The Women’s Federation Grove, referred to as the Women’s Grove by the locals living in the area, was founded in the early 1930’s by the members of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs. Located on the banks of the South Fork of the Eel River, it literally is in the center of the Redwood Empire. It is less than a mile south of the world-famous Founder’s Tree on old Highway 101, which is now called the Avenue of the Giants, and about six miles north of the quaint town of Myers Flat, where the author lived as a child.
The entrance to the park is on a sharp turn in the highway and is easy to miss. Traveling south on the Avenue of the Giants, the entrance to the grove is about a mile south of the Founder’s Tree. It will be the first turnoff to the right after you pass under the main highway. The road to the Woman’s grove, which is about 1/8th mile long, is extremely narrow and not ideally suited to big rigs. If you have a large recreational vehicle, it might be wise to send someone ahead to make sure the one lane road is clear before entering the grove.
Once there, you will find that the Women’s Grove is one of the most beautiful spots on the face of the earth, it is hard to describe the tranquillity of the place.
Besides its magnificent redwood trees, the grove has two main features. The grove’s picnic tables have been fashioned from giant 30 to 40 feet long redwood logs. These solid wood tables are unique to the Women’s Grove and you will not find anything like them anywhere else in Humboldt County.
The second feature is even more unique. In 1933 the world-famous bay area architect Julia Morgan, of Hearst Castle fame, designed a covered four-sided outdoor fireplace for the grove. This magnificent structure survives today much the same as it was when it was first constructed, although its redwood plank roof has been replaced several times over the last 80 years. The fireplaces are still functional but to use in one of them you will have to bring your own wood, since wood collecting in not allowed in the grove.
In the past, when the state of California could afford it, a summer walking bridge was put in each year to allow visitors to cross the Eel and visit the Rockefeller Redwood Forest which lies just across the river. Now days you will have to wade the river to do so. Unless you are extremely fit, and adventurous, it is probably best to drive the short distance to the Rockefeller grove of redwood trees if you wish to visit them.
A short trail on the north side of the grove leads to a nice swimming hole on the Eel River. The desirability of this swimming spot varies from year to year depending on factors such as rainfall. As a general rule, The Eel is a good river to swim in during the early months of the summer, in late summer and fall it is less suitable for swimming because of moss, especially in dry years.
The Woman’s grove is a very special place! You are not going to want to just drive in, look around for a few minutes, and drive off to see another grove of redwoods. No, there are two great picnic areas in Northern California, this is one of them! So, come prepared to spend the day. Bring a picnic basket and a bottle or two of fine wine and plan to spend the day, the evening too if the weather is warm.
If possible, plan to visit on a week day. Few tourists know about the Women’s Grove, but the locals do; thus, the grove will be more crowded on weekends when people from Eureka and Fortuna come to the grove to escape the foggy summers in Northern Humboldt County.
PS, I’m going to tell you about Northern California’s the second great picnic area in an upcoming article. See you then!