Douglas Firs up to 465 Feet tall.

jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers
February 12, 2009

What do scientists make of the old historical claims of Douglas fir trees over 350 feet tall, and even occasionally exceeding 400 feet?

There was a notable Douglas fir tree felled in Lynn Valley, BC in 1902 which was 415 feet tall, and 14 ft 3" in diameter at the cut--fairly well documented by several independent sources. Other giants almost as tall were found in Lynn Valley, and Vancouver.

In 1897, a fir tree was reportedly felled at the Loop Ranch, the forks, (Now Alpenglow farms) Whatcom County, Washington. The tree was 465 ft tall, 33 ft 11 in circumference at the butt (10 ft 10" diam), and 220 feet to the first branch. It scaled 96,345 estimated board feet, and was 480 years old according to the rings.

I find it interesting that there may have been trees as tall as radio masts growing in the foothills of the Cascades. Even if the Whatcom tree's dimensions were exaggerated or confused by 100 feet, we are still left with a 365 ft tree.

Yet, I am beginning to consider that the 465 is indeed a genuine measurement, simply because a volume of 96,345 merchantable feet would require a tree over 400 feet tall with that slender of a trunk (10 ft 10). If the tree were "only" 365 feet tall, 96% of the tree's volume would be considered merchantable, which seems too generous an estimate. But if the tree was indeed 465 feet tall, 76% would be merchantable which correlates with a realistic figure of 96,345 feet. (I figure that the tree would have totaled 127,729 Absolute Board feet).

465 feet places Douglas-fir as tallest tree in the Northern hemisphere. And indeed, other reports of 400 footers abound.

Comments (56)

  • pineresin

    "The Mineral Tree ...."

    What proof is there that the piece on the ground came from the top, rather than being a second trunk starting much lower down? None, I bet. Yet such reiteration (multiple trunks) is common, even normal, in very old conifers.


  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

    loggers .. though perhaps able to measure a tree .... really werent know for their sobriety ... lol ..

    all fish stories get bigger.. the more the alcohol flows ...

    its not like way back when.. they jumped on the mule ... high tailed it to the indian path ... out to the RRoad.. and down to the telegraph office to send word back to the scientists who record such info ..

    i would presume more than one saloon or loggers camp liquor hole was visited ... leading me to believe.. that perhaps the numbers are no better than fish stories ...


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  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    The Mineral tree did indeed give all the evidence of having once stood almost 400 feet before losing its top section. The remaining tree blew down in the wind storm of 1929-1930. It was 225 feet to the original break, and 6 feet in diameter at the break. For the tree to still retain a 6 ft diameter at 225 feet indicates to me a height easily in excess of 350 ft, assuming a healthy crown. I have seen photos of the tree at Mineral, and the top section was laying in front of the tree as recently as 1925, when McArdle (Who was later USFS chief) and Leo Isaac measured the wind blown top.

    I am skeptical about the 465 ft claim, but the details are interesting. If the tree was actually 365 feet, how then did they obtain 96,345 merchantable board feet of lumber from a tree that size and thickness?

    Lumbermen generally discarded a size-able section of the top of the tree, and I assume this tree scaled 96,345 usable board feet, with the top gone.

  • Toronado3800 Zone 6 St Louis

    Mark me down as skeptical. Any links to the pics on the web? I did some googling and just found this.

    Here is a link that might be useful: small website about big douglas firs

  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    The big fir at Mineral was 15.4 feet in average diameter at Breast height as measured by Richard E McArdle in 1924. A section of this giant tree still resides at the Wind River Arboretum.

    Here is a link that might be useful: {{gwi:329161}}

  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    Here's another photo.

    Here is a link that might be useful: {{gwi:329162}}

  • Fledgeling_

    You cannot extrapolate from a broken top because the trees can continue to thicken as long as some laterals are attached. UNLESS it was actually recorded as that tall as an intact tree instead of just guesswork, there is not enough documentation to give this any real weight. Perhaps, probably, there were taller trees of this species back then but historical records that we have are not always accurate. Exaggerations, glossing over inconvenient facts, etc. abound. Not saying this was one of them (though I strongly suspect it is), but historical records are not infallible

  • spruceman

    Many, many years ago I hiked into the Queets River Valley and visited the "Queets Fir." At the time it was listed as the world's largest Doug fir. I was alone, so I took a picture with my coat draped up on the trunk. A spectacular tree, but, as I remember, not outstandingly tall.

    Anyway, I hiked through a lot of Doug fir forest and had some good views with long perspectives over the forest. What struck me at the time was that there were no Doug firs that were outstandingly taller than others in the forest--the forest did not have any outstanding "emergents" rising high above the general canopy. This is just one thing that makes me skeptical that a tree grew somethere that was fully 100 feet or more taller than the maximum height that the Doug firs generally achieve, and most likely something like 150 feet above the general forest canopy.

    I have seen more of a tendency with redwood trees to have some individual trees clearly taller than their neighbors of the same species, but never to the degree claimed for the Douglas fir. I remain a very, very strong skeptic.


  • davidfoster

    I'm not familiar with the Douglas fir, but other than the variables of wind, lightning strikes, and water/gravity, does decay resistant wood play apart in achieving maximum height?

  • radagast

    For more information regarding accurate tree measuring, please visit the website of the Eastern Native Tree Society (ENTS)

    We have lots of information regarding east coast species as well as some on west coast species. There are also plenty of article about accurate tree height measurement methods, historical tree height claims, etc.

  • pineresin

    "What struck me at the time was that there were no Doug firs that were outstandingly taller than others in the forest--the forest did not have any outstanding "emergents" rising high above the general canopy"

    Very valid point. Douglas-fir has quite brittle branches, and readily loses its side branches as soon as it gets up into any exposure above surrounding trees. An emergent would be at a very significant disadvantage.

    Different with Picea sitchensis, where the forest canopy often shows much more variation in tree heights with odd singles sticking well above the rest.


  • Embothrium

    The primary cause of Douglas fir mortality in stands over 250 years old is velvet top fungus (Phaeolus schweinitzii).

    "The pattern of slowed height growth in older stands is common to both Sitka spruce and Douglas fir. While the ultimate height and size of Sitka spruce and Douglas fir are similar, Sitka spruce achieves these dimensions in about half the time"

    --Van Pelt, R. 2007. Identifying Mature and Old Forests in Western Washington. Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Olympia, WA.

  • sam_md

    Douglas Fir Champion - height= 301', location Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park, California
    Coast Redwood Champion - height= 321', location Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park, California
    Above is from the National Register of Big Trees. They use a clinometer to measure for accuracy. They look at other factors before declaring a tree Champion, not just height.
    Use link to search registry.
    (resin, please stop posting measurements in chinese :)

    Here is a link that might be useful: Nat'l Register of Big Trees

  • Embothrium

    American Forests lists trees as National Champions based on their total size, not just their heights. The National Register is not a listing of the tallest examples. The biggest are not always the tallest.

    And they have their own nomination and recognition system that does not necessarily keep up with the most recently discovered examples.

  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    It's true that Douglas fir in similar aged stands do not contain much variation in height, maybe 50 feet. But occasional giants or emergent trees left over from an older forest indeed are to be found among Douglas fir. Since wind is a big factor, a super tall tree is more likely to straddle a valley floor or ridge. The Queets Fir as of 1986 stood 202 feet to a broken top, 6.7 ft in diameter-- With such a diameter at the break, even with thickening, it must have easily exceeded 300 feet.

