Zoar Valley, NY Thomas Diggins
Jun 10, 2003 15:20 PDT

Zoar Valley always surprises us, but these past few days the news has
been stunning...

#1) All right, no sense wasting time - the BIG news: Zoar is home to
America's very symbol, the bald eagle!! My latest trip down to the
canyon was with Dr. Courtenay Willis, a terrestrial ecologist here at
YSU who specializes in ornithology, along with two of her students. We
observed two adults and two juveniles (apparently 3rd year) in the
vicinity of Valentine Flats. I discovered upon reviewing several Western
New York birding web pages that adults and juveniles have been spotted
in this area at least since 2001. No nest is yet known, but perennial
sightings of multiple generations suggest this may be a breeding pair.
Gee, how many acres would make for a good bald eagle refuge? Maybe
2960... the FULL extent of the state land! It's just a bonus that there
are also hundreds of acres of contiguous old growth.

#2) My first visit to a streamside terrace downstream from the abandoned
Valentine Flats farmland led me into a drop-dead gorgeous beech-maple
forest. Recall, we had doubted old growth here until historical aerial
photos suggested otherwise. This little terrace is only a few acres in
size, but has the best concentration of >9' CBH sugar maples yet seen in
the canyon. Also present is a 10' 6" beech, a 9' 7" northern red oak,
and some very nice yellow birch. An American elm of 7' 7" stands 101.4'.
The canopy here is not as tall as in the Gallery of Giants upstream, as
this part of the canyon is much more exposed to the wind. Still, one of
several nice sycamores (9' 8" CBH) approaches 120'. The core of the
terrace is very shade-tolerant, so I presume it is old and stable, but
its borders along the river grade into the riverfront and emergent
floodplain woods that signify newer land. Huge downed logs,
pit-and-mound topography, tall straight trunks... I don't think this
spot was ever logged, even selectively. There are four more terraces
like it that need to be visited in this part of the canyon, and the
slopes above should be virgin as well. The old growth in Zoar Valley may
ultimately exceed 1000 acres.

#3) Superb heights in the sycamore grove on Valentine Flats located in
the wind shadow of Point Peter (cliffs ~170' high). Scores of beautiful
trees, some cloaked by impressive Virginia creeper and poison ivy vines,
form a striking canopy that looks oddly out of place in upstate New
York. Check these out (height x CBH):

140.7' x 7' 9"
140.2 x 7' 4"
135.3' x 5' 10"
134.3' x 4' 5"
130.2 x 10' 4" (several more 9'+ trees likely don't reach 130')

Added bonus:
112.0 x 3' 7" black walnut

I think these sycamores are older than I first imagined. The slender
ones are likely young, but the 7'+ trees could be the same age as the
trees in the old growth farther upstream, 150 years and up. Other
species, particularly elm and tulip tree, seem to be recruiting into
this stand. This sycamore grove could represent what was left behind
after valuable trees were cut in the 1800s. However, it could also
reflect the natural development of a bottomland forest on land that is
becoming progressively drier over time (the site is obviously an oxbow
wetland). Even the anthopogenic explanation in no way diminishes the
coolness of this grove.

More to come. See it all on June 28th and 29th when ENTS hosts the Tally
in the Valley!



Zoar Valley, NY Leverett, Robert
Jun 30, 2003 08:21 PDT 


The rendezvous at Zoar Valley, courtesy of the organizational skills and leadership of Bruce Kershner and Dr. Tom Diggins, was successful by all reasonable standards. Zoar Valley continues to emerge as a very, very significant place, ecologically and with abundant scenic treasures.

On Saturday, we were filmed by a regional television station (Empire Sports Network, I think). The program will air Tuesday evening. Several reporters accompanied us and sought accounts of what we were doing. So publicity was abundant. My friend Bruce kershner is an absolute magician at drawing media attention. Good job, Bruce!

