Allegheny River Islands Wilderness Expedition: R. Thompson, Stewards, Feulhart Island, Courson Island   Dale Luthringer
  Sep 19, 2007 14:45 PDT 

The third day of our expedition on 9/4/07 started out with a glorious
sunny morning. We met up with Tony Kelly the evening before and mapped
out our plan of attack. Today's trip was to put in at Thompson Island
and canoe to Tidioute (~12 miles), stopping on all the named wilderness
islands in this section of the river to document various tree species of
hopefully noteworthy size and stature. We didn't go far before we were
greeted by a total of four bald eagles in the vicinity of R. Thompson
Island, two adults and two immatures. It was a prelude of what was to
come on an incredibly beautiful day on the river.

rthompson01.JPG (29817 bytes)
 R. Thompson Island - photo by Ed Frank

The first named island we came to was R. Thompson Island. It is located
1.8miles downstream from Thompson Island. It's about 30 acres in size,
a half a mile long and a tenth of mile wide.

rthompson03.JPG (57422 bytes)
 Anthony Kelly and canoe - photo by Ed Frank

We beached at the top of the island and worked our way downstream,
spreading out to recon the island as we went. It wasn't long before we
were working our way along an old river channel within the heart of the
island. It appeared we weren't going to find anything of note until we
got along the eastern shore where we picked up some decent single stem
silver maples, see below. A little farther down the island an old
bitternut hickory came into view that appeared to have some age that I
would classify as having "old growth" stature (buttress basing, 'crooked
arm' branching, and thick moss layered trunk). I was beginning to think
we weren't going to find any trees over 120ft. That's when Tony came
across a nice stand of sycamore in the western central part of the
island. Tony's find, was a pleasant surprise, with his clump of
sycamore coming in at the upper 120's to low 130's.

rthompson02.JPG (124681 bytes)
 Interior or R. Thompson - photo by Ed Frank

The center of the island had a nice stand of young white ash dominating
the canopy. Many of these islands were logged probably decades ago, if
not over 150 years ago, to varying extent. Others have been flooded
many times over the years keeping the overall age of the majority of the
trees fairly young. It always seemed though, that the more we looked,
there were always some trees of age, albeit scattered, on virtually
every island we came to. These islands were an ecosystem constantly in
transition from pioneer species to mature to old trees, then being
washed our scoured out in places, starting the process over again. It
was quite interesting to view a "snapshot" of how these islands were
forming, eroding, and reforming by the creative forces of the river over
decades. It brought to mind some of Dr. Tom Diggins' observations of
small island formation in Zoar Valley from past presentations. R.
Thompson Island stats follows:

rthompsona.jpg (29253 bytes)

9/4/07   (Frank, Kelly, Luthringer)
R. Thompson Island
Species                        CBH     Height   Comments

Bitternut hickory            8.5        108.1+ "old growth" tree
Silver maple                   13.1(2x) 91.5
Silver maple                   13.4      102.1+
Sycamore                     11.6      102+
Sycamore                     6.6        103.2
Sycamore                     9.1        114.1+
Sycamore                     12         122.7
Sycamore                     10.7      131.3

Species present but not measured = black locust, slippery elm, Vitus sp., white ash
Invasives = garlic mustard, Japanese barberry, Japanese knotweed,
multiflora rose,

1.5miles further downstream was Stewards Island. It wasn't on the named
list of "wilderness" islands, but we wanted to stop since it was of
pretty good size. We actually didn't even get to Stewards. We put in
at the top of what we thought was Stewards, but turned out to be a large
adjacent island just upstream. This small un-named island was smaller
than R. Thompson, 19 acres in size, at half a mile long by one tenth of
a mile wide. Stewards Island, just a stones throw downstream is 51acres
in size, at 0.7miles long by 0.2miles wide. We searched for noteworthy
trees on the un-named island, but were soon confronted with a wall of
invasives (multiflora rose & knotweed) and quickly lost interest. By
the time we got back to the canoe, we realized we needed to start to put
our blinders on if we were going to finish all the named islands
designated as "wilderness" in this section of river.

