Cataloochee Creek, GSMNP   Will Blozan
  Jun 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 trees.

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 return trip.

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 tally?

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 ;)

Cataloochee Creek Michael Davie
Jul 07, 2003 16:31 PDT 
Yesterday 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. 

The 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.


RE: A little more Cataloochee Creek Will Blozan
Jul 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 downstream after
working my way below Pine Flats, crossing the creek (in the snow) and
working (fighting) my way upstream and ran out of time. I actually
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 174' tree
easily visible from the opposite bank on a terrace by CC. Many fine but
short pines are up the draws and on the slopes as seen in winter.

The flats downstream had a few 160's and I think a 170+. We may have the
same tree if you went below Pine Flats. It was growing among thick
ericaceous nast on a rather steep slope maybe 25-30 elevational feet above
the water. I'll check my notes.

Glad your getting out!

Re: A little more Cataloochee Creek    Michael Davie
   Jul 09, 2003 19:19 PDT 
The 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 it out?

RE: A little more Cataloochee Creek  Will Blozan
   Jul 12, 2003 17:17 PDT 
I 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 degree locations
and got within 3 inches height on each reading.

That 175'+ pine is certainly a new one, as I exited that side before
entering the flats on that side. Wasn't the flood awesome?!

Any day in Cataloochee is a good one  Michael Davie
   Jul 12, 2003 18:51 PDT 
I 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 8'8")
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.

A Caldwell Fork cove (Cataloochee)   Jess Riddle
  Sep 22, 2003 19:56 PDT 

Last Saturday, Mike Davie and I explored a small tributary of Caldwell
between Sag Branch and Snake Branch in the Cataloochee section of the
Smokies. A low gap provides easy access to the drainage, and understory
conditions are delightfully open, except along the main drainage. Black
cohosh, and wood nettle are common groundcover while hemlocks dominates
the canopy with some tuliptree; scattered basswood, buckeye, and sugar
maple also reach the canopy. The tuliptrees and hemlocks looked generally
unexceptional for Cataloochee, but we did not measure them thoroughly.
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 measured

Jess Riddle