Jess Riddle and I began to explore further upstream in Big
Creek, GRSM. We
selected the drainage of Mouse Creek to survey yesterday
(5/24/03), as it
possibly contained some uncut forest according to research done
Pyle and others. Well, their map was wrong but the day was not a
The entire area, except for a few small isolated (high-graded?)
totally devoid of old trees. Even the steepest slopes were
cleared and some
areas were grape tangles that had no trees. The logging was
complete. However, like the classic phase goes, "Never say
Smokies once again yielded some surprises.
On the way up, in an unnamed steep cove we spotted some nice
tuliptrees. Four trees measured sin + sin were 144', 153.87',
170.48'(10' cbh). Shooting straight up with the laser revealed
trees were common. Further up slope in another small cove we
mountain silverbell that was 12' cbh and 114' tall. With crown
factored in this tree is within 2-3 points of a National
Co-Champion and a
North Carolina State Champion. The silverbell remnant was the
tree we measured all day! There were a few large gnarly hemlocks
about but the sites were so rich that hemlock was not common
except on rocky
ridge outcrops. A tall Fraser magnolia reached 111.7', the
tallest I have
measured and the tallest known in NC. The Park record is 118' as
Jess in Greenbriar, TN.
After a steep and rather nasty ascent we finally made it up to
reaches of Mouse Creek. The re-growth was primarily tuliptree
cherry 120'-130' tall. Some of the cherry was 8' cbh and 125'
first targeted flat we went to was cleared. However, the
phenomenal. A particullarly nice grove of bitternut hickories
with a new height record for the species. A 5'4" tree
topped out at 156.3'
with neighbors 147.45' and 138.77'. Several other trees promised
near or above 150' but the visibility was very poor because of
In fact, the canopy was so dense we could not measure many of
the tall trees
at all. A tuliptree next to the tall bitternut was 155.95',
bitternut can hold its own with tulip on the same site at least
first 70 years!
From the bitternut
grove we went up stream to find another flat cove. This area
was also cut and had spindly re-growth of northern hardwoods so we
headed east to another flat cove lower down. The last cove we surveyed
also cut over but has re-growth that may soon be re-writing the books on
tuliptree maximum height. The tuiliptree grove follows a narrow riparian
corridor along the main stem of Mouse Creek. The sides are steep and
offering the trees in the "canyon" good exposure protection
constant soil moisture all year. Because of the thick canopy, we were
able to sin + sin measure nine trees. These nine trees AVERAGED 159.35'.
tallest tree was 172.1' and only 8'5" in girth (remember these
only 70 years old!). Straight-up laser shots revealed 150 feet was
if not below average. Dozens more trees have yet to be measured- a
endevor! Now think about it... The tallest forest in the East is a
second-growth tuliptree grove on neighboring Baxter Creek. It has an
dominant canopy of around 163' and is around 130-140 years old. The
Creek grove is only half the age and nearly the same average height!
questions come to mind:
Does tuliptree have a non-age or vascular maximum height or will these
Creek trees go to 200' or more?
Are the Baxter Creek trees holding at a maximum height they have been at
Why doesn't the older Baxter Creek grove have 200' trees right now?
Where are the 180' tuliptrees? Trees over 170' have been found all over
sites in second and old-growth forests in the Smokies. Why not 180'????
On the way out Jess and I spent a little time in the flats near the
campground. Here we measured several sweetgums and sycamores over 130'
tallest sweetgum was 135.8' and 5' in girth- a new park height record.
grove has the potential to have a 140' tree in it somewhere; another
project. We spotted a grove of sweetgum across the river that may
these and appear to be growing in or near the essentially unsurveyed
that have 4 sycamores over 150'.
Will and Jess
May 25, 2003