Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
On September 25, 1890, Sequoia National Park was established to protect a forest of giant trees called sequoias. That’s what to do with the largest trees on Earth – build a national park around them! The largest tree is named the General Sherman tree that is approximately 2500 to 2700 years old. There’s a “General Lee”, too.
Sequoia trees grow naturally in groves only on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada in a narrow band of altitude of 1500 – 2100 m (5,000 – 7,000 ft). Trees as wide as a city street and taller than a 20-storey apartment building. Above them, 2100 – 7000 m (7,000 – 9,000 ft) are dense stands of red fir forest and lodgepole pine. Above these elevations, at the limit of tree life, scatters of foxtail pines have taken root in bare rock where they are shaped by extreme winds and temperatures. An additional few thousand plant species coexist with trees.
In 1940, Kings Canyon, the National Park next door, added its sequoias. Now, a continuous national park home could boast five of the ten largest trees in the world. General Grant is here! Over a dozen sequoia trees are so old and massive, they have acquired names that reflect age and/or great historical stature.
Geographic features are large. Mountains rise from 3600 – 4400 m (12,000 – 14,491 ft) above sea level. This is the Sierra Nevada bioregion, home to watersheds and trees so strong they require fire to release seeds from their cones and to refresh soils and nutrients. Extreme differences in elevation and ground cover range from hot, dry lowlands to alpine snow cover. Bright pink snow algae have adapted to extreme conditions that rule out photosynthesis… freezing water, high ultraviolet radiation, cold temperatures. Montane forests are bursting with large mammals and many rare species, from mountain gophers to mountain lions, from bats to bears, and fish to falcons.
Sequoia. Kings. The national parks of Giants.
B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage