Hidden and Forgotten Oregon Old-Growth Treasures

Emile Shelter Big Tree — 12’ 7” dbh, about 200’ tall — one of the largest Douglas firs in Oregon

By Darryl Lloyd

This past year my brother Darvel and I have been doing a lot of bushwhacking and exploring for big trees in Oregon, Washington and northern California. In June we visited a couple of relatively small and unknown old-growth areas of Oregon. They are Emile Creek in Umpqua National Forest east of Roseburg, and Tall Trees Trail in Willamette National Forest east of Eugene. Both are off the beaten path and ignored by outdoor writers and guidebook authors. Not only should these areas receive permanent protection, but trails, roads and signs should be maintained. I hope people who care will make noise and spur action!  

At Emile Creek we walked only a short distance on old logging roads and forgotten little trails to marvel at a couple of giant Douglas firs. They rank among the largest in Oregon. The Emile Shelter Big Tree (at about 4,300 feet elevation) is the largest at a whopping diameter (dbh) of 12 feet 7 inches and a height of about 200 feet. We carefully measured the diameter several times. It was considerably greater than what was shown on a sign next to the tree. About a mile-and-a-half to the west is the Bill Taft Tree at 10 feet 10 inches dbh and approximately 235 feet in height. Our diameter on this tree matched within an inch of what was posted on a sign. Both groves of remnant old-growth ecosystems were small, but beautiful and complex on the forest floor. Let’s hope they will be permanently protected.

According to the Forest Service the the Tall Trees Trail east of Eugene: "Hiking this short trail gives you the chance to see some of the Northwest's tallest trees. The grove contains 500-year old Douglas-firs measuring an average of 300 feet in height with the tallest measuring 322 feet (see an example to the right). The center of the grove consists of approximately 50 acres of the tallest trees ranging from 270 to 310 feet tall. There is an abundance of tall snags in the stand. Interpretive signs provide insights about this ecosystem.”

Well, how could we resist going there? But big-tree expert and arborist, Mario Vaden reported recently on Facebook that the height of the tallest trees were around 280 feet. But that’s still mighty tall. And anyway the long drive to the trailhead was worth the effort. What’s sad is that the trail hasn’t been maintained for a number of years, and the beautiful interpretive signs are slowly becoming unreadable. It’s a perfect short old-growth hike into a little creek drainage that somehow escaped the wrath of logging. I hope that Oregon Wild readers will check it out and then tell the Forest Service that the trail should be maintained. And of course, the small remnant area of old-growth should be protected for all time.    

To squeeze in a few words about why Darvel and I are so passionate about protecting ancient forests. Our interest in forest giants began when we were little kids back around 1953, when our late forester father (Les Lloyd) showed us the world’s largest Douglas fir at the time, near Cannon Beach, Oregon. He discovered and saved the tree in 1938 while employed as a timber cruiser. The “Clatsop Fir” blew down in the Columbus Day Storm of 1962. 

For the past 10 years or so, we’ve been photographing, exploring and documenting the oldest and largest known trees of a variety of species in Oregon, Washington and California. Our measurements, however, are only approximate and crown-width must be taken into account for official volume determinations. Only certain tree experts (not us!) make official measurements. Even though we're pretty confident in our estimates of "largest known trees," we would be delighted to learn of even bigger ones found and documented by someone else. Someday we’ll put together a website of our favorites.

Emile Creek

 

 

Tall Trees Trail

 

 

Emile Big Shelter Tree

 

 

Bill Taft Tree

 

 

Photo Credits: 
Darryl and Darvel Lloyd