    Walter Draycott, historian from Lynn Valley BC, recollects that the average fir trees in his district were 4 to 6 feet in diameter and 150 to 250 feet, but giants were sometimes found measuring 11 to 14 feet in diameter and as tall as 352 and 415 feet. Certainly gigantism was not the norm.

    Here is a link that might be useful: {{gwi:329163}}

  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    Here are some of the tallest Douglas fir recorded to my knowledge--But I discover new records looking through archives, and old books all the time, so the collection is likely to expand dramatically:

    300 Oregon City, OR, 1850. Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society pg. 207, 1916.
    300 "Douglas fir trees were cut on the site of the city of Vancouver 300 feet in height and 11 feet in diameter." The Encyclopedia Americana By Scientific American, inc 1903.
    300+ William Clark, March 10, 1806. 39 feet girth, 6 ft above ground, estimated 200 feet to first limbs.
    304 Jedediah Smith Redwoods State park. 13.5 dia
    305 Woss Lake on northern Vancouver Island. 18 ft diam.
    305 NW CA. 2007
    300c. Est. orig. ht of Clatsop Fir, Clatsop, OR. Blown down 1962,-
    200.5 ft to broken top 4.5 ft dia. Breast ht diam 15.48 ft.
    306 W of Roseburg, OR. Esquire-The Wrestless man. 2004
    307. Finnegan's Fir, OR. Blown down 1975. Officially listed at 302 ft.
    309 British Columbia, displayed at International Exhibition. By Aeneas McDonell Dawson Â1881
    311 9 feet diameter.ÂHousing By National Housing Association Published 1935.
    311 9Â4" diam. 50,000 board feet, 434 years old, cut in Washington State, Aug. 16, 1926.
    Spirit of the Lakes by David K Peterson, 2004.
    311 Aberdeen, Wash. 1929 Appleton Post Crescent
    312 Felled in 1886, Georgia St. Vancouver, BC Â [Vancouver Art Gallery] Fir tree measured 13 feet diam at breast height, and 4 feet in diam 200 feet from butt.
    312 "The Hunters & Serjt Pryor informed us that they had Measured a tree on the upper Side of quick Sand River 312 feet long and about 4 feet through at the Stump." The Journals of Lewis and Clark. April 5, 1806.
    315 Skagit River, alluvial bottom.The Washington Forest Reserve by Horace Beemer Ayres, Geological Survey (U.S.) 1899. pg 295.
    315 Coquitlam River watershed at Meech Creek, BC
    318 A fallen fir tree measured by Lewis and Clark, Saturday, April 5th, 1806, not far from fort Vancouver [near Gresham]. Only 3.5 feet diameter. [Possibly Sitka Spruce]
    320+ Est. orig. ht of Red Creek Fir, Vancouver IS, BC. 239 ft to broken top, diameter of broken top 2.95 ft . Diam at breast ht 13.9 ft
    320 Koksilah Giant, British Columbia--blown down 1979 after clearcut.
    320 Olympic Natl Park WA. 16 ft dia
    320 James Irvine Fir -- Prairie Creek State Park/ James Irvine Trail, Cal.
    321 Humboldt Fir -- Prairie Creek State Park, Cal.
    321 Cathcart, Wa. -- The Washington Forest Reserve by Horace Beemer Ayres, Geological Survey (U.S.) 1899. pg. 300
    322 Near Eugene Oregon, NE of Lowell. A 500 yr old grove of Douglas Fir averaging about 300 feet in height. The tallest measured at 322.ÂMoon Oregon, pg 202, by Elizabeth Morris, Mark Morris. 2007
    324 Chehalis, Lewis Co. Wa. Oak Tribune 1934
    324 Wa--900 yr old, Times Recorder, Nov. 1935
    325 Tallest Douglas Fir in Stanley Park, BC, Toppled in 1926.
    325 Skagit Co. Wa. Illabot Creek, 5 miles east of Rockport, 1910. 10 ft diam. Measured as a fallen tree on the property of Henry Martin.
    326 Queets Valley, Washington.
    328 Sedro Woolley, WA 1906. 17 ft diam
    330 According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Technical Bulletin published in October, 1930, there is a standing Douglas Fir near Little Rock, Washington, which is 330 feet in height, with a diameter of approximately 6 feet.
    330+ Est orig. ht of tree, from mast 304 feet tall 28 in diam at butt, 12 in diam at top single Douglas Fir spar used as Radio mast in Portland. Sagas of the Evergreens, By Frank H. Lamb, Published 1938.
    335 - "It may not be generally known that many specimens of fir found on the shores of Puget Sound equal in height the infamous giant Sequoia or "Big tree" of California, for firs have been cut down which were over 325 feet in length from topmost branch to the edge of the cut, not including eight or ten feet of the trunk left standing above the roots."
    "Engineering In The Logging Industry In The American Pacific Northwest" - Cassier's Magazine Vol. XXIX April, 1906 No. 6
    339 Doerner Fir [Brummitt Fir], Coos Co. OR. 11.5 Dia, est. 500-600 yr old. 339 ft to lowest portion of trunk.
    340 -Pe Ell, Wa.
    340+ - Puget Sound, 42 ft around. over 79,218 board feet. Spring of 1904 Mccormick Lumber Co. Lewis Co, WA Sent to St. Louis Exhibition.--The Indian Forester - Page 320
    340-50  A Washington yellow fir tree 7 feet 11 in diameter and 340 feet long  The School Journal, Published 1893 E.L. Kellogg & Co. pg. 85 [This tree was also described as 350 feet in total height: Chicago: Its History and Its Builders--Josiah Seymour Currey, 1918 . pg 78]
    340 6 km N of Cloverdale, BC. Felled by loggers in 1917, Measured by
    Dr Al Carder and father as a boy.
    347 Astoria, Oregon Douglas Fir cut for flagpole 251 feet tall, Panama-Pacific Exposition.-- Pamphlets on Wood Preservation, 1900-1915, University of California.
    348 "Forest Service records a Douglas Fir with a measured height of 380 feet, and I, personally, have seen many over 300, one 348." By Joseph T. Hazard, Pacific Crest Trails from Alaska to Cape Horn--1948, pg. 64
    350 "Tallest Tree in State," 350 ft tall, 16 dia. - Sedro Woolley, Wa. 1902. Darius Kinsey photo collection  Kinsey photographer, 1978 Âpg. 152-153
    350 Many trees, each over 280 feet tall, have been measured about Blaine [Wa]. Others in that vicinity and elsewhere reach to a height of 350 feet.  Forest Leaves  pg. 162 by Pennsylvania Forestry Association, American Forestry Association, 1890.
    350 - "In Skagit County is a forest of Douglas pine and white cedar in which there are many trees reaching 325 feet high, and some of them are fully 350 feet high."
    Forest Leaves - Page 162 by Pennsylvania Forestry Association, 1922.
    350+ "The trees of our forests, owing to the favorable influences referred to, are of rich, dark green foliage, rapid growth to enormous proportions, commonly from 3 to 6 feet in diameter, 350 feet high, sometimes more, and 185 feet to the first limb. This I state from actual measurements from trees prone on the ground." Fifth Biennial Report to the Board of Horticulture  Oregon Board of Horticulture,1898 pg. 545
    350 c. Fir, Westholme, Vancouver Is. BC. Blown down 1913,
    1500 yr old, 16-dia. 180 ft to blown top, and 150 ft to first branch.
    350+ est. orig. Ht of Queets Fir, Queets River, WA. 202 ft to broken top 6.7 ft dia. Breast ht. diameter is 15.9 ft. Over 1,000 years old.