The ENTS prowess at tree measuring was amply utilized at Zoar Valley through the talents of Tom Diggins, Bruce Kershner, Dale Luthringer, Howard Stoner, and yours truly. The group scored well, which of course, was our mission. However, our successes went beyond my personal expectations. We began by verifying that the remarkable sycamore reported as 150.1-feet a couple of seasons ago has grown to a height of 153 feet! The tree's form is slender with an 8.4 feet cirumference. One must look up to get the story of the tree.

The confirmation of this splendid, towering sycamore is an interesting story in and of itself and it is the kind of story that is music to ENTS ears. From the opposite side of the Cattaraugus River, Bruce Kershner had measured the tree to 153 feet early in the season. Bruce used a tripod to steady the clinometer so he could get readings without the inevitable bounce. However, the yardage across the Cattaragus is long, 110 to 116 yards, so errors from small differences in clinometer readings is a big concern. However, from across the river range I got 154 feet for the sycamore, based on a hypotenuse distance to the crown of 114 yards. Matt Largess was at the bottom of the tree with a bright orange vest, so I got a reasonable good angle to the base - but not entirely satisfactory. Howard Stoner likewise got 154 feet for the sycamore measuring from the center of the stream. I don't know if Howard had difficulty seeing the base. I didn't discuss that with him. Tom Diggins got 153 feet from an island in the middle of the stream with ample people standing at the base giving him targets. From closer in, Dale Luthringer got 152.8 feet and I got 153.1 feet. All measurements fall between 152.8 and 154 feet. We ultimately settled arbitrarily on 153 feet, since the 152.8, 153.0, and 153.1 measurements were from closer distances and from vantage points that gave us complete visibility of crown and base. Had we averaged all reading, we would have gotten 153.3 feet.

The range of only 1.2 feet difference in the height measurements for the sycamore incorporated 5 sets of instruments employed from different locations and over distances varying by over 40 yards. The small range amply illustrates the efficacy of the methods we use to measure tree height and also the experience of the users of the methods. We are probably within 2 to 4 inches of the exact height of the tree. However, we'll never be satisfied until we know with an even higher probability that we're in the under 6-inch range of true height. That's the kind of fanatics we are.

Other highlights of Zoar Valley were a 144-foot sycamore, a 139-foot white ash, a 136-foot bitternut hickory, a 128-foot cottonwood, and two red oaks at around 131 feet, if not 2 or 3 feet more, and a 124-foot black walnut. Oh yes, I almost forgot. There is the little measurement done by Dale Luthringer and myself near day's end. We're confident of our tuliptree measurement of 156 feet! YES! A new record. The respectible 10.5-foot circumference of the tuliptree creates a strong impression. The tree is no slouch. It is a most worthy champion of height. As of this date, the 156-foot tuliptree is New York's tallest accurately measured hardwood of any species. It may be New York's tallest of any species, but the odds of a few 160-foot white pines are high and the odds of a few other tulips in that height range somewhere in New York are also high. The tuliptrees of Welwynn Preserve on Long Island are above 140 and probably close to 150. It remains to be seen if any can challenge the Zoar Valley tree. A trip in November will tell that story, but back to Zoar Valley.

The Rucker index of Zoar Valley now stands solidly at 134.1 and that could go up by a significant amount should Tom and Bruce locate a few tall white pines somewhere in the gorge. For smaller increases in the index, the odds of a 140-foot bitternut hickory are very high and a 140-foot white ash some where in Zoar Valley is almost certain. An eventual 134.5-foot index is highly probable, but 135 is improbable. So we're closing in on the maximum.

While the Zoar Valley account dominates, another sleeper story is that western New York is awash in big, tall, beautiful trees. It is home to the legendary Forestville black walnut, the Avon elm, and who knows what else. Towering cottonwoods are literally all over the place. I've never seen so many. Tonawanda Creek is a gold mine or perhaps 'cottonwood field'. New York IS cottonwood country. I could spend a lifetime and never exhaust the possibilities. The west part of Route 20A is named big tree road. That speaks volumes. Elsewhere, the Erie canal corridor has a wealth of mature cottonwoods. What is good for me is that the Hudson and Mohawk river valleys are close enough for more frequent visits by yours truly. However, if Howard Stoner gets turned on to the cottonwood possibilities, we'll be set. Howard will have a ball. Guaranteed. The possibilities are simply endless.

