Few national parks can claim their very own community of gray whales, but a pod of these once-rare sea beasts resides offshore at Redwood National Park all year round. On a clear day with calm tides, visitors can check for their spouts from the Klamath River Overlook. The parks service also recommends other places that are great for whale watching. Peak seasons for grays and other whales are during fall and spring migration periods.
Steller’s sea lions can be seen in colonies along the rocky, jagged Pacific coast in Redwood National Park. This species is among the largest seals in the world, and researchers speculate that its decline in the last half of the 20th century is linked to overfishing of the kinds of fish it hunts for food, such as Alaska pollock and herring. The species primarily breeds off the Aleutian coast of Alaska, and the rock outcroppings offshore of Redwood National Park are one of it’s few breeding spots in the Lower 48.
Northern Spotted Owl
The endangered northern spotted owl lives in old-growth forests from British Columbia down into Marin County, California, where it preys on small mammals like flying squirrels. One of its favorite homes is Redwood National Park, where it nests in holes and notches between limbs high up in the sequoias. Listen for their high-pitched hoots under the dense canopy of the Trillium Falls Trail, a misty 2.5-mile loop through the forest.
For many years, the primary threat to this species was habitat loss due to logging. The owl’s protected status created a controversy in the Pacific Northwest that pitted environmentalists against loggers and sawmill owners. Today, despite massive reduction in the logging industry, the owl maintains a downward population trend.
The marbled murrelet is a marine bird that only comes inland to nest. And when it does nest, it usually comes to Redwood National Park to make its home in the mossy limbs of the coast sequoia. The adult marbled murrelet is camouflaged to blend in with redwood boughs, but their chicks are not. This poses a special danger to chicks from predatory birds. Visitors that leave food waste in the park have had a negative impact on the murrelet by giving predatory birds incentive to revisit an area, increasing the likelihood that they’ll find and prey on chicks and eggs.