Henry Cowell Redwoods SP State Park
is located in Santa Cruz County near the City of Santa Cruz. The
park is open to the public for nature hikes, bicycling, river
kayaking, fishing, horseback riding and even a train ride passes through
the beautiful Redwood Grove. The hiking trails range in difficulty but
most are easy to walk and perfect for families of all all ages.
Douglas fir, oak, madrone and a stand of Ponderosa
pine present a picture perfect experience much as travelers would have seen 200
years ago. The tallest tree in the park is about 285' tall and 16' wide.
The oldest trees in the park are about 1400 to 1800 years old. With over
20 miles of riding and hiking trails, a picnic area above the San Lorenzo River
and steelhead and salmon during the winter, this oasis near the ocean is
one of the region's prized possessions, enjoying a location near the
University of California Santa Cruz campus. The park is accessible by
on Highway 9 in Felton in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Public buses that
stop at a shopping center with a Rite Aid store in Felton near the
corner of Mt. Hermon Road and Highway 9 are a short walk (less than half
a mile) from the park and cost less than $2 to ride.
Zayante Indians once
lived in the area, discovering shelter, water and game abundant, making this an
ideal place for settlements. After the Spanish
established a foothold in California, the land here as in many parts of
California became parcels granted to individuals.
Rancho Zayante was granted by Mexico in 1834 to Joaquin Buelna and consisted
of 2,658 acres just north of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and probably
included a small portion of the present northern section of the Park; Rancho Carbonera, a large tract of
land bordering the San Lorenzo River north of Santa Cruz and at the entrance
to the San Lorenzo Valley, was granted by Governor Alvarado to Jose
Guillermo Bocle in 1838; and Rancho Cañada del Rincon en el Rio San
Lorenzo de Santa Cruz was granted to Pedro Sansevain in 1843.
Gold was discovered
in Gold Gulch, a small creek opposite the park picnic area in 1855.
Limestone quarries, logging, paper mills and tourism all contributed to
the influx of people into the area. Henry
Cowell, for whom the park was named, previously left his home in
Wrentham, Massachusetts for the lure of California gold. He began a
successful drayage business that grew to include routes to Stockton and
the gold country. His empire grew to include property and business
interests from San Luis Obispo to Washington State.
He purchased interest in the local
limestone business and reportedly owned over 10,000 acres of land in the
park and surrounding region. Cowell also owned cattle and logging
businesses (for lumber and to fuel the lime kilns), and continually
purchased property. Henry Cowell died in 1903, leaving his lands and
wealth to sons Ernest and Harry.
Harry took an active interest in
operations and maintained the business until his death in 1955. He was
the last link in the Cowell family line and wrote in his will that the
real estate interests were to be governed by the Cowell Foundation,
worth over $14 million. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park was one of the
many recipients of the generous deed of land for public use and
Like so many of the written and verbal
accounts, there are other perspectives that could contribute to this
history of the park and its naming. One thing is clear. Henry Cowell
Redwoods State Park is a testament to the beauty of Santa Cruz. Its
Redwood forest has survived climate changes, logging efforts and remains
one of the oldest living monuments to a beautiful place where forests
meet the beach. For
information on the Roaring Camp Railroads, see
web page. parks.ca.gov