Big Creek, Smokies    Michael Davie
 Jul 04, 2003 18:39 PDT 
Hello all-
Let's see, here... A couple of things I wanted to convey, first off, a couple of minor measuring reports:
I took a hike up Big Creek in the Smokies last week, beautiful weather and a nice day in the woods, nothing spectacular found but I guess worth mentioning. I pretty much stuck to the trails and went up to Walnut Bottoms, a place totally devoid of walnuts as far as I could see, actually a very dense young second growth hemlock forest. I mostly was wanting to cover ground to just see the place, since I'd never been, and to get an idea of what was around there. I also went a short way up Swallow fork, also very young second growth, but cranking out pretty well. The only notable things I saw to measure from the trails, or at least that I measured from the trails:

Juglans cinerea 99.6
Sassafras albidum 104.1
Platanus occidentalis 145.4, 147.1 at 11'11, 148
Betula lenta 99.8

There were many tuliptrees in the 150s, I'm sure there's some 160s tucked around. There's still alot more ground to cover in that drainage.

Li'l more Big Creek   Will Blozan
  Dec 07, 2003 13:47 PST 


Today I spent a few hours in the Big Creek (NC) section of the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park. I focused mainly on remeasurments of this season's
growth since I did not have much time or any off-trail assistance.

I remeasured the white ash height champion on Big Branch from a new
location. To my surprise, the tree does exhibit a small portion of dominant
top. From a new vantage point (110' above the base) and using a marker
placed on the previously marked midslope point, I was able to hit 165.76'.
This tree is a growing machine and the entire top held 1.5' to 2'+ annual
growth increments. Totally incredible! This tree is well on it's way to
170', growing from 159.9' in 1998 to 165.7' now.

I also remeasured "Leverett's Lament", an American sycamore I had measured
to ~159'. I was not able to duplicate the reading and instead got 154.2' The
159' height may have been the result of extremely dark and rainy conditions
when I measured it with Dale last year. A nearby sycamore is 153.2'. Also,
next to Leverett's Lament is a small black oak (5'6") that reached 136'. I
think this may be a Smokies height record but I am not sure.

With a few minutes to spare I walked a short way up a cove north of the
parking area to see what was up there. It was an old home site but had nice
regrowth in it. A new sweetgum height record for the Smokies (previous 135')
was easily found in a tuliptree, sweetgum, sycamore forest. One tree 5'6"
reached 137.9' and another one 5'8" reached 142.8'. This species will reach
150' in a few years, although one probably already exists, waiting to be

Nothing else of note to report.

Will Blozan
President, Eastern Native Tree Society
ISA Certified Arborist
Big Creek Rules!!!   Will Blozan
  Jan 17, 2004 17:57 PST 

Hey all,

Ed Coyle and I had an incredible tree hunt today on some slopes and small,
unnamed creeks on the north side of Big Creek. It was a day of new records,
to say the least!

Most of the small area we covered was heavily cut-over and now in
second-growth, with a few relic trees left scattered about. Skid trails were
evident and tree ages were likely less than 75 years for most trees
measured. Regardless, in true Big Creek fashion, age does not seem to matter
much with regard to tree heights!

I'll just get to the list, with comments after notable trees.

4' x 91.36' New height record!

White pine
8'9" x 147.17' (Tallest so far on Big Creek- just getting started I'm sure!)

Tuliptree (Dozens over 150')
8' x 161.45'
9'8" x 164.79'
7'9" x 170.2'
7'3" x 173.13'
8'4" x 176.81' Second tallest known in world!

American beech
7'11" x 119.28'

8'7" x 125'

N. red oak
15'4" x 130.4' This giant tree had a crown spread of 107.6'!!!
6'11" x 135.57'
13' x 138.7'
16'10" x 139.5' MEGA-HUGE!!!

Chestnut oak
6'8" x 131'
9'8" x 134.3'
9'2" x 140.67'
11'4" x 140.69' Tallest laser verified specimen in the Smokies! NC height record!

Black oak
11'6" x 126.24' May be Park record girth?

Black birch
4'9" x 117.5' New height record!

White basswood
6'3" x 126.6'

Sycamore (Several more over 150'...)
4'3" x 140.75'
10'2" x 150.25'
13'8" x 151.61' Twin trunks at ~10' but may have single pith.
7' x 153.7'
9'7" x 162.32' New height record!! Measured from two locations (162.36' and 162.27')

Green ash
7' x 134.88' Rare tree in Smokies; densely pubescent undersides of oval leaflets.
9'6" x 139.01' New height record AND NC State Champion!