    350 Est. Height. Fir cut down in King Co. Wa measured 9 ft in diameter at the butt, and 4 ft 8 in at the top, 186 ft long, and scaled 64,000 feet of lumber. Â Report By Washington (State). Bureau of Statistics, Agriculture and Immigration, 1896. pg. 33
    350+. a "Douglas Pine" Dr. Forbes measured that was 320 ft to broken branches, and as thick as his waist where the trunk broke. He made out the average Douglas Pine ranged somewhat over 300 feet in height in British Columbia, based on measured trees. Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society Volume VIII, 1863-4.
    350 "On the site of what is now Vancouver city--the present terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway--and in the neighborhood of that town, on Burrard Inlet, was a renowned group of these trees, and "many still standing around the city, are from 250 to 350 feet high and 12 feet in diameter at the base, or about 36 feet in girth," growing so close together that the trees almost seem to touch each other..." - The Wilderness and Its Tenants - By John madden 1897, pg. 168.
    350 "Firstly, it may be said that previous to the year 1885, the place now occupied by this city [Vancouver] was a wilderness of gigantic trees, some of them being fully twelve feet diameter a few feet above the ground, and from 300 to 350 feet in height, all of which had to be cut down and rooted out before a house could be built." - 3800 Miles Across Canada - By John Wilton Cuninghame Haldane 1908, pg 224.
    352 Lynn Valley, N Vancouver BC, Felled in 1907, 9 ft 8 in diameter. 220 feet to lowest branch. This tree contained 16 logs of wood, 16 feet per log. Top 92 feet discarded. Height 352 feet including 4 ft stump. Details are recounted by historian Walter Mackay Draycott of Lynn Valley, BC.
    355 "The tallest tree on record in Canada today is a Douglas fir in Strathcona Park
    on Vancouver Island. It is over 108 m tall." -- Countdown Canada: A conceptual Geography study, By Alderdice, Roy, 1941-, Sled, George, 1941-, Vass, Ben, 1934-Published 1977 Macmillan of Canada
    358 Cloverdale, Surey, BC. Tallest Fir measured by a BC forester.
    Discovered in 1881 by William Shannon, while constructing Hall's Prairie Rd.
    Measured after being Felled, 1,100 yr old. 11.5 ft dia.
    375-400 Est ht. [Astoria, Oregon c. 1846 ] "There was a monstrous fir pine that had been blown up by the roots, and it looked as if it had been down for many years. Some of the boys measured it and reported that it was twelve feet in diameter at the butt and three hundred and thirty feet in length to where it had been sawed off to make a roadway. It was eighteen inches in diameter where it had been sawed off ; so the boys concluded that it must have been about four hundred feet high." -- Burr Osborn, Survivor of Howison Expedition to Oregon, 1846 -- Oregon Historical Quarterly - Page 361 by Oregon Historical Society - Oregon  1913
    380 Nisqually R. Wa, 1899/1900 measured as a fallen tree. Portion of top missing. Measured with steel tape by USFS ranger Edward Tyson Allen, one of the early technically trained foresters who was stationed in Portland, Oregon.
    393 Mineral, Wa. Blown down 1930, 1,020 yr old. 15.4 ft. diam at breast ht. 6 ft. in diameter at 225 ft. Measured by USFS Chief Richard McArdle in 1924 with steel tape and Abney level. Additional 168 ft of blown top measured on the ground and recorded in 1905-1911 by Joe Westover, land engineer from Northern Pacific Railway, and measured again by McArdle and Leo Isaac in 1924-25 at 160 feet. A section of this tree still resides at the Wind River Arboretum, Wa.
    400 "In the typical fir forests, the trees, crowded close together, become very tall, two hundred fifty to four hundred feet high, and sometimes eight to twelve feet in diameter."
    The Pacific Monthly by William Bittle Wells  1903 pg. 345
    400 "The maximum height known is nearly 400 feet; the greatest diameter of the stem is 14 feet. Can be grown very closely, when the stems will attain, according to Drs. Kellogg and Newberry, a height of over 200 feet without a branch." - Select Extra-Tropical Plants Readily Eligable For Industrial Culture Or Naturalization, With Indications Of Their Native Countries And Some Of Their Uses. - Baron Ferd. Von Mueller, 1884 pg. 268
    400 "From the Cascade range to the Pacific, compromising about one-half of Washington Territory, the surface is densely covered with the finest forest growth in the world. Some of the trees, straight as an arrow, are four hundred feet in height, and fourteen feet in diameter near the ground." -- Resources of the Pacific Slope: A Statistical and Descriptive Summary... By John Ross Browne 1869, pg 574
    400 "Here, too, it reaches its greatest dimensions, it being claimed that about the base of Mt. Rainier there are trees [Douglas Fir] over 400 feet in height." The American Naturalist 1899 by American Society of Naturalists, pg. 391
    400 "In its native habitats, the Douglas fir varies considerably in dimensions. In the forests of Washington State it often reaches a height of 250 feet, with a girth of 36 feet. There, trees so high as 300 feet have been seen. These trees are therefore more than twice the height of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square and would even over-shadow the Boston stump. Trees even much loftier than this have been seen, some of them almost reaching the height of the Spire of Salisbury Cathedral which is a little over 400 feet. Specimens have been known to be more than 750 years old." Trees in Britain, By Lionel John Farnham Brimble, Macmillan, 1946 Â pg 98.
    400 c. 1908, "Robert E. Lee" tallest tree of Ravenna Park, Seattle, Wa. Felled in 1926.
    400+ As it lay. Puget Sound, 1876 correspondence from Mr. Sproat to Robert Brown, Book: The countries of the world.
    400. Kerrisdale District, S Vancouver, BC. Felled in 1896. Julius Martin Fromme superintendent of Hastings Mill, says it was the largest Fir ever received by the Mill at almost 400 ft long. Bark up to 16" thick. 13' 8" butt diam.
    400 Logged by MacMillan Export Company, Copper Canyon, Vancouver Island, BC.
    415 Lynn Valley, N. Vancouver B.C. Felled in 1902 by the "Tremblay Brothers" at Argyle Rd off Mountain Highway (Centre Rd) on the property of Alfred John Nye. The felled fir tree measured 410 feet long--still growing, and 5 feet tall at the stump where the diameter was 14 feet 3 inches, and bark 13.5 in thick. Details are recounted in correspondence between historian Walter Mackay Draycott, and Mr. Alfred John Nye, both of who lived contemporaneously in Lynn valley, B.C.
    465 1897 A fir-tree cut down at Loop's Ranch Forks, Whatcom county, Washington, was 465 feet high, 220 feet to the first limb, and 34 feet in circumference at the base and scaled 96345 feet of lumber  The New York Times, Topics of the Times, March 7, 1897, The Overland Monthly, 1900, pg. 329, The Columbia River Empire by Patrick Donan, Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company, 1899, pg. 68, & Meehans' Monthly: A Magazine of Horticulture, Botany and Kindred Subjects Published by Thomas Meehan & Sons, 1897.

