Muir Woods National Monument is a natural escape from the fast-based life and concrete jungle of Oakland and San Francisco, California. In the early 1900s, William and Elizabeth Kent owned what is now Muir Woods and sold the land to the federal government in order to protect it for future generations to enjoy. The Kents also wanted it to be named after John Muir for his activism and promotion of Wilderness. President Theodore Roosevelt designated it a National Monument on January 9, 1909. In December we traveled to Muir Woods National Monument and walked the boardwalk trail through the massive redwoods. As we walked along the boardwalk we noticed signs promoting Muir Woods as a natural sound scape. The signs reminded us to keep our voices down and preserve the quiet environment.
Not only is Muir Woods stunning visually, but also another intention of the area is to provide people with a chance to hear and experience nature’s sounds. The sound of birds, wind rusting branches, and the flowing creek abound as you walk through the forest. Protecting natural sounds for people falls under the Leave No Trace principle, Be Considerate to Others. Research has been conducted on Muir Woods and the promotion of natural sound scales.
According to Pilcher, Newman & Manning (2009) the National Park Service has been studying how different sounds inhibit people’s recreational experience for over 20 years. Natural quiet is a protected resource according to the Park Service and is protected in various initiatives through legislation and education. The 1972 Noise Control Act was enacted to decrease the noise pollution caused at construction sites in parks. The 1987 National Parks Overflight Act developed management and assessment of the impacts that planes have on visitors as they fly over National Parks. Under the 1987 National Parks Overflight Act, Grand Canyon National Park is was able to receive the attention to the flight noise pollution it was receiving.
Protecting and preserving natural sounds is integral to providing a natural experience. Thanks to the management plan of the National Park Service, heavily visited areas, like Muir Woods can still provide natural sound for its’ visitors.
Thanks for reading and remember to be like Bigfoot and Leave No Trace.
Pat and TJ
Leave No Trace’s Patrick and Theresa Beezley are part of the 2014 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Coleman, Hi-Cone, The North Face, REI, Smartwool and Yakima.
E. Pilcher, P. Newman, & R. Manning. (2009). Understanding and Managing Experiential Aspects of Soundscapes at Muir Woods National Monument. Environmental Management. 43:425–435.