Somewhere in the Sauraton Mountains of North Carolina, lies the Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwoods Preserve; a private endeavor to re-establish a self regulating forest of metasequoia in the Appalachian region. Here, among 50 acres of misty hills and hollows, dawn redwoods flourish in an environment strikingly similar to the Sichuan and Hubei provinces of China. Located some five to six hundred miles further to the north, but at a lower altitude, CRDRP provides a virtually identical, although slightly cooler, climate to the Chinese forests in the Shui-sa Valley that Metasequoia has called home for the past several million years. In China, dawn redwoods grow amidst oak, sweetgum, sassafras, hemlock, chestnut, and Katsura trees.  

At the NC site, hemlock is replaced by Virginia pine, and the Katsura by its American counterpart; Eastern redbud. The remaining aforementioned species also live here, with the exception of the now nearly-extinct American chestnut.  In addition, tulip, hickory, dogwood, elm, ironwood, sourwood, maple, cherry, and beech constitute the hardwood forest of the area. The local pioneer species is Virginia pine, which covered about two thirds of the property when the project was created in 1995. Most of the pines will eventually be replaced with metasequoia, as well as some ponderosa pine, incense cedar, western red cedar, and some other large growing conifers such as sugar pine, Cryptomeria japonica, etc. Swampy and pond areas are planted with baldcypress and metasequoia.  Since part of the project revolves around research and experimentation, dawn redwoods have been planted in every conceivable location, including standing water. One has yet to drown, lending credence to the Chinese name of shui sa (water fir).  Metasequoias are now known to attain heights approaching 200 feet, a fact unknown until recently. Since data is constantly changing, CRDRP will offer botanists a chance to study growth habits here in the US.  It is a distinct possibility that the big trees in China have not reached their full potential in size or age. In fact, many of the original trees here in the US have already surpassed heights of ancient trees in China. This is due mainly to the fact that the eastern US has the optimum growing conditions for metasequoia, whereas it is actually too warm in Sichuan. Perhaps, in the next millennium, the Preserve will have trees that will begin to rival Coast redwoods.

he Crescent Ridge project was founded in 1995 by Doug Hanks, who is responsible for most of the progress, and acts as the chief conservation officer for the project.  “It’s hard work,” he admits, “but it will be worth it. I have dedicated the rest of my life to this project. One day, people will be able to come here and see what a metasequoia forest looked like 50 or even 100 million years ago.  What a sight that will be!  Such a forest has not flourished in North America for tens of millions of years; possibly since the last of the saber-tooth tigers vanished into history.”  At the age of 26, he planted the first tree of what will become the only redwood forest in the eastern US, and the sole wild dawn redwood forest outside of China. 


The preserve is tentatively scheduled to open to the public in 2035. Visitors will be able to wander pathways through groves of dawn redwoods. The project's goal is 5000+ metasequoias, plus the other large species mentioned earlier. “I have laid the preserve out like the national parks out west,” Doug says, “Just on a smaller scale.  We will simulate old growth characteristics, such as a planted ‘fairy ring’, to serve as a natural pulpit for wedding ceremonies. People will walk on pathways created before the trees were planted, giving the effect of ancient Indian trails. The trails will open into pure groves of dawn redwoods with mixed forest in between.  We would also like to design one or two hilltop overlooks with views of the surrounding mountains, and possibly even a cabled suspension bridge across one of the hollows to bring visitors through the treetops of dawn redwoods.”


CRDRP will also offer a Visitor's Center, with films and interpretive exhibits, including many fossils of Metasequoia, silicified cones, petrified wood, and samples of dawn redwood, including a section of log. It will also feature anything “metasequoia related”, such as stamps, articles, photographs, etc. 

A preview of this can be seen here on the site, in the “Cool Stuff” area. As the project progresses, more information will become available, and hopefully added to the site for reference.

The location of the preserve must remain vague, at least for now, for obvious reasons. If people knew there were redwoods in the vicinity, they might search for giant trees, possibly trampling seedlings in their quest. Vandalism would also be likely to occur. So for now, the exact location of the Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwoods Preserve must remain a secret, except to a few individuals in related fields.  People who are genuinely interested in the project may contact Special Ranger Doug Hanks for further information.

We at the Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwoods Preserve hope you have 
found this web site interesting, and will come to visit when we open.



Doug Hanks © 2005