Stewarts Point, a general store and sprawling ranchlands. That land stayed in his family for generations – Herbert’s grandson Harold eventually inherited and continued to manage the property. From the very start of their ownership, the Richardson family refrained from clearcutting, and Harold never allowed harvesting of healthy old-growth trees on the 730-acre McApin Ranch portion of the land — an area larger than Northern California's Muir Woods National Monument.

Prioritized for acquisition

More than a century later, these choices to conserve the land mean that a sublime old-growth forest still remains – and has now been acquired by Save the Redwoods League to conserve in perpetuity. To honor his deeply held commitment to conservation and stewardship, the property has been renamed the Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve. With towering redwoods, riparian habitat and proximity to other conserved lands, the parcel had been identified by the League as an important candidate for acquisition: the League’s Vibrant Forest Plan, a data and science-based conservation planning tool that uses real-time analysis of redwood forest threats and opportunities, ranked it as the highest-level priority for protection.


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Likewise, analysis by the Conservation Lands Network found that much of the property would be important for Bay Area conservation goals: the expansive habitat supports numerous threatened and endangered species — including the northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, Humboldt marten, California red-legged frog, the Townsend’s big-eared bat, and steelhead and coho salmon — that favor old-growth redwood forest conditions. Redwoods also serve as one of the world’s most effective carbon sinks, storing five times more carbon per acre than any other known forest ecosystem. In addition to the wildlife and more than 1,450 ancient trees, the property includes Haupt Creek, a fish-bearing stream and tributary of the Gualala River.

A unique and irreplaceable landscape

Through our Bay Area Program, we support work that safeguards the Bay Area’s remarkable biodiversity, ecosystem services and nature-based recreation opportunities. This acquisition, grounded in science-based regional conservation planning, is one example of how we support grantees to conserve irreplaceable Bay Area landscapes. The acquisition follows other foundation-supported conservation achievements along the Sonoma Coast, from the Buckeye Forest, to Howlett Ranch, the Kashia Coastal Reserve and Stewarts Point.

"Acquisitions such as these are important because the outcomes are incredibly durable,” explained Bay Area program officer Dan Winterson in a Palo Alto Online article about what will soon become Sonoma County’s newest and largest redwood park. “We were so grateful for the role that Save the Redwoods League and our other grantees play in conserving high-priority landscapes in Sonoma County and around the Bay Area.”

The 1,640 year old McApin Tree, courtesy of Save the Redwoods

Discovered on the property, the oldest known coast redwood in the area. The McApin Tree (pictured above) is estimated to be 1,640 years old and 322 feet tall, with a trunk "as wide as a two-lane street." The world's tallest coast redwood, found in Redwood National Park, is 380 feet.

Harold Richardson’s legacy

Now under League ownership, the Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve will become accessible to the public within three years, offering a rare opportunity to experience the wonder of old-growth redwoods on the northern Sonoma coast.

“It’s as if we’ve discovered an ancient civilization; an oasis of towering redwoods hidden from public view for over a century,” said Sam Hodder, League President and CEO. “We are grateful for the Richardson family’s foresight in stewarding this forest with such care and allowing us the opportunity to save it. The League envisions stewarding this property as a public park in the future for all to enjoy — the first new old-growth redwood park in a generation. Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve, named to honor the legacy of the family’s patriarch, will be the newest gem on California’s crown of redwood parks, providing inspiration, recreation and clean air and water.”

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All images courtesy of Save the Redwoods League


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Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve


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