Muir Woods is part of the awesome Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which is in short driving distance from San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area. Named for environmentalist John Muir, Muir Woods is one of the most easily accessible locations for seeing redwoods. The recreation area around it also includes Alcatraz Island and some seriously scenic coastline. Photo: Sundry Photography/Shutterstock

Seven Best National Parks for Visiting Old Growth Forests

by Ellen Wilson Jun 13, 2008
Old growth forests, which take thousands of years to mature, are rapidly disappearing worldwide. Here are ten different National Parks where you can still find vestiges of these forests.
Serra do Divisor National Park

This park includes a huge swath of Amazon rainforest, notably the Serra do Divisor mountain range along the Brazilian-Peruvian border.

The Amazon rainforest is as large as Western Europe or the entire United States. It covers 5 percent of the world’s land, and is thought to be the most diverse ecosystem on Earth – home to nearly 10 percent of the world’s mammals and 15 percent of the world’s terrestrial plant species.

It is home to more than 20 million people, including an estimated 220,000 people from 180 different indigenous nations. This forest ecosystem is also one of the most threatened on the planet.

Muir Woods National Park

The ancient forest ecosystems of North America are extremely diverse. Included in this system is the boreal forest belt stretching between Newfoundland and Alaska; the coastal temperate rainforest of Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Western Canada; and the myriad of residual areas of temperate forest surviving in more remote regions.

These forests store massive amounts of carbon, which helps to stabilize climate change. They also provide habitat for large mammals such as grizzly bear, grey wolf, and puma.

Muir Woods National Park is home to one of the last coastal stands of redwood in the San Francisco Bay are.

Defensores del Chaco National Park

The temperate forest ecosystem of South America, which covers areas of Southern Chile and Argentina, represents the largest tract of essentially undisturbed temperate forest in the world.

The Great Chaco and Yungas Rainforests of Argentina are neighboring ecosystems within this forest complex. Rich in biodiversity, they are home to rare jaguars.

The forests here are being destroyed faster than almost anywhere else in the world. The rate of destruction has accelerated even further after Monsanto introduced genetically engineered soya beans to Argentina .

Lake Khovsgol National Park

The Snow Forests of Asian Russia have contiguous tracts of land ranging from the arctic zone in northeastern Sahha, to the subtropical region along the Amur and Ussuri river basins to the south. Because of its large size, the Amur-Sakhalin region shelters more types of plants and animals than any other temperate forest in the world. Many of these species are unique to this area and exist nowhere else.

The Snow Forests of Asian Russia are also home to indigenous peoples including the Nanai of the Kahbarovsk region.

Ovre Pasvik National Park

The last ancient forests of Europe encompass the last few remaining tracts in Scandinavia with the adjoining forest of European Russia . This contiguous forest area provides habitat for many species that require large tracts of unbroken land such as bears, flying squirrels, and the highly endangered eagle owl.

These boreal forests are also home to tens of thousands of indigenous peoples, such as the reindeer-herding Saami.

Rinjani National Park

The cultural diversity of this area is astounding – more than 1000 languages are spoken on the island of New Guinea alone.

These contiguous forests stretch from South East Asia, across the islands of Indonesia to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in the Pacific. The island of New Guinea , the world’s second largest island, has the largest continuous tracts of primeval forest in the Asia Pacific region.

The Paradise Forests are home to a rich diversity of species, many of which occur nowhere else on earth. The Sumatran Tiger, the Orangutan, and the Rafflesia, a one meter-wide flower, all reside here.

Virunga National Park

Home of the Congo rainforest, this is the second largest rainforest on earth after the Amazon. This enormous forest covers and area three times the size of France, and plays a vital role in regulating the global climate. It is the fourth largest forest carbon reservoir of any country in the world.

The gorilla, chimpanzee, and bonobo – primates that are our closest relatives, depend on the Congo for survival. This forest is also home to 270 species of mammals, of which 39 are unique to this area.

Tens of millions of people, Bantu farmers, the Twa people, and fishing communities, depend on the Congo for their survival.

Regional causes of forest loss and degradation vary, but the primary factors are agricultural expansion, settlement, mining, shifting agricultural crops, and infrastructure development. Recent research by the World Resources Institute (WRI) indicates that, “commercial logging poses by far the greatest danger to frontier forests…affecting more than 70 percent of the world’s threatened frontiers.”

Community Connection

What can you do to help? Besides visiting these places and studying the issues facing them firsthand, check out the Rainforest Action Network , and

Are you a member of a conservation org or know someone who is? We encourage you to join our network of organizations at matador, where you’ll find a captive audience of thousands of travelers and environmentally-conscious people worldwide.

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