Oregon's largest tree

truffler1635 at my-deja.com truffler1635 at my-deja.com
Thu Mar 23 12:21:48 EST 2000

>From The Sunday Oregonian, March 19, 2000, p B8


A Sitka spruce, the largest tree in Oregon, attracts visitors to a
Clatsop County park just off U.S. 26

By JEFF BARNARD, The Associated Press

	Seaside - Tour buses stop by it, a greeting card once featured it,
and a retired Salem barber reveres it.
	But look on most maps or ask most people what the Klootchy Creek
Giant is, and you are likely to come up empty.
	"Is it like the Loch Ness Monster?" asked Doug Heiken of the Oregon
Natural Resources Council, an environmental group dedicated to
protecting old-growth forests from logging.
	For the record, the Klootchy Creek Giant - also known as the Seaside
Spruce - is a Sitka spruce that stands 206 feet tall, measures 56 feet
in circumference at breast height and has a crown that spreads 93 feet.
That makes it the biggest tree in Oregon and a contender for the title
of biggest Sitka spruce in the country, under a formula used by the
American Forestry Association.
	Unlike the biggest tree in the nation - a giant Sequoia in
California's Sierras known as the General Sherman Tree, which inspired
the creation of 386,800-acre Sequoia National park around it in 1890 -
the Klootchy Creek Giant is located just off U.S. 26 in the Coast Range
a few miles east of the junction with U.S. 101 in Klootchy Creek County
park, 1 10-acre site created in 1988.
	The tree's biggest promoter is Maynard Drawson, a big tree hunter.
The retired barber from Salem has known and loved the Klootchy Creek
Giant for 50 years.
	"You know who said the Seaside Spruce was the biggest tree in
Oregon? I did," Drawson said. "You think any forester in the state of
Oregon would have the guts to say anything was the biggest tree in
Oregon? No. Because they're afraid somebody would refute them. I have
yet to be refuted."

Tree's survival a mystery
	The giant towers above the sword fern and young Sitka spruce around
it, surrounded by second-growth timberland once owned by Crown
Zellerbach, which donated the park to Clatsop County in 1988.
	Just why the giant was spared the fate of the trees it grew up with
is lost in the mists of time.
	"Nobody knows, but rumors abound," said Jeffrey Birmingham, Clatsop
County parks supervisor.
	"I like to think it is the only that says some of the early-day
loggers might have felt a tree of that stature was worth preserving.
They recognized, maybe, that is was worthwhile or meaningful to save
some singular reflective remnant of how the forests once were."
	The again, it might have just been too big to handle, Drawson said.
	Or might it be protected by a sort of mummy's curse?
	A granite monument at the park tells how Klootchy Creek was named
for Antoine Cloutrie, Seaside's first resort hotelier, who was found
dead in 1899, along with four timber cruisers he was leading through the
area. They died from ptomaine poisoning after eating a can of beans.
	In the 1960s, Drawson fought off a big by fans of a Sitka spruce in
Quinault, Wash., to get the American Forestry Association to recognize
theirs as the biggest of the species Picea sitchensis.
	He also got the giant named Oregon's first Heritage Tree, a program
started in 1995 that recognizes 15 trees for their connection to Oregon
	Where the Ewing Young Oak in Newberg was listed because it was
planted on the grave of Ewing Young - his death led to the formation of
Oregon's first provisional government in 1843 because he owned so much
property his neighbors had to deal with it somehow - the Klootchy Creek
Giant is listed just because it is the biggest.
	"I call it Oregon's ambassador to the world," Drawson said. "People
come and they stand in awe. We look at it and say, "That's a big tree.'"
	Though Oregon's state tree is the Douglas fir, Sitka spruce were
once a major source of lumber, and its straight grain, light weight and
high strength made it ideal for building early airplanes.

Boeing started with Sitka
	When William Boeing, the Seattle timber baron, started building
airplanes for World War I, he used Sitka spruce.
	However, the wood did not go into the famous Spruce Goose, Howard
Hughes' leviathan seaplane being r4estored at an air museum scheduled to
open later this year in McMinnville, just 70 miles southeast of the
giant as the goose flies. The Spruce Goose was built with birch.
	A pair of 200-foot-tall, 7-foot diameter Sitka spruce logs did to
into the seagoing canoe Hawai'iloa, built to prove the reliability of
ancient Polynesian navigation techniques.
	About 96,000 people a year pull off U.S. 26, drive down the gravel
road and across a one-lane bridge over the Necanicum River to a small
parking lot to gaze at the giant, Birmingham said. They spend about 10
minutes with the tree. Just 2 percent of the visitors are locals.
	"If you look at it from a parked car and don't walk around it, you
can't appreciate the dimensions of that tree," Drawson said. "That's why
I always tell my friends to walk all the way around it."
	To protect the roots and make the tree wheelchair-accessible,
Clatsop County built a wooden ramp and deck, which also protects the
giant from man's need to leave his mark in the bark. People instead have
scarred the deck railing with knives and felt-tipped markers.
	The one big scar in the tree, a gash on the massive trunk made by
lightning, has been there as long as Drawson can remember.
	Birmingham figures the giant is about 750 years old, though no one
has ever bored it to count the rings. There isn't a tree borer big
	"That's probably the most-often asked question, how old it is," said
Birmingham. "If you tell them it is 750 years old, they're happy. If you
tell them you think it started as a seedling shortly after the signing
of the Magna Carta in 1215, that takes them further.
	"We people have a hard time appreciating natural resources for their
own innate value of themselves."

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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