  • spruceman

    When I discussed the lack of outstanding emergents in very old virgin stands of Douglas fir, I was not thinking of the special cases where a stand suffered some general destruction except for an occasional surviving older individual. In the summer of 1959 I worked as a choker setter for Weyerhauser at their Millecoma tree farm east of Coos Bay, Oregon. The forest there had suffered a catastrophic fire sometime in the early 1800's (if memory serves me--the date escapes me now), so most of the forest was relatively young, with the largest trees in the 4 to 5 foot diameter range. I won't try to guess the height from this time and distance. And, being a choker setter, the trees had been felled before the logging crews with the choker setters came in. But there were some trees that were not killed by that fire, and an occasional one was left standing after the felling, perhaps with the idea that they could serve as spar trees for the logging rigging. These trees were in the 6 to 8' diameter range, were usually on the lower slopes or the stream bottoms, and were significantly taller than the post-fire growth.

    In those days the "high lead" logging used a different kind of rigging than is common today, with the log landing commonly on the lower ground with road access, with a large yarding engine placed next to the spar tree, at the top of which was a block through which the cables, mainline and haulback, ran. Today much of the logging is done with a portable kind of machine with its own mechanical "spar," and then a motorized carriage runs along a stationary line with chokers hanging from that. Much smaller rigging and chokers, much less complex schemes for moving the logs. For me all the "romance" of the old fashioned logging is gone.


  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    Interesting observation that the older larger trees tended to grow on the lower slopes and stream beds.

  • spruceman


    There are two factors working in areas like those where I worked as a choker setter in Oregon to produce the larger douglas-firs on the lower slopes and near the streams. First, this is often where the richest sites are--more moisture and deeper soils.

    But in this situation I think the main issue was vulnerability to destruction by fire. Often the massive forest fires that occasionally hit that region are most destructive as the fires roar up the slopes and over the ridgetops. All the trees in those areas would be destroyed by massive flames that would consume the crowns of the trees. On the lower portions of the slopes and valley bottoms the "firestorms" might not be so severe, and if a tree has some degree of isolation from other trees, the "crown fire" might not jump into the crowns of all the trees in the more protected locations.

    And another factor is that the larger and stronger Douglasfir trees will have thicker bark, which is fairly fire resistant, affording some protection from damage to the trunk by the ground fires.

    So, not only are the Dougles-fir trees growing in those locations faster and stronger growing, but they are less likely to be destroyed by fire. But, in spite of those factors favoring the survival of the larger Douglas-firs on the lower slopes and valley bottoms/streamsides, the wildifre that raged through the area in the early 1900's destroyed virtually all of the forest, including those larger trees in the more favored locations. The realy large old Doug-firs that survived were very scattered.


  • johnswesselink_msn_com

    Perhaps one of you very knowledgeable folks can tell me if the stumps of any of these large Doug Firs can be viewed here in the 21st century or have they all rotted away long ago? I would love to go and see one. I'm particularly interested in the Whatcom Tree (465) or the Linn Valley Tree (415) as they are both an easy drive from my home. I am giving a nature walk on native trees and shrubs in a couple of months and would like to be able to direct my audience to what is left of any of these monsters. Thanks for any help.

  • mdvaden_of_oregon

    Quote of last post:

    "I am giving a nature walk on native trees and shrubs in a couple of months and would like to be able to direct my audience to what is left of any of these monsters..."

    Not sure if you would be near Crescent City, but there are some very hefty redwood stumps there according to reports.

    We just found a new tallest live-top Douglas fir this week at 322' and there were quite a few large trunks and stumps in the forest. BLM forest east of Roseburg.

  • jstrouse44_yahoo_com

    I believe the Lynn Valley fir was felled in 1902 on the Nye property, but the stump was removed in 1910 for the construction of Argyle Road, near Hastings creek.

    The Whatcom tree stump might still be there, it's worth a look. The current site of Loop's ranch is Alpenglow Farms.

    It is rumored that a cross section of the Mineral fir (estimated at almost 400 feet tall) can still be seen at the Wind river Arboretum. The tree was 15 feet thick.

    It's worth checking out.

  • j50wells

    Good post Jimmy. My granpa was a logger for fifty years down on the south coast near Brookings. In the 1930's and 1940's they did alot of logging in that area. He told me there was alot of Redwood, but not as tall as the one's in California. He did mention that occassionally they would find a Douglas fir that was well over 300' tall. I don't doubt that some of them pushed close to 400'. My grandpa was a very honest man and would tell some great stories about logging. Sometimes he would mix facts up but he would always back up and say , "oops, that's not the way it was, here's what really happened." He was not a liar or the type that would exaggerate, so I believe that he did fall some trees in the 350 to 400 foot range.

  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers


    Thanks for that wonderful information! 350 -400 feet, that's the size a lot of the old reports indicate they reached in the most favorable valleys. I had one guy in this forum tell me his father felled a 480 footer in the black hills, Washingtin, he said the tree was growing in a valley well protected from wind, and was 12' diameter. I take these claims very seriously.

    I am collecting anecdotes testimonies, from old loggers and foresters. Back last September Ron Judd from the Seattle Times, and I contacted the current land owner on the old Loop Homestead near Mt Baker, sadly the Nooksack giant stump has washed away. That was where a fir was cut down which measured 465 ft, 11 ft across the butt, and 220' to first branch. A news article ran in the Seattle Times last September which included a photo of the tree from 1897 with a placard describing the size of the tree. A lot of the forest along the Nooksack river and Deming trail up near Mt. Baker had vast forests of standing fir timber 360 ft tall, 50 feet apart.

    Seattle, Vancouver BC, and Olympia had trees 350 -400 ft tall, and a few that were even taller than that. The scientific estimates of max. Douglas fir tree height range from between 350 - 476 ft, 476 being the absolute max. theoretical limit under favorable conditions (Domec et al, 2008).

    Last year I also got a report from the Pacific North west range Experiment Station, in Portland (where I reside) written by Edward Tyson Allen a forester in 1900. He mentions the average Douglas fir in the cascade foothills of Washington State were 300 ft, some being 350 ft and 15 ft thick. The tallest he himself measured was 380 feet.
    In a separate letter, in 1924 he mentions that this 380 footer was a fallen tree near the Nisqually river, a small section of the top missing -- indicating it may have been taller yet. I have compiled about 120 such accounts in a file.

    I think Douglas fir will easily grow 300, some times topping out at 350 -400, with occasional freaks squeezing past 400 feet-- basically 3/4 as tall as the space needle.
    These are my conclusions anyways.

  • David LaRue

    The tallest known living tree on Earth is a Redwood treee named named Hyperion, is 379.1 ft tall.

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  • Embothrium

    Gymnosperm Database account. For full listing of big examples see Database page linked to below.


    Trees to 90(100) m; trunk to 440 cm diam....

    ....The Brummit Fir: Height 99.4 m, dbh 354 cm, on E. Fork Brummit Creek in Coos County, Oregon; in 1998 (Robert Van Pelt e-mail 1998.04.21). This is the tallest known tree in the family Pinaceae. However, the top of the Brummit Fir has been dead for many years; the tallest living foliage on a Douglas-fir is found on a tree 96.6 m tall in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California (Robert Van Pelt pers. comm. 2005.07.28)....

    ....Historical records identify much larger and taller trees. Such records are always subject to question, but some were collected by professional foresters and scientists and are likely quite reliable. For example, a tree near Mineral, Washington was measured at 68.6 m (225 feet) tall in 1924, at which time its top, which had broken off many years before and was on the ground, was measured at 48.8 m (160 feet), indicating a total height of at least 117.3 m (385 feet). This tree was 469 cm (15.4 feet) dbh. It was blown down in 1930 and a section of it can be seen at the Wind River Arboretum in Carson, Washington (Carder 1995). The measurements were made by Richard McCardle and Leo Isaac, both highly qualified and widely published forest scientists of the day....


