10, 2002 18:44 PDT
Michael Davie and I explored the lower reaches of Cataloochee
Creek in the "Valley of the Giants"- the famous
Cataloochee Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains Nat'l Park. Our
target was a huge flat river terrace that was sheltered from the
sides by high ridges- ideal white pine territory. Although
second-growth, we were not disappointed! Upon entering the white
pine grove, I quickly reminisced about Hartwick Pines in central
Michigan- densely packed, lofty trees with me having no idea
where to begin measuring. Quick shots to selected trees yielded
numbers from the mid 150-s to over 160'. As we spent more time
the following numbers resulted, all for white pine:
140 class (7 trees average 146')
150 class (18 trees average 155.6')
160 class (8 trees average 162.7')
170 class (3 trees average 172.1')
The numbers above yield an average stand height of 156.7 feet.
Girths ranged from 6'-11' and averaged around 8' cbh. Our sample
of 36 trees is a mere drop in the bucket. There are literally
hundreds of pines over 150' in one, continuous grove. The trees
are probably no more than 120 years old and many have branch
whorls to the ground. Pine beetle has killed several dozen big
pines- several snags were measured to 150'-160'+. Nearby
old-growth had ancient white pines up to 12' in girth and 300+
years old. Mike and I have only just begun to measure the stand,
which is quite large. In fact, white pine 150'+ tall likely
continues in an uninterrupted swath along Cataloochee Creek four
or more miles long.
Because of the dense nature of the stand, our angle to the tops
were generally 45-60 degrees, which caused us to very likely
miss the true highest point. The numbers listed above are thus
conservative. There is potential for a 180' tree to be found in
this grove, or in similar unexplored groves across the creek or
an unexplored sheltered cove further down stream. This latter
cove is very likely old-growth and may contain some fantastic
Tuliptree, a minor but impressive component of the area sampled,
was ignored as we choose to focus on pines. A winter trip will
probably yield some tuliptree heights over 150' and possibly
160'. I found a grove of hardwoods on the way out that had very
tall individuals of tuliptree, red oak, sycamore, basswood,
bitternut and pignut hickory, and buckeye. It alone merits a
Other notable trees were as follows:
Eastern hemlock 15'1" x 144.7 feet `900 ft3
Sycamore 3'3" x 128.5' H/D Ratio= 124.4!!!
Yellow buckeye 9'1" x 132'
White pine 12'1" cbh ~ 140' Old-growth specimen
Sourwood 3'1" x 99.8' Tallest in NC?
Dale: how do these figures compare to your latest Cook Forest
Kris Johnson: we found no sign of HW adelgid in our travels and
found a sizable patch of deciduous luecothoe ( I can give more
details if notable for the observations database?).
Bob Leverett: I'm sorry... now you will need to measure Jake and
Joe a few more times ;)
07, 2003 16:31 PDT
I wanted to check out the west side of the lower part of
Cataloochee Creek. Across from the pine flats there are a couple
of smaller flats that seemed worth checking, and it ended up
being very similar in composition to the other side of the
creek. Didn't get into the valley until 9:30, and it was dark
and dense in there, but I'd brought everything I needed,
including a friend to hold a reflector.
Well, almost everything.
I didn't bring anything to write with. So, I made sure to
remember a couple of numbers specifically, but I've lost some.
Another unfortunate thing was that the sky opened up after being
in the flats for about 20 minutes. I got to at least see most of
the first flats, but I definitely would have measured more.
numbers I remember for white pine: 8'9" at 156 feet,
7'9" at 167.5, and 8'8" at 175. I remember that one
for sure. It's definitely worth going back and measuring more
trees, and looking for better shots of the tops. There are more
small flats downstream, as well. Maybe next week.
A little more Cataloochee Creek
07, 2003 18:06 PDT
I have checked most of the flats downstream, to the sharp bend
in the river
a few hundred yards from the boundary. I came at it from
working my way below Pine Flats, crossing the creek (in the
working (fighting) my way upstream and ran out of time. I
re-crossed CC and came out from Pine Flats since I knew the
terrain. Was the
175' tree on the north (west) side of CC? There is a 172' and
easily visible from the opposite bank on a terrace by CC. Many
short pines are up the draws and on the slopes as seen in
The flats downstream had a few 160's and I think a 170+. We may
same tree if you went below Pine Flats. It was growing among
ericaceous nast on a rather steep slope maybe 25-30 elevational
the water. I'll check my notes.
Glad your getting out!
A little more Cataloochee Creek
09, 2003 19:19 PDT
place I went is along the narrow wide strip just on the west
side of the creek. I don't even think I got around the bend
where it opens up. It's really more of a bench along the creek
than wide flats. The strip was about 200 feet wide, and barely
above the creek level, mostly no more than 10 feet or so. There
were signs of recent flooding up to the level of these trees.
