Oregon Caves National Monument, OR Tom Howard
June 28, 2009


Long ago (1975-76) I worked as a cave guide at Oregon Caves National Monument in the Siskiyou Mountains in southwestern Oregon. It is an area famous for biodiversity and large old growth forests. Although I have not been to a natural area in the West since 1976, my heart is still in the West.

The ground above the cave was covered with an old growth forest (from 4000'-5000' above sea level) dominated by Douglas-fir over 300 years old and 3'-6' dbh. (I counted 300 rings on a stump) and at least 150' tall (that's conservative - the tallest Douglas-firs probably exceed 200'). The largest tree there was (and is - I saw a picture of it on the web from 2008) a gigantic Douglas-fir called Big Tree, one of the largest Douglas-firs in Oregon. A website (shannontech.com) says the tree is 160' tall, and over 13' dbh (41' cbh) - statistics that are credible - and over 1200 years old (very likely - it's a craggy old monster).

With the Douglas-firs were large Sugar Pines and Port Orford Cedars. Other smaller trees included Bigleaf Maple (leaves a foot wide), Golden Chinkapin (broadleaf evergreen with gold leaf undersides), Canyon Live Oak (broadleaf evergreen with branches hung with lichen that looks like Spanish Moss), California Black Oak, White Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Pacific Madrone (beautiful broadleaf evergreen, gnarled tree with glossy leaves, bark of orange and other colors), Pacific Yew. Tanoak was a shrub at 4000'. Higher up to 6000' the forest contained Red Fir, Incense Cedar, and Mountain Hemlock and Western White Pine near the highest elevations. Some of this higher elevation forest had been logged, and even in 1975, some of the forest near the protected National Monument had been clear cut.

Oregon Caves is a fabulous place, and it would be great to get accurate height, age, and other measurements there.

Tom Howard

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