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  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    David LaRue & Embothrium,

    Yep, Hyperion is approx. 379.5 feet tall, above average ground level and 386 feet tall at the lowest end of the trunk. M.D. Vaden has some great info here: http://www.mdvaden.com/redwood_hyperion.shtml

    That's getting pretty close to 400 feet! Apparently since 2013 some more discoveries have been made but kept secret among the top academics and private tree discoverers. It appears new record redwoods have been found in Southern Oregon and N. California. So there is chance a taller redwood than Hyperion may still exist, as LiDAR apparently does not always catch some of the tallest trees which still need to be measured with lasers on the ground for verification.

    In 2011, over a dozen new giant Douglas fir were confirmed by a team of researchers in S. Oregon. Trees 302 to 322.8 feet tall: http://www.mdvaden.com/douglas_fir.shtml

    Since 2007, I have collected approx. 220 references of historic Douglas fir exceeding 300 ft, based on felled measurements, timber cruiser records, or estimates of standing height by triangulation printed in journals, newspapers, books etc. https://rephaim23.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/tallest-douglas-fir-and-redwood-in-america/

    Piggybacking on the research of the late great Dr. Al Carder, and others, I believe photographic evidence and compelling documentary evidence does suggest there were indeed more Douglas fir in the 300 to 400 foot tall range, a century ago, than exist at present. The Mineral tree is indeed the best documented coastal giant Douglas fir, as Carder writes in his 1995 & 2005 books, this monster tree was measured by at least 4 or 5 individuals, and survey parties. 1905 measurements made by a civil engineer Joe Westover indicated a standing snag of 230 feet, with a blown downed top he recorded at 6 ft diameter and 168 feet long, on the ground, as relayed to Carder by a local resident of the town of Mineral. Dr. Richard McArdle measured the standing snag at 225 feet with abney level and steel tape in 1924, 15.4 feet diameter. Apparently in 1929 the whole tree blew down in a winter wind storm and Jesse Hurd, a local lumberman measured the whole to be 385 feet, including a 160 foot blown top. Leo Isaac a forester, and his students also apparently confirmed these measurements in the 1930's. At least a dozen photos exist of the tree, so it is fairly well substantiated. The height estimate of the tree before losing its top, ranged from 398 to 385 feet, using Westover's estimate or Isaac, McArdle, and Hurd's numbers, but the best substantial record for an approx. 400 foot Doug fir tree so far. Another tree of 380 feet was recorded by E.T. Allen, and I have read his original unpublished manuscript from the PNW Range & Experiment station in Portland, dated 1899 or 1900. His survey mentioned 380 ft being the authentic maximum for Douglas fir, but that whole forests of Douglas fir attained 300 feet high, 5-6 feet diameter, and trees 8 to 12 ft diameter were not uncommon, with occasional 15 ft diameter 350 feet tall giants being found.

    In 2011, Ron Judd of the Seattle Times contacted me and wrote a story about a 465 ft Douglas fir I had uncovered in Newspaper archives in 2009 (and posted on this forum). He located a photo of the tree's cross section from the Whatcom co. museum, and contacted the property owner who knew of the tree's stump which sadly had been destroyed by the flooding Nooksack river. The story is intriguing, as 415 feet was the tallest fir Dr. Al Carder had found to be credible. Carder was skeptical of the 465 foot report, as he didn't seem to think it was credible. I respect his opinion, and have tried to find any more info that would confirm or refute the size of the alleged tree. As of yet I don't know what to make of it entirely, other than I do believe a record size tree was felled, and the prime board feet that was yielded from the tree (some 96,345 feet) of number 1 grade high end wood, is the type that lumbermen would have cut from below the first branches, fine grain and free from knots. This tree was said to have been 220 ft to the first branch, and if my calculations using the scribner log scale, and volumetric extrapolations are approximately correct, that level of board feet could be obtained from 220 feet, if cut into five 40 foot logs + a 20 footer, or seven 32 foot logs, if the tree were about 11 feet diameter excluding bark at the butt, and 6-1/4 feet diameter at the top end of the log... I would estimate that if the tree were perfectly straight, with little taper, that sort of diameter at 220 ft above ground would indicate an approx. 400 foot or better tree height. 300-350 foot tall, 11 ft diameter historic fir trees, have given up 30,000 to 60,000 board feet. 96,000 is almost twice that. On top of that, a 2008 study by OSU, Domec et al, indicated the maximum likely height for Douglas fir was something between 109-145 meters, 357 to 475 feet, which in theory, leaves room for the possibility of the Nooksack tree. Standing Douglas fir tree's 350 to 400 feet tall 9 to 14 feet diameter were sighted and estimated by timber cruisers in the 1890's olong the south fork of the Nooksack river, below the town of Nooksack. Heights such as these taken with crude instruments, using triangulation can achieve 95% accuracy or better in predicting standing height in tall straight trunked conifers, if the measurement is carefully conducted. Felled lengths of trees measured with steel tape or measuring sticks, usually closely approximate standing height, perhaps some 5 or 10 feet or so could inflate the height of a tree which leans, or branches spread out when hitting the ground, but quite a body of anecdotes do exist for Douglas fir in the 300 to 350 ft range, with a lesser but still significant amount in the 350 to 400 feet category. As late as the 1950's reports of felled 350 foot trees were occasionally still printed in newspapers, in parts of the cascades, Olympics and Vancouver Island. As much as 95% of Old growth redwood may have been logged in N. California, and a similar percentage has been estimated to have been removed of old growth Douglas fir in southern B.C, much of the Puget Sound and I-5 corridor, where most of the historic lowland giants grew - So we may never know how tall the biggest truly were, but reading from early survey reports such as E T Allen's, it appears the Douglas fir was very much an equal to the redwood in stature at one time. The wood is in all respects superior building material to the Sequoias and redwoods, so I am not shocked that the tallest and most productive stands were long ago taken out.

  • johnrsayshello

    Here in Seattle we had 400 footers in Ravenna Park that was visited by Teddy Roosevelt, but which the city felled for lumber. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravenna_Park. It would be a national monument if the trees had been allowed to stand as they would be the tallest in the world by a long shot. The Mineral Tree at Mt Rainier fell on it's on early in the last century and it was 390ft, way taller than any redwood. https://www.facebook.com/mtsgreenway/posts/10152162268998400 11They were the unbeatable height champions before greedy loggers felled all the big ones. What we are left with is a shadow of what existed in the past. A 425 footer was felled in North Vancouver and the Nooksack Fir at 465 feet has lots of credence. I think young Douglas Fir are ugly, but the oldest are the most beautiful of the giant trees. An interesting point is that that the Giant Sequoia has been determined to have an optimal height of 450 feet if it were grown in the Coast Mountains instead of the Sierra, where lightning wrecks havoc on it's thrust into the sky. Even without loggers the Doug Firs are vulnerable. We had a great old growth stand in Seattle 30 years ago, but about 25 years ago an ice storm downed almost all of the biggest trees. We must preserve our forest giants.

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  • krnuttle

    What is being missed in this discussion is the fact that what we see to day in most areas is second and third growth forest. We have no way of knowing what a tree in a forest growing in idea condition will do.

    Prior to the arrival of man in the early 1800's these trees had been grow in untouched forest for thousands of years. Yes the Indians were there and yes there were forest fires before the 1800's, but they would not have clear cut as we have done after 1800.

    Growing for hundreds of years, in a forest that has not been modified in a thousand years, we can only accept what those who were there, tell us. They were as smart as we are.

    Like the weather we basically have a couple hundred years of records, that can not be used to predict what conditions were like 400, 1000, or 2000 years ago. At one point in time it was "known" that there were no Europeans in America before Columbus, we all know what happened to that "knowledge".

