Forum Index > Trip Reports > Exploring Southern Oregonís Largest Trees Ė Elk Creek Champion and Doerner Fir (11/07)
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lcometto
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PostTue Nov 10, 2020 7:58 am 
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Iíve had my eye on exploring the old growth forests of Rogue River Ė Siskiyou National Forest for quite a while because I knew that two of the largest trees for their respective species grew in this region. Iíve also been on a quest to visit and photograph Oregonís largest trees and best old-growth forests, which I have compiled into a gallery here if you are interested: https://www.lucascometto.com/cascadia-oregon.

Coquille River Falls Research Natural Area
My online research into the area indicated that some enormous trees exist in the mountains east of Port Orford in a section of the Forest called the Coquille River Falls Research Natural Area. Accessed near Forest Road 33, this beautiful place was set aside in the 1940s to protect virgin old-growth Port Orford Cedar groves. These cedars are native to this region in Oregon and can reach huge sizes like other cedars in the Northwest if left to grow uninterrupted. Many of these giant cedars are found on the steep slopes of the Research Natural Area by bushwhacking off-trail.

Coquille River Falls Research Natural Area
Coquille River Falls Research Natural Area
Coquille River Falls Research Natural Area
Coquille River Falls Research Natural Area

On my offline GPS, I marked section of the Coquille Falls area that were flatter because I figured it would be easier for larger trees to grow. I moved in and out of the forest in several section and spotted some large firs and cedars including the two pictured above that showed signs of ancient fires that likely moved through the area long ago.

As its name implies, this place is home to a waterfalls that cascade down the Coquille River and indeed I visited both the Coquille River Falls and Upper Coquille River Falls. Both are reached by established trails, but the former is far more developed. I took advantage of the access these trails provided me to other sections of the forest, looking around for giants nearby. As seen in both waterfall photos, colorful fall leaves were found everywhere, and it added wonderful diversity to the forest color.

Upper Coquille River Falls
Upper Coquille River Falls
Coquille River Falls
Coquille River Falls

Elk Creek Champion and Big Tree Observation Site
The second section of particular interest in Rogue River - Siskiyou National Forest is the Big Tree Observation Area located further north on Forest Road 33. This place contains the largest Port Orford Cedar tree known. To access it, visitors can either hike about 1.5 miles from the Elk Creek Falls area along the Big Tree Trail (#1150) or drive up a logging road to the Observation Area. Either way, the place is a must-see for giant tree enthusiasts.

Elk Creek Champion - Largest Port Orford Cedar Tree
Elk Creek Champion - Largest Port Orford Cedar Tree

The main attraction is the Elk Creek Champion, which measures 12 feet in diameter at breast height and tapers very slowly on the way up, making it much larger than similar cedars. Though I have seen many larger coastal redwoods, western red cedars, and Sitka spruces in my day, the nearly uninterrupted view of the Elk Creek Champion stopped me in my tracks. I placed myself in the picture above to show the true scale of this tree. Other giant conifers also grow nearby with identification signs in front of them including a huge Douglas Fir and other western hemlocks.

Big Tree Observation Site
Big Tree Observation Site
Big Tree Observation Site
Big Tree Observation Site

Doerner Fir
My last stop was further north off of Coos Bay Wagon Road to the Doerner Fir. Formerly named the Brummit Fir, this tree is certainly one of Oregonís largest Douglas Firs and its tallest, topping out at nearly 330 feet high. Its jaw-dropping height makes it one of the tallest non-redwood trees in the world. The fir grows on BLM land between the towns of Coquille and Reston and can is best accessed through a series of logging and forest roads in the mountains coming from the east.

For its age, the tree looks remarkably healthy and its deeply furrowed bark is characteristic of similarly ancient firs. The trail to the specimen is quite short but maneuvers around other giant Douglas Firs, making the trip to the record-breaking tree a very mesmerizing experience. I was the only one there, partially because it was rainy and partially because you have to work to get to this tree so I made sure to hang around and watch the changing light conditions illuminate the giant. The second picture in particular shows how wonderfully old this tree looks Ė a true titan of the forest.

Doerner Fir (formerly Brummit Fir)
Doerner Fir (formerly Brummit Fir)
Doerner Fir (formerly Brummit Fir)
Doerner Fir (formerly Brummit Fir)

No comprehensive old-growth forest would be complete without visiting the massive trees of Rogue River Ė Siskiyou National Forest and the unique specimens that grow here. Though the trails are tucked deep in the forests, the beauty of these places make the effort worth it.