As a final observation, outside of the citiy zones, New York is spacious and aesthetic. History is felt more keenly. It has a highly varied climate and striking terrain features. It is so much more than the limited titles we put on regions like 'wine country'. Those little commericial handles are never adequate to convey the real nature and variability of the countryside. They often say more about human myopia. The small agrarian towns of New York are neat and replete with absolutely gorgeous trees. The mountainous regions are extensive. I Love New York!

More Zoar Leverett, Robert
 Jul 01, 2003 07:07 PDT 


Our successful foray into Zoar canyon to document a few of its many big/tall tree treasures gave me the oportunity to have extended conversations with Tom Diggins about the on-going preservation efforts associated with Zoar Valley. With Bruce and Tom pushing on multiple fronts, Zoar is in very good hands. I felt extremely honored to be able to at least play a small part in bringing Zoar's wealth of wonderful trees to public attention.

I am perpetually puzzling over how such treasures escape notice even in the year 2003. It has to do with the way we, as a species, filter and interpret input to fit with preconceptions and manage the volume. Fifteen years ago, I would have flown across Routes 98 and 20A oblivious to the big, tall cottonwoods lining the banks of streams and in yards and parks. They would have manifested themselves in my consciousness merely as part of that wall of summer green, undifferentiated in their particulars from the other species. Oh yes, they would have been pretty in their role as part of the New York background, but they would not have stood out to me. On this trip they did stand out. They stood out prominently, because I'd been cultivating 'cottonwood consciousness'. As a consequence, on this trip, the distinctive features of the species were being reinforced at every turn. I saw cottonwoods everywhere and I saw them in context with the other species. The same was true with the black walnuts. What did I miss? Plenty, I'm sure, but the experience that I did have was infinitely richer because there was a new attunement, an alignment with an important species, on its terms. There was no attendant cultural judgement. No 'junk species' mentality. Just the raw force of the cottonwoods, kings and queens of their domain.

Temporary species alignments can occur because of a very different look to the land. For instance, when I visit the deep south, the bald cypresses stand out so distinctively that it is as though I'm visiting a separate country. I'm transfixed. Plametto palms have the same impact, but were those species daily fare, their visual novelty would eventually wane and that would be a loss. The secret is renewal. Daily renewal. That I guess is what morning rituals of thanks are all about to my wife's people.

Perhaps in a circuitous way, cottonwood consciousness is for me a prelude to a wider awareness that encompasses the multitude of species, habitats, smells, and ambiences. Come to think of it those soaring immature bald eagles in Zoar Valley we saw imparted one heck of an ambience. I'm still thankful.


RE: Zoar Valley Rules Bruce Kershner
Jul 01, 2003 13:10 PDT 

To Bob and my fellow Tree People,

Thanks, my dear friend Bob, for the compliments on our "Tally in the
Valley" event at Zoar Valley, one hour drive south of Buffalo. It was
truly exciting to have you all out here to see the greatest discovery of
the Western New York Old Growth Survey, which sponsored the event, along
with the New York Old Growth Forest Association.

Besides the names you mentioned, we should also add some other notable
'old growth sleuths' who participated: Daniel Karpen of Long Island;
Bill Sweeney of Jamesburg State Park (SE Penn.); Rob Henry & Tom Howard
of Syracuse (discoverers of the Wizard of Oz Grove & co-founders of NY
Old Growth Forest Association & Central NY Old Growth Survey); Lou
Sebesta, NY DEC Urban Forester, also co-founder of NY Old Growth Forest
Association; and Glen Gelinas & Mike Siuta, co-founders of Western NY
Old Growth Forest Survey, which has discovered 65 old growth sites since

Bob, are you aware that after you left the 153-foot sycamore, that Matt
Largess and others looked at its trunk base and realized that it was
covered by recent debris that had flowed onto it from runoff from the
cliff next to it. They dug and revealed its true base was 2 feet lower
than what had been measured. Thus, the sycamore is really 155 feet tall.
It was recent, loose shale flakes that were easily brushed away.

