Almost from the initial settlement of Humboldt County in 1850, its magnificent redwood forests reaching down to the very shores of Humboldt Bay, indicated by the near conjunction of exhaustless timber and navigable waters what the principal industry of this favored region was to be. Hardly had the first settlements been effected until enterprising spirits began to convert the endless forests into marketable lumber; and never since that time has the long procession of white-winged sailing vessels, of their successors, the steam schooners and the foreign tramp steamers, all laden with Humboldt redwood, ceased to dot the blue waters of the broad Pacific. Year in and year out this traffic has been maintained and increased, always holding sturdily its position as the main factor in the trade and commerce of Humboldt Bay. And for many, many years to come will this pre-eminence be maintained.
The most prominent and interesting physical feature of Humboldt County lies in her unparalleled forest of redwood; and her people are justly proud of possessing the very heart and choicest portion of this world-famous belt of timber. Aside from their consideration as factors in the industrial or commercial world, these forests hold a weird fascination for every beholder, and the visitor who views them in their primeval majesty for the first time gazes upon the gigantic trunks and towering spires in speechless wonder and admiration. No one of Nature's wonders can be more awe-inspiring or impressive to the visiting stranger than to rest in the midst of some choice body of redwood where the trees stand densely, reaching upward from 200 to 300 or more feet, completely shutting out the rays of the sun on the brightest day, and casting the shadows of twilight about their bases. These immense trees now stand as the most remarkable monuments of vegetable growth in the known world. Gigantic in size, symmetrical and straight as an arrow, firmly planted and strongly rooted, they appear as the unmoved, unchanging sentinels of the passing centuries - except that they grow larger, taller, more grandly majestic as the centuries flit by like shadows into the past.
The beauty and majesty of these redwood forests have long impressed upon far-seeing people the great necessity of preserving a considerable tract of this timber as a public park for the benefit of future generations. And several efforts have been made along this line, but so far without successful result. At the present time a bill is pending before Congress which authorizes the appointment of a commission to visit Humboldt and investigate the necessity and advisability of securing some tract of these trees as a public reserve and park. And recently a large timber owner, now resident here, has initiated a plan to secure a tract of some 15,000 to 20,000 acres, the plan being to obtain large subscriptions from wealthy and public-spirited citizens sufficient to cover a considerable portion of the cost, and then ask the government to make up the balance. It is sincerely to be hoped that one of these efforts, or a combination of the two of them, will bring about the desired result.
The redwood forest in Humboldt extends in an irregular but compact belt from the southern to the northern boundary of the county, parallel to and near the coast, for a distance of about 108 miles. It varies in width from two or three miles to ten and even fifteen miles, averaging about five miles in width. Originally there were about 538,000 acres of this remarkable timber in Humboldt, of which some 80,000 acres have been cut, leaving 458,000 acres still standing. At the commonly accepted estimate of 100,000 feet of all timber products to the acre, there is still 45,800,000,000 feet of uncut redwood in Humboldt, sufficient to last for more than a century at the present rate of cutting.
The stumpage value of this great timber belt is an immense present and future resource of this section. Twenty years ago this value ranged from fifty cents to one dollar per thousand feet. Now the minimum price is two dollars per thousand, and as high as four dollars, and even more, has been paid for tract with especially favorable locations. And these prices will be steadily augmented as other available timber sources grow scarcer, and as the demand increases with the growth of population throughout the country. Applying the present minimum value of two dollars per thousand feet to the forty-five billion feet of standing redwood and we find that this one resource of Humboldt County is now ninety millions of dollars, and this value is constantly increasing. And it is safe; for redwood forests an their natural state will not burn. Being without resin, and protected by a thick and non-inflammable bark, and with the constant condensation of moisture from the foggy atmosphere of Humboldt due to the thick and heavy stand of these great trees, it is impossible for fire to gain any headway, or to do any serious damage to these compact standing forests. continued