Another trip to the actual Stewards Island would most likely prove
fruitful. As we canoed down the eastern channel beside Stewards, we
noted a number of decent silver maple and sycamore that would most
likely have made it into the 12x100 class. The stats for the un-named
island above Stewards Island follows:

stewarda.jpg (28180 bytes)

Stewards (un-named) Island
Species                        CBH     Height   Comments

Bitternut hickory            6.4        84.1+
Black walnut                  6.2        85.3
Silver maple                   11.6      N/A       largest stem

Species present but not measured = Am. Hornbeam, black birch, black
willow, hawthorne, silver maple, sycamore
Invasives = Japanese knotweed, multiflora rose

The next island we were to pass was Feulhart Island, 2.1miles downriver
from Stewards. It is 25acres in size, 0.6miles long by 0.1miles across.
It wasn't named as part of the wilderness and had a large privately
owned cabin in the middle of it, so we did not disembark to save time.
I'm kind of kicking myself for not making a short stop. There was a
very nice sycamore and fat black walnut beside the private cabin. It
also sported the only white pine we saw on any of the islands during the
four day trip. Ed got some rough laser measurements from the canoe for
the white pine as we floated by and put it to around 115ft. Not
noteworthy in height, but probably each three species of tree we noted
(sycamore, black walnut, white pine) would've gone over 12ft CBH.

courson01.JPG (97184 bytes)
 Japanese Knotweed on Courson Island - photo by Ed Frank

1.1miles further downsteam was the last island we were to stop on for
the day, Courson Island. It is 62acres in size, 0.9miles long by
0.1miles across.   Found our first catalpa here, just inside the
tree-line. We thoroughly worked this entire island which was another
island dominated by silver maple, bitternut hickory, and slippery elm.
We made our way diagonally across the island until we hit another solid
patch of knotweed then had to bump out on the eastern edge again. We
then made our way down an internal dry riverbed channel cutting across
the island and were almost ready to throw in the towel. Then I looked
off into the snotweed forest and saw a nice sycamore about 30 yards in.
this one was worth the bushwhack, (too bad Tony left his machete in the
car, it certainly would've come in handy). It was definitely the
biggest tree we found that day at 15.2ft CBH x 129ft+ high. A very nice
addition to our 12x100 trees.

courson03.JPG (86998 bytes)
 Large sucamore among the knotweed - photo by Ed Frank

We continued to follow the old river channel which took a 90degree turn
west across the island. Shimmied up a steep bank of knotweed to a nice
little flat of white ash, basswood, and bitternut hickory. Ed soon
found another fat hawthorne that went to 4.9ft CBH x 42.5ft high x
45.9ft avg crown for 112.8AF Points, one of the largest documented in
the state.

courson02.JPG (84414 bytes)

While Ed & I were measuring the hawthorne, Tony ventured on and came
back with news of a fat butternut ahead. Turned out to be the largest
I've personally seen in the field at 8ft CBH (above branching) x 63.8ft
high. It was 9ft circumference just below branching. Regrettably, it's
been affected by the butternut canker, but is still producing nuts.

courson04.JPG (86225 bytes)
 New "trunks" growing on a fallen sycamore - Ed Frank

Courson Island's stats follows:

coursona.jpg (28108 bytes)

Courson Island               
Species                        CBH     Height   Comments

Am. Basswood              7          78.1+
Am. Basswood              7.9        90.6+
Bitternut hickory            N/A       94.6
Bitternut hickory            7.4        107.4
Bitternut hickory            5.1        108.1+
Black birch                    7.7        N/A       snag
Black locust                  9.8        96.1+
Butternut                       8          63.8
Catalpa                         5.9        61.7
Hawthorne sp.               4.9        42.5      113 AF Points
Pignut hickory               7.2        94.5
Pignut hickory               5.5        94.5+
Silver maple                   11.5      96+
Silver maple                   12.2      97
Silver maple                   N/A(3x) 112.2
Slippery elm                  9.3        69.1+
Staghorn sumac            1.5        20
Sycamore                     10.9      85.5+
Sycamore                     15.2      129       massive, in snotweed
White ash                     7.4        99
White ash                     9.1        111.1+

Courson Island Rucker Index = 93.62
Species                        CBH     Height

Sycamore                     15.2      129
Silver maple                   N/A(3x) 112.2
White ash                     9.1        111.1+
Bitternut hickory            5.1        108.1+
Black locust                  9.8        96.1+
Pignut hickory               5.5        94.5+
Am. Basswood              7.9        90.6
Slippery elm                  9.3        69.1+
Butternut                       8          63.8
Catalpa                         5.9        61.7

Species present but not measured = black willow, silky dogwood, vitus sp.
Invasives = Japanese knotweed, multiflora rose, tatarian honeysuckle

Part 3 of the expedition from West Hickory to Tionesta to follow.