The next day was just as significant. It was the Public Tour of Zoar.
135 people showed up to see what has now turned out to be one of
America's great forests. Channel 4 TV was there and conducted
interviews, along with Empire TV network and newspapers. Tom and I
addressed the crowd, then I led them into the canyon. After the group
forded the creek, Tom and I split them up into 2 groups and led them
through the 3 river terraces. The group really responded with awe at the
trees, craning their necks to see the LOWEST boughs which were as high
as 90 feet up. Besides the soaring trees, the 400 foot high cliffs were
truly humbling. Everybody came out with a memorable
Experience. This is especially important because the entire site is
still unprotected and public enthusiasm is the best insurance against
greedy state-sponsored logging plans rearing up again.

Thanks again everybody who came and for making it a great success. It
was a great way for the New York Old Growth Forest Association to start
the summer! Looking forward to seeing you again to show you more
champion discoveries!

Bruce Kershner
New Zoar reports   Thomas Diggins
  Jul 25, 2003 11:58 PDT 


Hey, speaking of Zoar Valley... OK, so you weren't speaking of Zoar Valley, but
I've got a few updates that I've been too busy to post:

New tree species in gorge (I give locations for those familiar with the gorge):

1) Sassafras. A number of them along a dry south-facing slope across from Elm
Terrace. Was it Tom Howard and/or Susan Benoit who found these? I heard about
these trees second hand, so I'm not sure. Either way, kudos to the eagle eyes
who picked these out. No big ones, but a few up to 6" DBH.

2) Black birch. None ever found on the canyon-bottom terraces, but quite a few
on the north rim above Knife Edge Terrace, along the margin between a strip of
ridge-crest old growth and a neighboring property that was logged in the past.

3) Balsam poplar. Professor Carl Chuey from YSU confirmed several small
specimens in flood plain downstream from Point Peter.

4) Black tupelo! Been looking for one of these for a long time. Found a modest
18" DBH tree on the north rim upstream from Knife Edge. Has some bark furrowed
into blocks; could be older than suggested by its size.

5) American chestnut! No, not blight-free giants or anything crazy like that,
but some living chestnut near the sassafras. One very healthy one at 8" DBH. One
of same size nearby has blight. It's sad to see that these trees always get
blight and die, but every living specimen is one more chance to save the

BTW, Zoar Valley is now up to 46 confirmed tree species. At least 30 of these
reach canopy size (i.e., 8" DBH and/or ~50' tall). Old fields surrounding the
canyon have not been explored, so a number of early successional species have
not been catalogued. Zoar is missing only a relatively few species known to
occur in western New York.

New tree heights/sizes:

1) Sugar maple

Knife Edge Terrace. Good sight lines to tall slender tree formerly overlooked.
127.6' x 6' 5"
Tallest yet measured in canyon. NY champ by about 6'.
2nd measurement (decent sight line, but pretty close to tree) yielded 126.3'

Other Zoar sugars to date:

Skinny Dip Terrace
123.9 x 7.0' TPD
121.2 x 8.1' TPD and Bob got same #s from different spots
117.1 x 8.4' Dale
116.2 x 8.2' Dale
115.1 x 8.4' Dale
114.2 x 8.0' TPD

Knife Edge Terrace
119.8' TPD and Bruce

Elm Terrace
111.0' TPD and students

Taller trees on Elm Terrace unmeasured...

2) American elm.