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  • parker25mv

    It's my understanding that Douglas Fir can potentially get taller than Coastal Redwoods, but that may have more to do with what climate it is growing in (you go further North and it tends to be more wet). On average though, Coastal Redwoods are taller than Coastal Douglas Fir.

    Douglas Fir is better adapted to tolerate periods of cold and snow that are found further North (even if the freeze only lasts 2 weeks). The tallest Douglas Firs are found in the drenching wet coastal valleys of British Columbia, where winter temperatures do not go down that low.

    I've seen old growth strands of Douglas Fir in areas that were never logged and they are not quite as tall (or as big) as old growth Redwoods.

    I believe that, in the most optimal growing areas, the tallest Douglas Firs reached the same heights as the tallest Redwoods. Unfortunately all these optimal growing regions have been logged, because they had easy access to the coast. These top optimal growing areas I'm describing here had a limited area, more limited than the optimal growing area for behemoth redwoods in Northern California, and that's probably the reason none of the really big Firs survived.

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  • Embothrium

    The area around Coos Bay is considered to be the prime natural habitat for Coast Douglas Fir.

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  • parker25mv

    I mean there are only certain specific climate pockets that a Douglas Fir could grow to be as tall as a Redwood. These do not cover most of the range where Douglas Firs grow, even prime natural habitat. I don't think you'll find these places south of the Columbia River. Maybe some spots along the western side of the Olympic peninsula, right up against the base of the mountains, as the southernmost extent. Just to reiterate, I'm not talking about places where Firs can grow big, I'm talking about places where the Firs could grow as big as the largest coastal redwoods if given the chance to grow for hundreds of years undisturbed.

    Along the Northwest coast there's kind of a trade-off between wetness and mild winter temperatures. The "sweet spot" is probably around the southern third of Vancouver Island and the area right around the city of Vancouver, which has the very best optimal conditions for Douglas Fir to reach its greatest possible heights. Well of course it's no surprise there's not very many old growth Douglas Firs around Vancouver, with all the settlement that took place in that area. And much of Vancouver Island was logged, although there's still Cathedral Grove, which can give us some idea of what the Douglas Firs in the vast tracts of old growth forest used to look like.

    Now to elaborate just a little more on what I mean by wetness, I believe to attain the very maximum possible heights, growing in cooler climates farther north is more conducive because the cooler temperatures mean there is less evaporation during the drier summer months. This also means it is easier for everything to stay wet (although that can also make the Firs more susceptible to fungal disease). Even Redwoods (in their prime habitat) can get a little water stressed in the summer.

    Let's also not forget that Coastal Douglas Fir is a succession tree, and in the final stage of ecological succession in an old growth forest that has been left undisturbed there are no Douglas Firs left. Of course there are many things that could knock down trees and make way for Douglas Fir to grow: fire, disease, hurricane force winds, mudslides, volcanic eruptions, to name a few. This is probably the reason Douglas Firs grow so particularly tall, because once they have attained their peak ecological position in the forest they want to maintain their dominance over the other tree species for as long as possible and receive maximum light. At that point height is their only advantage over the other trees, until they slowly begin to die off of old age, or disease brought about by rising humidity levels and the complete block out of light from the forest floor.

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  • johnrsayshello

    The Nooksack Fir, which is the tallest tree ever, from what we can tell, was not in BC, but east of Bellingham, WA. More than likely it grew in the situation similar to the almost 400 foot giants we once had in Seattle's Ravenna Park, which beat any redwood known in height... namely, near a stream and protected by a deep valley from winds that can topple the shallow rooted Douglas Firs. Another factor one must consider is that if the trees could grow taller than the tallest redwoods in Seattle, then the rainfall need not to have been excessive as we get less than 40" a year, though it seems like 80 this year!

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  • parker25mv

    quote by Spruceman:

    " I don't believe that any Douglas fir trees have come anywhere close to the figures quoted. There are lots of large old trees in virgin stands. How is it that some few trees that no one alive has accurately measured can have been taller than any of these by such a very, very wide margin? I have heard similar kinds of claims for the gum trees in Australia. "

    Have you heard of the effects of deforestation? The logging of surrounding forest probably decreased humidity levels, making it more difficult for trees in remaining forest to grow as tall. The vast Amazon rainforest, as an example, has a humidity effect that stretches for thousands of miles, and permits the existence of cloud forest biomes deep within the continent.

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  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    I may email Ron Judd again and see if he wants to write another piece in the Seattle Times about our Big Trees. I've found some more references to these big Doug firs in recent years, mostly old reports from that 1880 - 1920 range.

    Some of the Biggest indeed were growing in river valleys, and lower elevation stands - conditions where we just don't see any such grand forests anywhere except for 2 hours drive into the cascade mountains or maybe coastal areas deep in the Olympic peninsula (which is likely a last bastion for some of these hidden unexplored 300 foot + giants).

    One or more interesting recent (2015-2016) discoveries I made in the archives, was a party of surveyors around Sumas, Washington in 1891-92, looking for big record trees for the World's Fair Commission. A cluster of fine Douglas fir were computed by means of triangulation, at staggering heights of 350 and perhaps 400 feet high, 200 feet and more to first limb, and 9 to 14 feet diameter. Interestingly, the taller one, computed at 400 feet, 200 to first branch, was no more than 9-1/2 feet diam. Often that is the case with these super tall ones, where they have extreme slenderness of limb, and the most valuable knot free wood - an historic wood worker's dream. These trees were located along the Nooksack river, near Licking station, near the village of Nooksack. This was on the south fork of Nooksack, whereas the greater known reported tree, 465 feet in height, felled in 1896, was on the north fork of Nooksack, and approx. 550 feet above sea level - east of Bellingham, and surrounded by hills,, situated in a valley just about where the town of Maple Falls, is located.

    I tallied up about 150 of these historic narratives, and the mean-average stature of an historic giant Dougie was about 325-350 feet, and 11 ft diameter, but the average altitude they grew at was ~ 500 to 600 feet above sea level.. usually like 90% of the time in a deep ravine, gulch, or valley with a brook, creek, or big river within some yards of the tree's lush root system- just like Seattle's Ravenna Park for instance. These monsters were well nurtured! Many however, grew right at the water's edge in Puget sound, and were virtually at sea level or within 100 feet above sea level- in districts which are today hamlets, farm lands, and the Interstate-5 highway system. Such places as Mt. Vernon, Sedro Woolley, and etc. are now lush fertile farming communities with rich produce, and yet a century and more ago were marsh lands, and dense forests of extremely big trees. Some of the reports from Civil engineers, reveal that monster Dougs 16 and 18 feet at DBH were felled at Conway, Arlington, Mt. Vernon, Sedro Woolley, Lake McMurray, Lake Cavanaugh etc., primordial entities that often reached in excess of 300 to 350 feet of stature. Ring counts of some 1,200 and 1,400 and more years were revealed in these size of fir stumps - showing just how ancient the species may get in exceptionally good sites, if left alone.

    Part of the interesting discovery also is just how big the trees were growing in Portland, Oregon as well. Heights of 300 - 330 feet were recorded for fallen trees in and around Oregon city, Lacamas river, near Vancouver, Wa., but also a report of a 300 feet giant at Happy Valley, Mt. Scott - just outside of SE. Portand, as late as 1912.