RE: Allegheny River Islands Wilderness Expedition: R. Thompson, Steward's, etc.   Edward Frank
  Sep 19, 2007 17:45 PDT 


Another excellent account of our four day expedition. There are a
couple of things I might disagree about in your report. On Fuelhart
Island, The sycamore on the island was fat and could go over 12' cbh,
but I don't think so about the other two species. The black walnut was
good sized, but I am not convinced that it was any bigger the the 7.5'
cbh 110' high specimens on Thompson Island. It might have been a little
fatter. The white pine to me seemed to be a skinny young specimen. I
am thinking it may have been a planted specimen. I don't think it was
all that fat. The only answer is to go back again and measure them.

The island we were on - was it Steward's Island or not? That is hard to
define. These islands are broken up into several pieces and we
explored the upper piece of the island, but I think it was still part
of Steward's Island as shown on the air photos. So the piece we were on
represented perhaps 1/3 of the total size of the island. In the canoe
trip I a sure we could have found more species and bigger trees if we
had the time to more thoroughly explore these islands and did not need
to force our way through the jungles of exotics. When are we going
back? We need to identify the species of hawthorn we found and
determine if peachleaf willow is actually present.


RE: Allegheny River Islands Wilderness Expedition: R. Thompson, Stewards. etc.   Dale Luthringer
  Sep 19, 2007 20:17 PDT 


Well, you're right. We'll just have to go back to Feulhart Island and
see. Sycamore have a wonderful way of getting me to underestimate their
actual size. 12ft CBH might be a little stretch for that black walnut,
but I bet it went closer to 11. We'll have to put a case of Mountain
Dew on it though...

For Stewards, I have in my notes we were on the smaller upstream island.
Your aerial photos seem to more current than my mapping software which
lists the complex as two separate islands. For all intense purposes,
this island complex should just be called Stewards. During low water,
it's probably all one island anyway. Stewards was probably the biggest
island complex we hit. Yes, the bottom section was going to hold some
much better stuff. Regrettably, some of the less noteworthy islands we
were on are starting to run together in my mind now. The Stewards
complex is kind of like the small island above Thompson. I'm just going
to call these island complexes as the same named main island...

I'm going to call all the hawthorn we saw as 'dotted' hawthorn. I'm
mainly going by general leaf shape only. I found a beautiful hawthorne
downstream below Tionesta a couple of days later on Kibbe's Island
Campground that was a solid 5.5ft CBH x 33.9ft high x 45.8ft avg spread
for 111.4AF Points. I was going to post on this later, but looks like I
just did. I took leaf, bud, & fruit samples back with me to check. All
the hawthorne we saw had the same characters as this one. This
hawthorne was all solid single stem tree. No guesswork as to where to
measure CBH on this baby.

Also had an immense sycamore here as well to 17.8ft CBH x 109.1ft high.
My largest personal sycamore measure... what I was hoping we were going
to find on Thompson. They had a lot of nice hackberry here as well.
One was another personal largest measure for the species at 10ft CBH x
93.4ft high.

Kibbe's Island Campground, was a private place. I had to get special
permission to get on it, and had to rush through before they closed up.
During very high water, it would be an island, but for the most part it
might be better described as a peninsula.

I'll be with Chuck Williams tomorrow putting in 5m sample plots for
grassland species on the Clarion tomorrow. I'll ask him about peach
willow ID. Did you catch which "Williams" did the previous papers on
the wilderness islands?

I'm thinking it might be best to try another expedition in the spring,
after the high water receeds and before the snotweed comes up.

I'm on vacation next week, but will be spending it with my wife. We'll
be heading to Northern Kentucky for a weekend trip. I'm hoping I'll be
able to check on a couple of nearby state nature preserves while we're

Next week I'll be in part of the marsh lands in the vicinity of
Cambridge Springs. Gordon Whitney wanted to get my take on what was
reported as ~10acres of old growth in there some time ago. I've got a
local contact who'll be hopefully taking me right to the spot. That's a
BIG area to explore, interspersed with a lot of saturated ground only
accessed by knowing which "islands" are needed to hop to in succession
to get to a desired point. The fat sugar maple in Sparty' is nearby as