Awesome tree on newly visited terrace directly across from Valentine Flats. Very
small (~ 4 acres) core of old growth surrounded by maturing floodplain woods.
1800s house foundation on site, but it's obvious both on the ground and from
1929 aerials that the site was never fully cleared. Compared to the more remote
terraces, though, this one does look "lived in". I suspect salvaging, firewood,
etc. Possibly selective cutting way back. We found what look like cast iron
parts of a small furnace - dampers and flues. Lotsa big old canopy-grown sugar
maple today. Was this little terrace a sugarbush back in the 1800s? Very large
beech, ash, and red maple also appear canopy-grown, but white pine of the right
size and likely age also may indicate some disturbance associated with the

OK, back to the elm... Enormous tree 9' 5" CBH x 120.6' tall. I was shooting
through the crown even from more than 100' away. This tree must have a spread of
close to 100'... in a forest canopy! Its neighbors are big old beeches and a
huge white ash, so I don't think it spent any time growing in a clearing. It has
the largest root flare I've ever seen. Its foot print is 10 or 12 feet wide, and
surface roots snake out 10 more feet in some places. Everything about this tree
says "American", but fruit are gone and buds aren't discernable yet. Hey, it
won't exactly suck if it's a red elm, eh?

More surprises every time.

More from Zoar   Thomas Diggins
  Aug 22, 2003 08:03 PDT 


Good trip up the canyon yesterday. Very vigorous hike to the upstream terraces, now that the river finally has receded from weeks of high water.

From "Basswood" Terrace (named for a trio of neighboring 3' dbh trees), not readily visited except during summer/fall low water:

1) Red maple    119.1' x 5' 10" CBH (tallest in Zoar, and likely in NY State)

2) Yellow birch   101.3' x 4' 6" (NE co-champ with a tree in Mass. Three close neighbors are all in this range)

3) Black cherry (4 nice trees up to 8' CBH)

    114.6' (nice trees, but not the tallest in Zoar, and well off the Cook Forest and Lily Dale pace)

4) Tulip tree   136'+ (Shot straight up. Tough sight lines, and running out of time in the canyon. Species likely exceeds 140' on this terrace)

Other highlights:

5) Sycamore (Skinny Dip Terrace) 144.6' x 8' 5" (Two close readings. Third terrace where Am. syc. >140')

6) Sugar maple (Elm Terrace) 113.3' x 8' 11" (Beautiful maple grove, but no threat to 127' max. height on Knife Edge Terrace)

Cool stuff.

BTW, we witnessed the largest rockfall I've ever seen in the canyon. From 300 yards away (across the river) the boom of the rock slab hitting the lower canyon face registered in our stomachs. A rolling dust cloud rose hundreds of feet, spread halfway across the river, and took several minutes to dissipate. PLEASE, when visiting Zoar to admire its old growth, stay away from the base of the cliffs. Cross the river instead. We want ya back!

Zoar Valley Rucker edges upward   Thomas Diggins
  Oct 13, 2003 08:39 PDT 


Great visit to Zoar Valley yesterday. Found new access to downstream
terraces that are difficult to reach otherwise. Explored last terrace
downstream before human influence begins in earnest. Complex environment,
with terrace bisected by a perennial oxbow in a former river channel, and
forests of all stages of succession. Also found evidence of a dynamic we've
never seen before in Zoar Valley - a blowdown. An area several hundred yards
long is littered with downed trees oriented with the wind. Based on what's
left they appear to be mostly 1 - 2 ' DBH cottonwoods (it's a relatively
young floodplain forest). They may have gone down as much as 20-30 years
ago, although I must admit I do not know how fast cottonwood logs decay when
down. This area of the canyon definitely catches prevailing winds, unlike
the very protected Gallery of Giants farther upstream. A few big tree

1) Eastern cottonwood 131.5' x 8' 4" CBH. New NE height champ. Tucked in
right next to canyon slope, seems to be safe from the wind.

2) Shagbark hickory 107.0" x 6' 7" CBH. Biggest in canyon so far.

3) Black walnut 115.0' x 7' 9" CBH. Nice tree. Walnut common here, with
several large canopy trees and quite a few young trees growing in floodplain

Good stuff. With new cottonwood, Rucker now goes to 134.69'. Perhaps even
more impressive, the shagbark represents the 18th species in the canyon to
be confirmed above 100'. I believe we may eventually find twenty such
species. Cool. More to come.