    Some of these giant forms still exist just east of Portland, 15 miles away at Oxbow Regional Park, reaching altitudes of 280-290 feet, and 8 ft or more diameter. Darvel and Darryl Lloyd, expert big tree photographers/researchers & outdoorsmen, showed me and brought to my attention some of the last remaining of these giants in the Columbia gorge. There are likely to be a number of hidden giants in more remote corners of N. Oregon, and Washington, but alas, the vast majority of the biggins have fallen by the axe, and written notes from old surveys, and the occasional newspaper story, old postcard photos etc. are all we have to remember the bygone giants. But I'd like to imagine these low elevation old growth havens may again return in coming centuries...yet with sprawling metropolitan areas, it seems doubtful.

  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    And there is documentary evidence of coast redwood, and a form of Eucalyptus (E. Regnans) achieving heights in excess of 350 to 400 feet, and even reports of 430-450 feet and greater exist for these trees, although further confirmation and authentic documentation is needed. The surprise for me, is the abundant nature of reports of extra tall Douglas fir trees, their height so regularly extraordinary, it was practically taken for granted 100 years ago, when we read survey reports such as Allen 1899 etc. where whole overstory canopies averaged about 300 feet in some coast forests. Allen concludes in his survey, that the Redwood and Douglas fir were essentially tied for stature. fast forward 100 years, and only the Coast redwoods now sport the tallest trees on earth. It is an artificial byproduct of logging, that the tallest trees are now restricted to small protected parks of coastal California, considering the huge historic range of Douglas fir... It reveals just how precise and completely, the lowland giant firs were decimated, for one, being their greater quality wood in all manner of building and fabrications, to the inferior and less elastic redwood.

  • johnrsayshello

    Have you heard of any Douglas fir trees that exceed 15 feet in diameter? That seems to be the upper limit from what I have been reading.

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  • johnrsayshello

    I've never seen a discussion about historic Heights for Sitka spruce. I have a feeling there might be some that approach the height of tallest redwoods today from the historical record . they tend not to be as old as Douglas fir but they grow very very fast. They do grow in Puget Sound but I believe the biggest would probably be near the Pacific Ocean. Also, has anybody seen any mention of any Western red cedar from the historic records that were significantly larger than the ones we see today?

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  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    That's a great question. The historic height data on Sitka Spruce is kind of sparse... I do have several reports over 300 feet, one story of a nearly 400 foot Spruce that was 20 feet diameter up in the Olympic coast, I think it was a Timber journal from 1918-1920. Probably a rough height estimate, but they did get in that 18 to 22 ft diameter range on occasion. There was a report of a 285 feet Western Red Cedar at the Mortimer Cook place, in Bug (the name of the later known town of Sedro Woolley, because of the insects and misquitos of the marshes which surrounded the the area at the time) and a record of a 310 foot Cedar at Port Moody in B.C. Yes, there were a number of Douglas fir that reached over 15 feet of diameter, The Mineral tree which once stood an estimated 393 ft, was 15.4 at diameter, but large chunks of bark had been stripped off by tourists, who carved their initials in the bark, and the late Dr. Carder assumed it likely exceeded 16 ft DBH at one time! The Clatsop fir, in Oregon was once nearly 16 feet in diameter, and a number of monster firs were measured in the Skagit flats area, like around Mt Vernon, Woolley, Arlington, and at Conway stood the grand daddy of the Douglas fir race, an approx. 18 feet diameter giant. There's a photo from Darius Kinsey's collection, of a 16 feet wide fir tree, 350 feet tall which was cut in May of 1902, some couple of miles from Sedro-Woolley, in Skagit Valley, and report of a 17 ft diameter 328 ft felled fir at or near the town site of Sedro-Woolley in 1905-1910. Civil engineer, Albert Mosier was quoted in a paper, regarding the size of trees the lumber interests removed at the future town site of Woolley, 16-18 ft diameter trees, 300 feet tall. The best credible data places the widest of the Douglas firs, at about 17 and 18 feet. The Sitka Spruce and Western Red Cedars did occasionally surpass 20 feet, even probably 22-25 ft, at their DBH on occasion.

  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    298 ft Sitka Spruce, Olympic National Park. (old record from 1968)

    Carmanah Giant, 315 ft Sitka Spruce, British Columbia.

    Ravens Tower, Sitka Spruce, 317 ft. 96.7 meters, Redwoods State Park discovered in 2001.

    In 1918 a “Spruce” tree 20 feet in diameter and near 400 feet tall was reported near Lake Pleasant Sawmill in Washington. – Monthly Bulletin, Volumes 1-2 By Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen, 1918 Pg 17.

  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    The Gods Valley Spruce, near Nehalem, Oregon may once have stood 300 feet tall, but by 1903 was a burnt and decayed snag, still about 25 feet in diameter. These monster Spruce trees I believe, may have reached the height of todays Redwoods, and almost as tall as the historic firs; They certainly almost rivaled the diameter of the biggest redwoods, although the boles of their trunks tapered rapidly, so that the Redwoods and Sequoias had much greater volumetrics.

  • johnrsayshello

    Do any of you remember Schmitz Park in Seattle 25 years ago. The park is still nice with some decent size old growth, but back then the park was really spectacular with trees up to 225 feet in height and many over 6' in diameter. You felt like you were up in the Cascades in an old growth forest. Unfortunately an ice storm, not the axe, felled the majority of the biggest trees. I wish I had taken photos.It was a heartbreak similar to the wind storm that destroyed about a third of Stanley Park in Vancouver. There is a tree over 8' in diameter and over 200 ft tall in Pt. Defiance Park but I've not been able to locate any other big trees in that park.

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  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    Wow, I was unfamiliar with the size of trees from Schmitz Park. What a loss! I believe Arthur Jacobson, renown tree expert from Seattle, has recorded the size of the fallen giants at O. O. Denny Park, near Seattle. The Biggest of those old giants met a similar fate in the windstorm of 2004 or 2005? The largest was 8-1/2 feet in diameter and 255 feet tall! Jacobson informed me that there is still standing in the park one or more giant Doug firs, 230 feet high or thereabouts, and I have confirmed this tree with Google 3D measurements - I got a preliminary measurement of 252 feet, but the steep terrain may have added some ten feet or more to the tree height. So, I will trust Arthur Jacobson's measurements using laser and clinometer from a decade ago. But I suppose there could be a 230-240 foot tree in that park even yet.

    The wind storms also took out some of the last giants in Vancouver's Stanley Park. There were records of fir trees 250 to 325 feet tall in Stanley Park around 1880-1920's, and 8 to 10 feet in diameter. These are almost all gone, or the tops long since decapitated in the wind storms. Ira Sutherland runs a blog page about the big trees of Vancouver, and has excellent information on his discoveries of the tallest specimen, using LiDAR, Google Earth 3D, and ground based laser measurements.

    As it stands to date, Portland, Oregon has the tallest singular tree within any city limits of a major North American city, for which I am aware of. At Macleay Park, in the Forest Park of Portland's West Hills, clusters of original 250 to 400 year old giant firs still stand, some reaching 225 to 250 feet of height, the tallest one was actually tape dropped and climbed by an arborist in 1997, and found to be 242 feet tall, but recent LiDAR data from 2014 revealed the giant tree is now about 252 feet high, with a healthy growing top. I have visited and measured the tree in person in 2008 through 2011, and it is a fine specimen, six feet in diameter and of superb proportions - probably 300 or 400 years old.

  • spruceman

    Fellow tall tree lovers:

    Let me quote this entry from way back in 2009

    radagast(US east coast)

    "For more information regarding accurate tree measuring, please visit the website of the Eastern Native Tree Society (ENTS)

    We have lots of information regarding east coast species as well as some on west coast species. There are also plenty of article about accurate tree height measurement methods, historical tree height claims, etc."

