Residual Old Growth

Big Trees of the Freshwater Creek Drainage, Humboldt County

Old-growth forests are forests that have developed over long periods of time, without experiencing severe, stand-replacing disturbance—a fire, windstorm, or logging. Within the redwood forest belt, of the estimated 1.6 million acres of redwood forest remaining, only 7% is old growth. The remaining 93% is considered some level of second growth. Around Humboldt Bay where we live that number is approaching 99%. The old-growth trees that do remain are often mixed within the second growth forests. Most often, an old tree was left behind by loggers because of imperfections like broken tops or less than optimal heartwood. This post explores some of the residual old growth in my neighborhood.

Big trees create a sense of awe by way of scale and there is none granderthan that created by standing next to an old redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) or giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). These two closely related species hold records for both the tallest (redwood) and most massive (sequoia) trees on Earth. .

We were kick-started into the big tree measuring pastime by Dr. Matt Ritter. He leads the California Big Tree Registry at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In the process of taking over the position he reached out to let me know that several record trees in our area needed to be remeasured due to the 10 year rule. In addition, he made us aware of several species that had no state record, including Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis). For my son Sylas and I, the mission was set. Not only does this get us outside and hiking but using math as well. I was so inspired by this activity that I am now measuring trees with students across Humboldt County using this CLASSROOM ACTIVITY.

residual old growth
Map of the Freshwater Creek Drainage and some of the residual old-growth we have visited and measured.

We are lucky in another way as well. Adjacent to our property is a small 10 acre forest of mature second growth. This, according to Save the Redwoods League, is the rarest of classifications within the redwoods. This is because most second growth has been logged multiple times. Only 2% of the redwood forest was logged only once. What follows is documentation of some of the exceptional trees we have discovered so far. There are many more out there for us to find!

Residual Redwoods

Jeary Tree

432 inch circumference
75 spread 
165 feet tall
615 AF Points

This tree, along Greenwood Heights Drive, was saved from logging by tree sitters.

Split Open Giant

492 inch circumference
85 spread 
198 feet tall
711 AF Points

This tree was most likely left because of the burned out heartwood.

Freshwater Giant

357 inch circumference
80 spread 
213 feet tall
590 AF Points

This tree near Freshwater Park was most likely left due to its proximity to a riparian corridor.

Greenwood Giant

352 inch circumference
105 spread 
165 feet tall
543 AF Points

This tree is adjacent to our property and was most likely left after early logging. An old homestead is evident just next to the tree.

Kerhoulas Tree

360 inch circumference
35 spread 
84 feet tall
453 AF Points

This tree was most likely left because of its broken top

Shale Giant

350 inch circumference
40 spread 
90 feet tall
450 AF Points

This tree was most likely left because of its broken top

Gulch Giant

302 inch circumference
50 spread 
165 feet tall
527 AF Points

This tree is adjacent to our property and was most likely left after early logging.

Mature Second Growth Redwood

199 inch circumference
45 spread 
172 feet tall
382 AF Points

This tree is only ~120 years old!


Residual Douglas-fir

Bailey Big Daddy

324 inch circumference
85 spread 
165 feet tall
510 AF Points

This tree, in the headwaters of Freshwater Creek in Kneeland is one of several spared from the chainsaw.

Mature Second Growth Douglas-fir

222 inch circumference
35 spread 
105 feet tall
335 AF Points

This tree is only ~120 years old! Unfortunately it lost 50 feet of its top in 2018 and appears to have a heart rot fungus.


Residual Sitka spruce

Freshwater Sitka

444 inch circumference
100 spread 
150 feet tall
619 AF Points

This tree is grows near Freshwater Creek in the hamlet of Freshwater.

Garfield Sitka

354 inch circumference
120 spread 
145 feet tall
539 AF Points

This tree is grows near Freshwater Creek in the hamlet of Freshwater.


Residual Deciduous Trees

Kneeland Madrone

194 inch circumference
50 spread 
85 feet tall
292 AF Points

This tree is grows in the headwaters of Freshwater Creek in Kneeland.

Kneeland Tanoak

194 inch circumference
72 spread 
83 feet tall
295 AF Points

This tree is grows in the headwaters of Freshwater Creek in Kneeland.

Know of more residual old-growth? Have a question? Leave a comment please.

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