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Looking for a really, really BIG Tree?

By Linda O’Connor

Photo by John J. O'Brien 28AUG2005
Discovery Tree in
Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Photo by John J. O'Brien 28AUG2005

If  you want to find a really big tree, find an oak tree.  Usually, it will be the largest in either height or width, and it may also be the oldest, too, because so many oak trees are 200 years or older.

But to find really, really big and old trees, you need to look to where the sun sets along the western coast of North America where sequoias and cedars have been standing tall and strong for many centuries.

Some researchers believe these giant trees are the oldest living things on earth.

If you visit the Olympic National Forest Park’s Quinault Rain Forest on the west side of the Olympic Mountains in the state of Washington, take your rain gear and hiking boots. You’ll need them. Ten to 15 feet of rain falls in the forest every year.

There, you will find an area known as the Valley of the Rainforest Giants where six different kinds of conifers are recognized as champion trees—the largest of their species.

Four of the six giants are the largest in the world—a Western Red Cedar that is 174 feet tall (and is also called the Hobbit Tree), a Douglas Fir that is 302 feet tall, a Sitka Spruce that is 191 feet tall, and a Mountain Hemlock that is 152 feet tall.

Two more trees round out the court of giants—the largest Yellow Cedar in the U.S. at 129 feet tall, and the largest Western Hemlock in the U.S. at 172 feet tall.

Travel south to Northern California and you’ll find more big trees near the town of Arnold.

Shortly after Augustus T. Dowd saw the first Sierra redwood in 1852 during the middle of the California Gold Rush, a group of people cut down the largest tree that Dowd found. They did that so they could take pictures and tour with part of the stump, and let other people in America know how big the trees were in that part of California.

General Sherman tree photo by EditorASC (see all photos);
General Sherman tree photo by EditorASC (see all photos)  

They thought—foolishly—that unless they cut down the tree, no one would understand how big it was. They called it the Discovery Tree. After they cut it down and counted its growth rings, they figured out it was 1,244 years old. It measured 24 feet across and the enormous stump still stands in Calaveras Big Tree State Park.

It’s good to know that most of the grove of Sierra redwoods is still there, waiting for visitors to come and learn more about the many levels of life in the redwood forest. Not only are the trees very tall—many 200 to 300 feet tall—but the girth or diameter is enormous, too.

You’ll find another forest of giants in the Mariposa Big Tree Grove near Yosemite National Park, also in California.  In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln moved his attention away from the Civil War long enough to set aside the Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley as a protected reserve.

Continue traveling south and you’ll find two more gargantuan trees—The General Grant, a giant sequoia named for Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant, also the 18th president of the United States, and the General Sherman Tree, both of which the U.S. Geological Survey believes are between 2,100 and  2,200 years old.  They are located in the north grove of the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park.

You can find much more information about the giant trees in this story at the following links:

Back To
YBO Home PageRead more about Quinault at:

Here’s a link to a map of the Valley of the Giants:
And there’s more about the Mariposa Grove here:
Read more about Calaveras Big Tree State Park here:

-- Discovery Tree in Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Photo by John J. O'Brien 28AUG2005

-- General Sherman tree photo by EditorASC (see all photos);

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