    The work of the Native Tree Society on tree measurement is outstanding, if not "revolutionary." The common measuring technique "of the past" ( I hope it is really "of the past") is what can be called the "tangent method." This involves measuring the distance to the base of the tree from the "observer," and then taking a clinometer reading from the same point to measure the angle to the top. If the ground is not level, a similar measurement of the angle to the bottom must be made, and another tangent calculation. Then addition, or subtraction.

    The NTS has checked some of the height measurements of the trees listed by the American Forests in the past as national champion trees, and has found errors of as much as 30% or more in those measured by the tangent method. The reason for the errors is not simply errors in the use of the "equipment," but in the fundamental assumption behind the calculations. This tangent calculation assumes that there is a right angle created by the "facts" of the observation, but this is often not the case--in fact, it is virtually never the case exactly. There are two reasons for this. First, IF the actual top of the tree is sighted, it is most likely not directly above the base, as must be assumed if any tangent calculation is used. If it is close to being directly above the base, the measurement will be fairly accurate. Second, and this may result in more serious errors sometimes, what is sighted as the top, may not actually be the top, but some foliage/branch that is closer to the observer than the actual top. This error also in all probability "messes up" any assumed right triangle required for any tangent calculation.

    The most basic method supported by NTS can be called "sine top, sine bottom." This involves the use of a laser range finder and a clinometer. I start by reading the distance to the top, and then reading the angle to the top, and then doing a sine calculation. Then I repeat, reading the distance to the base, then the angle to the base, and then another sine calculation, adding or subtracting the results as needed.

    This method can fail to give the correct height of a tree ONLY if the actual highest point of the tree is not sighted. As for the right triangle needed for the calculation, it is always present as a mathematical certainty--it is embedded in the basic assumption that the sine calculation is based on. In other words, if the distance and the angle are read along the same line from the same point, the right triangle is assumed in the sine calculation. No error in this regard is possible. If what is sighted is not actually the top, but a part of the foliage that is closer than it would be if it were directly above the base, the error will give a result somewhat less than the actual height of the tree, not significantly more as is usually the case with the tangent method. The sine method will give an accurate reading, always, of the height of what is sighted above the level the observer is standing on.

    The NTS Website contains the most detailed description of this most basic sine top, sine bottom method, along with other methods of measuring tree heights, explaining the pros and cons of each. The Wikipedia article on tree measurement is a very good brief summary, giving the "essentials."


    jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers thanked spruceman
  • johnrsayshello

    I think the largest tree remaining in Seattle is a redwood in Madrona park that is around 9' in diameter with a slow taper and about 150 feet tall. To me it is more impressive than the largest fir in Seward Park. Gosh, redwoods grow fast.

    jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers thanked johnrsayshello
  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers


    I fully agree that the SINE method used by the Native Tree Society, is the world class standard method. Antique approximations using tangent method, especially on wide branching deciduous trees, indeed can often lead to errors of as high as 10% or more.

    However, I tested the tangent method in comparison to the SINE method, using laser range finder and clinometer, with LiDAR returns and SINE results as a proxy, on certain trees in relatively flat terrains (I've probably measured 75 Doug firs with instrumentation). I actually found that when I properly employed a tape measure, and inclinometer (attempting to emulate old fashioned survey methods) using triangulation, on Douglas fir trees ranging from 100 to 275 feet in height, I generally got 95 to 99% agreement with SINE method derived heights, and or LiDAR returns.

    If anything, this tended to restore some amount of faith in the accuracy of the tangent method for me...I wasn't seeing below 90% accuracy at all on straight, non-leaning, tall conifers. Now, on occasion, if I didn't correct for slope, and altitude where I was taking the measurement I could see where error can happen, but if carefully conducted, and measured by a qualified surveyor, lumberman or civil engineer, I tend to trust many of these old measurements with a fair degree of accuracy. I'm not seeing 30 percent inaccuracies, bottom line.

    Furthermore, when trees were felled, and measured on the ground, the hired buckers of a lumber group had to cut the merchantable trunk into precise lengths, often allowing 4 or 6 inches of extra, in case the mill men were to cut short. The upper half or third of the tree could split (as is the case with Douglas fir often with old brittle wind snapped tops) into fragments, but if felled neatly, a very good approximation of height could easily be derived, within a few percent certainly of standing height. I actually put even higher confidence in these old prostrate measurements, as often they give diameters along the trunk, at different length, so that volumetric approximations and taper can be calculated / and hence height of tree.

    Even if we go conservative, and allow for 5 or 10, even 15 percent of room for error in these old survey measurements on standing fir trees 100 years ago, that still leaves us with a lot of 300 - 350, and some approx. 400 feet trees.

  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    And the more stunning, that these trees were growing at what are today urban areas, asphalt and highways - generally in sub 600 foot altitudes. Enough fir tree stumps, 7, or 8 and more feet diameter dot the Puget sound, and old photos of them being felled etc. certainly complements the historical records of their once lofty stature. Trees 200 to 250 feet were common sight in these old growth havens, and the 300 feet or taller specimens were always exceptional stands, as a rule. But there clearly were a lot more of them in the past than we see today, just taking a cursory reflection from what was written down..

  • HU-817522291

    An example of taller firs growing near shorter firs however I suspect the tree line was higher before 90% of the giants were cut down as seen by this pic of Picnic Point Grove, Wa

  • Embothrium

    Out of control man caused fires like are happening in the Amazon this week were a feature of the pioneer period in the Pacific Northwest, in addition to felling and clearing - the prevalence of large trees in this region was quite a hardship for settlers trying to make farms. However it should also be noted that period photos taken in the Seattle area for instance often show the existing stands during the time of initial clearing to consist of comparatively small trees not much different from what is seen today - fire has been a significant factor even in what is now Pugetopolis for a very long time.

  • jimmys_2008 Micah Ewers

    Precisely, it was never just a big forest of all old growth monster firs. There is a wide view of opinions regarding just what percent pre-settlement N.W. was old growth, v.s. young and mature, trees. Some areas in the best sites were dominated by really old giants, but Those giant stands were generally exceptional ones. Just that most of the biggest of the big lowland ones have been long cut, some estimates like 80-99% gone on the best sites, since the logging boom era. That aside, https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/592733v3.full this is one of several studies showing that the boundary marker trees in GLO survey in Puget sound show the average firs were around 18 inches diameter, 1.5 feet! The mammoth 6 to 12 feet diameter and up, were the goliath rarities. 18 inches could be about a 75-100 tall fir tree perhaps. Yet, reading some of the survey reports of early lumbermen, and foresters like Allen, McArdle, etc. there were havens where big trees averaged 5- 8 feet diameter, 250-300 feet tall, and some times 350-foot monsters 12-foot across were reported, or in the report Allen eludes to, authentic maximum of 380 feet, and up to 15 feet diam. Walter Draycott records than in lower Lynn Valley B.C., most of the firs were 3 to 5 feet diameter, and 150 feet tall, but some areas had 6-9 feet giants 250 feet tall, and the biggest reports from lumbermen were of 10, 11, 9 ft 8, and 14 ft 3 inch fir trees, up to 352 and 415 feet in length being the tallest 2nd hand accounts. In any case, I think the forests in the pre-settlement period were indeed of different ages, with a predominance of mature or young trees similar to our second growth today, but with a much larger presence of old growth over-story giants, which few today exist in the lowlands, at least in the same numbers and sizes as recorded in some of the more extreme lumber records and old time post card photos.

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