It's a fairly small area, but pretty packed. I don't think it's
going to have tons more (if any) really tall ones, but I'm going
to go back and look again, it's worth looking.
Also, you said you went down the east/south side- I know it's
really narrow along the creek, but there's one little branch
that flows in down below the flats that looks really steep going
up, but has what looks to be a nice pocket in it- did you check
A little more Cataloochee Creek
12, 2003 17:17 PDT
did explore the "hanging valley" that I think you are
talking about. It
was in my last report on "Dale's Demise on the rise",
though in no great
detail. The only tree of note was the 137+ red maple which may
be a NC
record. There may have been a 150+ hemlock but it was really
thick in there.
I was lucky on the maple as I was able to shoot it from 180
and got within 3 inches height on each reading.
That 175'+ pine is certainly a new one, as I exited that side
entering the flats on that side. Wasn't the flood awesome?!
day in Cataloochee is a good one
12, 2003 18:51 PDT
was able to get out for part of the day today, it was a
beautiful day here, though any day in Cataloochee is a good day.
The forest floor was littered with fallen rhododendron flowers,
and there are more kinds of fungi fruiting than I've ever seen.
I had half of a day, so I took small trips to three places: I
went back down to the bench by Cataloochee Creek and remeasured
the two pines from last week. It was a little easier dry with
sunshine and no fog, but I had no one to mark bases.
I made a
crude Colby Stick out of a relatively straight maple limb with
my unipod holding a reflector strapped to it. It worked pretty
well. I feel pretty good about these numbers-
169.1'- 7'7"cbh ( measured last week at 167.5, with cbh of
7'9". I also remeasured the circumference since my friend
measured them before without knowing too well where to do it)
176.5'- 8'11"cbh (measured before at 175 feet and
I measured one other pine at 150.2'- 7'5"cbh. I think that
the rest of the pines are closer to this one. There might be one
or two over 160, but I don't think so. The two tall ones really
don't look very different, just taller. It is very difficult to
measure in there.
I next went to Bennett Branch, above the road, this is a really
small creek that crosses the road between Cataloochee and Big
Creek, I just had never been on the part up above the road, so I
decided to check it out. I was really surprised to find one
pine, on the side of the ridge going down into the cove, that I
just shot up into to get an idea, not really thinking it would
be much, but getting 78 yards from not too far away. It really
didn't look too big, but I ended up getting 176.3 feet on it,
the circumference a modest 9'6". It looks close in years to
its height in feet. It's a lonesome pine. A nearby buckeye was
10' 9" and 130.1 feet tall.
On the way out of the valley I stopped and went to the upper
flats of Hoglen Branch, a beautiful ancient hemlock grove full
of huge mountain laurels with a few big blackgum and some old
birch and red maple, just a great place by the road. I don't
think there's anything extremely tall, or extremely huge, but
overall big, and impressively old. I don't recollect ever
measuring the girths of a few fat ones in there, though I might
have, or Will might have. But, it was a good reason to go in
there again. There are two really massive hemlocks close to each
other, both with tops missing. I would have loved to see them
with full crowns, though I think they both went topless a long,
long time ago. One looks like it broke off at about 60 feet, and
a couple of branches took over as terminals and have grown about
fifty feet above the break. I measured the circumference at
14'6", with very little taper. The other big one (I call it
"Biggy Shorty"- but not in a disrespectful way, mind
you) also has very little taper, a massive trunk that breaks
also around 60 feet or so, but is only about 80 feet now. I got
15' 4" for the circumference. What a huge trunk! I wandered
around the flats for a while, it's just a fantastic place. I
measured one more at 14' 6", on the part of the cove above
a service road that cuts through the east side. I think there
are a few more over 14 feet in there.
Caldwell Fork cove (Cataloochee)
22, 2003 19:56 PDT
Last Saturday, Mike Davie and I explored a small tributary of
between Sag Branch and Snake Branch in the Cataloochee section
Smokies. A low gap provides easy access to the drainage, and
conditions are delightfully open, except along the main
cohosh, and wood nettle are common groundcover while hemlocks
the canopy with some tuliptree; scattered basswood, buckeye, and
maple also reach the canopy. The tuliptrees and hemlocks looked
unexceptional for Cataloochee, but we did not measure them
The surprise of the day were the several mature shagbark
hickory, a scarce
species in the park, in the upper section of the drainage.
Species Height Cbh
Hemlock 138.3' NA
Hickory, Shagbark 124.5' 7'9.5"
Hickory, Shagbark 148.5* ~6'
Tuliptree 158.9' 13'4"
*steep angle, tentative height
One other shagbark in the is over 9' cbh and 125' needs to be