New Zoar Valley trip   Thomas Diggins
  Nov 05, 2003 14:46 PST 


Great visit to a new streamside terrace in Zoar Valley. Probably the
last decent chance for field work in the bottom of the canyon before the
snow flies. We came at the gorge from upstream this time, in order to
access a 5-6 acre terrace not reachable in a day from downstream. (For
folks who made the June 28-29 event, this terrace is three times farther
upstream than anything we saw.) Two students and I slogged along the
stream edge for about a mile, much of it picking our way along little
rock shelves only inches wide, with overhanging hemlocks above. No real
danger here; slipping only meant a hot-foot, not an emergency.

Well, our tough hike was amply rewarded. The terrace supports a
beautiful little old-growth forest (plenty of numbers below), and may
just be the most idyllic spot in the entire canyon. Across the way, a
stark 200-foot rock face looms seemingly overhead because of the
narrowness of the river at this spot. A spectacular waterfall plunges
down the middle of the cliff, half of its height in one straight drop.
Behind the terrace, another beautiful cascade flows from a gap in the
impenetrable hemlock slope, then meanders right through the terrace on
its way to the Cattaraugus. Completing this vision of absolute wildness,
broad winged hawks roost on an exposed cliff along the gorge rim. Wow!

Oh, yeah, the trees... Twelve species in the canopy, sugar maple
dominates. I believe this terrace is very old and stable, hence lots of
shade tolerance. My 1929 aerials back that up (no stream bed changes at
all). Our first visual impression was "pretty tall, maybe some stuff in
the 120s". This proved to be an underestimate. First tree measured was a
single, perfect sycamore to 130.9'. Not bad. Then on to a white ash at
132.8', and 79' to first branch. Some real telephone poles down there.
Nice cherry at 118.1' x 7' 7". Just can't seem to break 120' on cherries
in Zoar. Then, a nice American elm at 6' 11" CBH. Pushed upward by some
ash and bitternut, it seemed to go tall rather than fanning out into a
broom. Bagged it at 128.3'!!! Killer basswood abounds. Got what I
believe to be the tallest at 128.7'. A new record for the species,
although the much more accessible Skinny Dip tree is so close the two
are really co-champs. The days tally of significant trees as follows:

1) American elm              128.3 x 6' 11" NE tallest
2) Am. basswood            128.7 x 6' 9" Species' tallest
3) White ash                    132.8 x 6' 0"
4) Sycamore                    130.9 x 7' 3"
5) Black cherry                118.1 x 7' 7"
6) Black cherry                118.3 x 4' 8"
7) Sugar maple                 124.6 x 6' 5"

We also laid out survey qudrats for canopy and understory trees, adding
to our quantitative database on Zoar's riparian woodlands. That elm
means a BIG jump in Zoar's Rucker.

Tulip                 156.0
Sycamore         153.0
White ash         139.0
Bitternut           136.4
Cottonwood     131.5
NR Oak           131.1
Am. basswood 128.7
Am. elm            128.3
Sugar maple      127.0
Black walnut     124.1

Rucker Index of 135.51' (all hardwoods) Cool.

Basswoods   Thomas Diggins
  Nov 05, 2003 18:37 PST 


We can practically taste a 130' American basswood. The two trees over 128'
have old-growth features (nice balding and moss cover), but they're not
suffering any crown die-back that I can tell. Growing branches all seem to
point upward. There is another very tall basswood on this new terrace, but I
was having trouble getting any laser shots into the top branches, and we were
really pushing the daylight to get my survey data collected. I just might get
another chance to visit this site this fall. We simply need a few days
without rain. Everything is so much harder when the water is up, and some
spots cannot be accessed at all. There are still a few more small sections of
river terrace to be visited, but this was the last one in the Main Canyon
that looks to be over an acre. And then there's the South Canyon...


