Folks stopping by the Hiouchi Visitors Center will get a taste of the diversity of habitats housed within Redwood National and State Parks before they even hit the trails.
Painters from the Redwood Mural Society and Crescent Harbor Gallery are putting the finishing touches on a massive depiction of the Smith River near Stout Grove. They have spent about three months capturing the upland meadows of the Little Bald Hills, the crashing waves of Enderts Beach and the deep shadows of an old growth redwood forest.
Each mural is painted on two 4-foot by 8-foot panels with the exception of their riverscape, which takes up nine panels. Along with the towering trees of Stout Grove and a few pink rhododendrons, the Smith River mural depicts a lounging mountain lion, a pair of river otters, a fishing great blue heron and a bear. The mural will include other indigenous animals like a Roosevelt elk and a marbled murrelet, said painter Wanda Kirkpatrick.
In addition to Kirkpatrick, the muralists include Lori Markel, Doris Dalbec, Teddy Smith, Nan Marie Stewart, James Jamison, Louise Johnson and Kathleen Kresa. Kresa, who died recently, worked extensively on the old growth redwood mural, Kirkpatrick said.
“She passed away on the second,” Kirkpatrick said of Kresa. “We want to do some type of mural because one of the redwood murals that is going up on the wall is from Kathleen Kresa.”
Funding for the murals came from the National Park Service and the Redwood Parks Conservancy. According to Park Ranger Brad Maggetti, the National Park Service contributed about $1,500 and the Redwood Parks Conservancy also contributed $1,500. The total market value for the entire mural series is more than $11,000, he said.
The idea for the murals came from Park Ranger Michael Glore, who thought it would be nice to depict their Tolowa canoe against a backdrop of the Smith River, Maggetti said. That morphed into a mural series depicting the “mosaic of habitats” found along the U.S. 199 corridor and near Crescent City, including the little-known Little Bald Hills.
The Little Bald Hills sits on the top of a hill above Stout Grove, Maggetti said. It’s a little known portion of the park that contains serpentine soils and Jeffrey pines instead of towering redwood trees, he said.
“The cool thing is you walk through old growth redwoods so it changes, it’s the mosaic of habitats,” Maggetti said. “It’s more than redwoods.”
In addition to painting the various habitats, the murals will depict their names both in English and in Tolowa, Maggetti said. He said the park service consulted with representatives from the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation and Elk Valley Rancheria to have the proper spelling and proper names on the murals.
“I hope by putting in the names people will ask about how to find them,” he said.
Maggetti noted the muralists have been working since the rainy season, using the theater when it’s been to wet to paint outside. Visitors and his fellow park rangers have also added a line of paint here and there, he said.
“It’s great that visitors embrace the spirit of collaboration and celebration of the piece,” he said.