John Muir


John Muir


[Charles Sprague] Sargent


Martinez. Aug. 18. 1899.

My dear Prof. Sargent.

I got home from the big north trip on the 3d but had to go to the Sierra Calaberas Big Tree Grove almost before I settled hearing that it was to be sold & made into [lumber?]. My Sperry I found who owns both the Calaberas & South Grove & the Sugar pine region about them had offered $100,000 for 2000 acres, but had refused the offer. So the trees there are safe as yet. & he promised to let me know before accepting any offer that would include the Sequoia Groves.
The Harriman trip was a grand success the South & North ends of the Excursion in S.E. Alaska & Behring Sea I had seen under more favorable auspices before, but the Coast & inlets from Cross Sound to Yakutat Bay, Prince Williams Sound Cook Inlet & Kodiak Island, Shumagin Island. & the Alaska Peninsula to Unalaska I had not seen & though we stopped only a few days at a time here & there I picked up a good many bits of knowledge & enjoyed the trip in grand style. Here are a few


tree notes that will be sure to interest you. At a landing we made on the N. end of Vancouver told we found Douglas Spruce in all its glory & of course the big Thuya, Western Hemlock, & Mountain Hemlock also A. Amabilis. At Low Inlet on Princess Royal told the Douglas was not to be found. but A. Amabilis was abundant & of course Sitka Spruce Western Hemlock & at the top of timberline Paton Hemlock. Or Mertensiana as you now call it. & red Cedar (Thuya) & Alaska Cedar etc. All the way along the coast to the limit of tree growth on the middle of Kodiak Isld & the mainland opposite on the Alaska Peninsula the forest is unbroken, consisting mostly of the indamitable P. Sitchensis & Western Hemlock, but the hemlock vanishes on the Alaska Penn. near the mouth of Cook Inlet leaving the Sika Spruce to do all the forest work to the westward. I was much interested in watching the west limit of the forest. Not a tree is seen to the west of the middle of Kodiak Isld, tho a small grove of Sitka Spruce planted on Onalaska 100 yrs ago is flourishing I found the largest of the grove 2 ft, 1 inch diameter & 30 ft high (kept low by wind) & covered with brilliant red & purple staminate & pistillate flowers. A glorious show. proclaiming


no end of strength & growing expanding vigor in that latitude & soil, under fair conditions. I asked Fernow why the Sitka Sp. forest did not keep on West He mumbled a lot of stuff about prevailing winds, competition of Alder bushes & rank grass, & the "Japan Current" which simply meant he didn't know. The simple explanation is fire. The line of demarcation between the western treeless & forest regions to the eastward shows plainly that fire is the controlling agent. Most of the soil is volcanic & supports a dense lush growth of fire-feeding grass & brush. & I was told at Unalaska that notwithstanding the wet weather fire ran in the grass any time of year after a single day of dry sunshine & that constant care & fighting were required to save the [fir?] trees planted at Unalaska at Prince Williams Sound at the head of a cold icy fiard I found a pure forest of Patton Hemlock at sea-level, trees 2, to over 3 feet diameter, & 80 to 100 ft high. Bark pale gray-almost white. Pistillate flowers very dark blue 3/4 inch long. The grandest oldest mossiest Patton hemlock forest I ever saw. Waving long


fertile branches over the glaciers where even the sturdy P. Sitchensis could not grow farther down the Inlet 12 miles or so where the conditions of soil & climate were not so severe, P. Sitchensis formed about 1/2 the forest. This is in [illegible] about 62.! I'll send you photos as soon as I can.
There are broad extensive forests of S. Spruce western hemlock etc about Cook Inlet with a birch wood for canoe making about 30 ft high 18 inches dia. I am promised the flowers of it.
One of the finest of the flower effects I saw was made by the dwarf [Kamachalka?] rhododendron on the Shumagin Isles - one glorious mass of purple. The flrs 1 inch long 1 1/2 wide. The bushes, prostrate in dense exclusive mats. Expect to hear many hasty generalizations from Fernow He jumps at conclusions with the boldness of short sight, I wish I could be with you as you plan but I must fet some of this writing off my hand. Thanks for your kind invitation. You come here & well go to the Sequoias & perhaps get a Redwood park organized. Remember me to your family

Ever Yours Cordially.

John Muir


Martinez [Calif .]

Date Original

1899 Aug 18


Original letter dimensions unknown.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 10, Image 0899

Copyright Statement

The unpublished works of John Muir are copyrighted by the Muir-Hanna Trust. To purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish or exhibit them, see )

Owning Institution

Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University Archives, Boston, Massachusetts. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.

Copyright Holder

Muir-Hanna Trust

Copyright Date



4 pages


Environmentalist, naturalist, travel, conservation, national parks, John Muir, Yosemite, California, history, correspondence, letters


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