Will Blozan wrote:

  Nice stuff, Tom. I do hope to get a tour soon. The basswoods are amazing!

Zoar Valley Correction/ update   Thomas Diggins
  May 10, 2004 10:56 PDT 


I have a couple revisions of Zoar Valley's Rucker index that might
(gasp) put Cook back on top for the NE...

I slogged into Zoar's uppermost terrace with an undergraduate botany
student (collecting mosses, etc., GREAT diversity!), and revisted some
trees in the leaf-free canopy. I have one "oops", and one "yahoo!!".

The OOPS: The 128'+ American elm is no more than 117.1'. The only
possible explanation is that my shot through the leafy canopy last fall
hit a basswood behind it, and partway up the slope. I was back >70 yards
and shooting through a small window (blah, blah, blah)... As I said,
"oops". This now leaves a gorgeous tree on another terrace at 120.6' x
9' 3" as the Valley's, and possibly the NE's, tallest American elm.

The YAHOO: Got a much clearer shot at an impressive black cherry and
tagged it to 126.4' x 7' 7". This measurement IS very reliable. I got
125.3' and 127.9' from two widely separated spots, after which I then
repeated the 126.4' measure from the original, and by far the clearest,
vantage point. I got only 118.1' last fall so I obviously was not
hitting the top last year.

No other surprising heights, but a nice canopy between 110' and 130'+.
Some ashes and a sycamore at the top end. The site is stunning old

A few highlights, in addition to the trees I reported last fall:

Yellow birch                  99.0' x 6' 9"
Am. Basswood            119.3' x 4' 5"
Bitternut                       129.1' x 4' 9"
Am. Beech                    115.6'
Cottonwood                 115.6' x 6' 1"
Plentiful sugar maple and basswood in the upper teens.

Not Zoar Valley's tallest terrace woodland, but perhaps its most
aesthetically pleasing. Definitely worth the price of admission (which
is a very tough one hour hike). More later...

Oh, BTW, the amended Rucker for Zoar is now 135.32, after dropping the
erroneous elm (128.3') and adding the new black cherry (126.4'). Black
walnut is still on the bubble at 124.1'.


May 11, 2004 he also writes:  That's the only Zoar cherry in the 120' class. A number of nice ones in the teens, 6 - 8' cbh. Black cherry is only about 1% of the canopy, and all mature specimens, widely scattered.

Re: Zoar Valley, NY   tpdig-@ysu.edu
  Nov 09, 2004 07:22 PST 

Hello ENTS,

Hearty thanks once again to all of our gracious hosts in Massachusetts for a
wonderful Forest Summit!

Well, I finally got a chance to get out to the woods to do a little
"sporting"... Hold on to your hats!! My original plan was to head up into Zoar
Valley to get some leaf-off tree shots on the first two terraces up the Main
Branch, mostly to check on white ash, basswood, red oak, and the two elm
species, including the 120.6' x 9' 6" tree that has never been measured in an
open canopy. Unexpectedly high water precluded hiking the main canyon, so I
headed up the South Branch to hit some promising trees discovered during this
summer's quadrat surveying. The South Branch of Zoar Valley is wild and scenic,
but decidedly more disturbed than the Main Branch (mostly pre-1900). A road
formerly crossed a little over a mile upstream, along which were a couple of
Civil War era sawmills and a lime-kiln/furnace of some sort. The forest is a
confusing mix of remnant old growth pockets (especially ridges and cliffs,
etc.), post-disturbance floodplain woodlands, and mature canopy of varying
degrees of 19th century disturbance.

First, I surveyed the very small (barely an acre) terrace closest to the river
junction. This was the most recently discovered old growth tract in Zoar,
because from a distance it appears to be nothing but floodplain. However, the
tiny raised terrace is tucked in at the base of the cliffs.