White ash
7'1" x 133.55'

Black locust
5'7" x 143.76'
4'10" x 148.43'

4'2" x 121.89'

Black cherry
3'4" x 120.83'

Yellow buckeye
6'6" x 124.29'

Today's finds give a first survey Rucker Index of 144.03. Not a bad start!

Will Blozan
President, Eastern Native Tree Society
ISA Certified Arborist
Re: Big Creek Rules!!!   Jess Riddle
  Jan 18, 2004 08:55 PST 

Four new species records and within five on three other species!?! That
must be a record for most records found in one day. Those records help to
distance lower Big Creek as the premier area for tall hardwoods in the
eastern U.S. Congratulations on the amazing finds. I would not have
expected that great a concentration of super-tall trees, especially in
southeast facing drainages.

Jess Riddle
Re: Big Creek Rules!!!   Michael Davie
  Jan 18, 2004 09:28 PST 

Incredible tree hunt indeed!  A sycamore breaking 160 is fantastic, but so 
are the others. Why do you think there are so many big northern reds leftover?
This brings up the point again of which eastern hardwood species can break
160, now there are five known. I think sweetgum, cherrybark oak, shumard
oak, bitternut hickory, maybe green ash, pecans, or even shagbark hickories?
There are a few other species which seem like they could, but I know I
haven't seen enough of them in any old or sheltered areas.
Good job, dudes.
RE: Big Creek Rules!!! LEE and COLBY READ THIS   Will Blozan
  Jan 18, 2004 09:30 PST 

Me neither!

Currently, the GRSM Rucker Index is 163.07, and 8 of the trees are in NC, 7
in Cataloochee or Big Creek (same NPS district of Cataloochee). Big Creek is
quickly redefining conventional thoughts about hardwood development! Sounds
like a study site!!

What is curious to me, and must be indicative of the soils, is the dominance
of traditional floodplain or riparian species on south facing boulder fields
and slopes well away from "typical" conditions. Green ash, American elm,
sycamore, bitternut, etc. growing like nuts in an upland situation! In the
spring it would be fascinating to see the wildflower component of the site.

RE: Big Creek Rules!!!   Will Blozan
  Jan 18, 2004 10:41 PST 


I think the northerns were left as smaller or deformed trees that have
exploded in growth from the cleared forest around them. None looked very

I walked the portion from Bettis to near Baxter and will NEVER do it again.
It sucked so bad with rhodo that I didn't even look up! I suspect Bettis to
Mouse Creek would be similar but perhaps more open. Lots of huge rocks and thick rhodo. Hard going...

These are the trees I know of:

Tuliptree 177.4'
White ash 165.7'
Pignut 163.5'
Sycamore 162.3
B. locust 162'

Certainly bitternut, sweetgum, and cherrybark will make the list. The
bottomland hardwood group will be the next additions for sure! Apparently,
in WV, buckeye reaches over 190'!

Perhaps the volume of the Chunns Cove pignut should be measured, at least
from the ground w/ lasers. Do you think the big bitternut on Porters Creek
would be larger in volume than either of the piggies? 
Long time, no posts...   Will Blozan
  May 16, 2004 10:21 PDT 

Hey folks,

I want to get some trip reports out as I know many of you are awaiting the
news. I have not been out much lately and have been super busy with work and
family. Fortunately, some of my best excursions lately have been work
related, namely the Joyce Kilmer and Kelsey Tract old-growth hemlock climbs
and last week a trip to Mt. LeConte in the Smokies to collect Fraser fir

First things first.

2/8/04 Big Creek, NC GSMNP
W. Blozan, Ed Coyle, Mike Riley, Tim Gott.

This was a hike we did when the road to Cataloochee was closed and we were
not able to rig the Sag Branch Tuliptree for Van Pelt. We poked around along
the main trail up Big Creek and measured a few nice trees, including a new
Park record height for hackberry and green ash.

Scarlet oak
7'4" X 127.1' Second tallest in Smokies
Green ash
6'2" X 139.1' Park record height
9'1" X 133' Nearly a NC State Co-Champion (9'6" X 139')
Cucumber tree
4'8" X 131' Not bad for second-growth
6'4" X 132.5' " " "
Black oak
8'8" X 134.3' Second tallest in GRSM
6'8" X 102.6' GRSM height record, rare species in the park

...several reports excerpted into other pages

That's all for now. The tree hunting season has basically closed in with the
spring canopy. I may try to do some volume climbs before it gets too hot and
buggy. I will be in northern Ohio the end of next week so I hope to at least
confirm the giant cottonwoods I saw near Detroit, Michigan while I am there.

I'm sure I will let you all know...eventually...;)

Will Blozan
President, Eastern Native Tree Society
ISA Certified Arborist