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Portfolio: www.lucascometto.com
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carlb328
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PostTue Nov 10, 2020 9:32 am 
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I think the relevant question is who has bigger trees  smile.gif
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lcometto
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PostTue Nov 10, 2020 12:06 pm 
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carlb328, if I had to decide between Washington and Oregon, I'd have to go for WA for sure. And not just cause I live here.  biggrin.gif

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Brushbuffalo
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Location: there earlier, here now, somewhere later... Bellingham in between
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PostSun Nov 15, 2020 8:39 am 
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I always eagerly open your trip reports as soon as I see them....so informative and awe inspiring to gaze at your pictures of giant trees.

Have you seen the huge tree a half mile up the Cape Creek trail south of Yachats on the Oregon coast?  I think it is a Sitka spruce ( or is it Douglas fir?) and is one of the largest in the Coast Range.

EDIT: it's called the "Giant Spruce of Cape Perpetua" on one source.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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Sculpin
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PostSun Nov 15, 2020 10:34 am 
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lcometto wrote:
Elk Creek Champion - Largest Port Orford Cedar Tree
Elk Creek Champion - Largest Port Orford Cedar Tree

I am a little uncomfortable even thinking about it, but it is mind-boggling to look at this tree and try to estimate the value of that timber.  "Port Orford Cedar" is actually a cypress, with bright golden wood that is the hardest and most rot resistant among the conifers.  The wood is indistinguishable from Hinoki and Sawara Cypress, and is extremely valuable to the Japanese.  The wealthy prefer to be buried in cypress caskets and the temples are constructed of this wood.  At this stage of world harvesting of cypress, clear wood is more or less unavailable at any cost, making this tree worth unimaginable sums.

I developed a deep love of cypress after taking a dangerous, double-trunked Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (Port Orford Cypress) out of my yard.  My wife wanted to explore having it cut with a mobile dimensioning saw.  So I called the local guy, AJ, and asked him whether he thought it would be worth it for a cedar.  He told me that it was not worth it for a red cedar but was worth it for a "yellow cedar."

Now my kitchen island counter, window moldings, and various pieces of furniture in my house are made of golden cypress wood.  It takes an amazing polish!

Live-Edge Cypress Coffee Table
Live-Edge Cypress Coffee Table

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Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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lcometto
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PostSun Nov 15, 2020 2:30 pm 
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Brushbuffalo - I'm glad that you can appreciate our forest giants like I do! And yes, I have seen that giant spruce. I haven't uploaded the photo to Flickr so I can't pull it up on this site but I have a picture of it in the link that I provided in the first paragraph of this Trip Report. It is a monster for sure. And it actually has developed a bit of a lean over the hundreds of years it has been alive. There are other great spruces on the Gwynn Creek Trail and Cummins Creek. Trail around there.

Sculpin - the coffee table looks amazing. You can really tell why they call it yellow cedar from the picture. Even if it was cut down, I'm glad that you put the tree to good use!

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JustJoe
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PostSun Nov 15, 2020 7:33 pm 
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Once again I sit mesmerized by the beauty of these giants and the keen eye you bring to the subject. All I can say is thanks for sharing some truly inspirational and memorable moments!
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backpacker92out
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PostSun Nov 15, 2020 8:09 pm 
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carlb328 wrote:
I think the relevant question is who has bigger trees  smile.gif

california

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ThursdayHiker
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PostMon Nov 16, 2020 11:21 pm 
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I really enjoyed studying your Ancient Forest Project.  I've had a interest in old growth forests for years.  You have given me some great information on areas to explore.

Over the past 5 years I have been exploring old growth remnants in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River valley.  I usually survey for old growth areas on Google Earth then go out and try to explore. Puzzlr is my usual hiking partner. The off trail travel can be tedious.  Sometimes we find some amazing groves that are clearly known to few.  The largest Cedar that we have come across is 13 feet in diameter.  The largest Fir is 11 ft. The largest spruce is 10 feet. The tallest was a Doug Fir near Goldmyer Hotsprings that was 305 feet tall.

We usually do our old growth exploring now through early spring.  Let me know if want to join us in the future.

stephencobert@comcast.net

https://photos.app.goo.gl/FwKRaJAZc2U8dS3s8
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timberghost
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PostTue Nov 17, 2020 6:53 am 
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Love seeing those big trees
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Exploring Southern Oregonís Largest Trees Ė Elk Creek Champion and Doerner Fir (11/07)
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