1. Sycamore 10' 4" (not an old tree, but a fused double) 144.2' (2nd lead

2. Beech 6' 5" x 116.9'
3. Bitternut 8' 2" x 118.1' (impressive crown spread also)

Then, on to a huge cottonwood a few hundred yards upstream, located in area
where I strongly suspect 1800s selective logging had occurred (canopy seems more
fragmented, and ancient CWD seems to be lacking).

4. Cottonwood 14' 0" x 134.4' CS certainly exceeds 100'. Multiple separate tops
exceed 130', and show no breakage or dieback.

Then, farther upstream through young floodplain woodlands to the limekiln, which
precludes much of any undisturbed forest cover. In fact the steep slopes above
the little furnace look very young indeed. Still, some killer maturing second
growth at the base of the slope:

5. Tulip tree 8' 8" x 144.1' (smaller ones at 139.3' and 135.7')
6. White ash to 131.4'
7. AND... American beech 6' 9" x 130.1' WOW! Added 11' to our best for this
species. Two different shots from different vantage points both over 130'.
8. Sugar maple to 118.5'.

Not a bad day in the woods. Wth the new cottonwood maximum and the addition of
beech, Zoar's Rucker Index now JUMPS to 136.2' Yowzah!


Re: Zoar Valley highlights   tpdig-@ysu.edu
  Nov 10, 2004 08:45 PST 

Hi Dale,

Yeah, what a day out there! I think I may just get a couple more sporting days
at Zoar and elsewhere before weather starts to become a problem. Weather, of
course, is never a problem for Lee! Good hunting in the newly found section of
Cook - you're a LONG way from finished in there. BTW, that beech is the first
New Yorker over 130'. We had never broken 120' before in Zoar. However, all of
the beech I have tended to measure are impressive canopy dominant trees that may
be putting more into girth and crown than into sheer height. This 130-footer and
a nearby 122-footer are both youngish trees at the base of the canyon wall, and
they're fighting with tulips and ashes. Quite notably, many of the exceptionally
tall shade-tolerant trees in Zoar (sugar maple, beech, basswood) are
substantially slimmer than the biggest DBH trees of their species. On the other
hand, a number of the shade-intolerant towers are also among the largest in DBH
in the gorge, at least for forest interior trees (tulip, cottonwood, ash,
sycamore, cherry).

Here's the current run-down for Zoar:

1. Tulip 156.0'
2. Sycamore 153.0'
3. White ash 139.0'
4. Bitternut 136.4'
5. Cottonwood 134.4'
6. Red oak 131.1'
7. Beech 130.1'
8. Basswood (Am.) 128.7'
9. Sugar maple 127.0'
10. Cherry 126.4'

Rucker = 136.21' BTW, those even # heights are not estimates; that's just an odd

So many trees...

RE: Zoar Valley highlights   Dale J. Luthringer
  Nov 10, 2004 17:23 PST 


That's quite an impressive line-up. We only have you on black cherry at
Cook. Let's see... your sycamore, bitternut, cottonwood, beech,
basswood, and sugar are all taller than their highest documented
representatives in PA.

Great job!

Re: Red Oak Champ   tpdig-@ysu.edu
  Nov 28, 2004 09:35 PST 

Bob et al.

Wow! Impressive NRO at 133.4' x 9'+ CBH. Our tallest at Zoar is 131.1'. As you
folks already know, the former Zoar champ of similar height toppled into the
river during a flood in May. The current champ may be a little taller than its
listed height, as it is in the midst of youngish tulips and bitternuts, and it
has bever been measured leaf-off. NRO is only about 2% of the canopy on the
terrace flats where the really tall stuff is found. Zoar also has NRO up to
12'5" CBH, but I don't think any of these really large trees is over 115-120'.
All NRO in the gorge are single-stemmed, while there are numerous coppices on
the surrounding uplands - a pretty good demarcation of past logging. 

The best I've gotten for NRO in Ohio is 122'+ in Mill Creek Park, but I very highly
 doubt  that's the state's tallest. I'm sure the species exceeds 130' in the Buckeye
State. Just don't tell anyone or they'll convert it into floorboards and
entertainment centers.