Elk Creek & Lake Erie Gorges   Dale J. Luthringer
  Sep 17, 2003 07:12 PDT 

My Jack Russell (J.R.) and I took our first walk into the reported "old
growth" area in the vicinity of Elk Creek in Erie County bordering Lake
Erie. I'm hoping I just walked around its boundaries today. I saw a
number of old tuliptrees, N. red oak, Am. beech, and sugar maple, some
that I believe would surpass 250 years, but they were very spread out.
I'll be meeting with a contact from the conservancy in early October who
I hope will show me the meat of the site and give me a brief history of
the area.

I haven't seen anything that I would classify as old growth yet, but
there is some promise to this site. My first trip yesterday was just to
get an idea of the boundaries and what may be in store. All of the area
I walked today was selectively logged years ago. Evidence of coppiced
trees and tip-up mounds with no logs were throughout the entire area
except the very steep gorges that dropped quickly down to the Lake Erie
shoreline. All the flats were logged with some areas marked to be
logged (black cherry & sugar maple in particular).

This area definitely deserves another look. I didn't investigate all
the steep gorges in this site and did find a couple of dandies just
inside the woods adjacent to a nearby cornfield.

The best find of the day was a massive tuliptree at 14.7ft CBH x
111.1+ft high. This is a very old tuliptree. I'd say definitely over
250 if not more. This is the largest forest grown tulip that I've
measured in PA. About 75% of the trunk of this tree was bald to about
6ft up from its base, then very deeply furrowed above that. The top has
weathered many storms, but is growing quite well. I didn't take the
time to get a better height, because I only had about an 1.5 hrs to
cover a 2-3 mile track around the border of this property. This tree
was definitely stimulating enough to warrant an ENTS yell.

About 30 yards from this tulip was a large double N. red oak. One side
had recently fallen, but the other side was respectable at 12.5ft CBH x
83.1+ft. Another large N. red nearby yielded 13.4ft CBH x 105.1+ft.
There were some large trees on the flats at the edges of steep ravines,
and I mean steep. 'J.R.' and I made our way down one to get to the
lake. I actually felt claustrophobic. The sides of these ravines were
very muddy and quite slick. The only way you could make it down was to
actually walk in the creek bed. The sides of the ravine really felt like
they were pushing in on you, like you could touch each wall with arms
outstretched. Spiders loved it. They had the whole area webbed off.
which isn't good if you have a "slight" phobia of spiders. There was a
nice beech and tulip at the edge of this specific ravine (beech 9.1ft
CBH x 101.5+, tulip 12.7ft CBH x 105.1+). That makes a total of 3 more
trees to be entered into the 12x100 Club.

The hike started from the Elk Creek Access Area parking lot. There is
an old ATV trail at the west side of the parking lot. I followed that
to the top of the hill, then skirted the ridgeline west passing a nice
bowl shaped depression with mature trees to my left to a large
cornfield. I followed the cornfield west until I observed a drainage,
then cut into the woods north. This is where I virtually stepped into
the large tuliptree. If I hadn't stepped into the woods, I probably
would've missed this tree due to the thick vegetation surrounding the
field. I then worked my way north and west towards and along the bluffs
of Lake Erie checking out a couple of the steep ravines. they were all
treacherous. I'd classify most of the area I walked as mature 2nd
growth with a few scattered old trees. Logging here was quite evident,
while other areas may have been logged 100-150 years ago (old Am.
chestnut stumps were in the area).   J.R. and I chose a ravine that
seemed a little less treacherous down to the lake, then walked the rock
rubble strewn beach about a 1.5 miles back to where Elk Creek dumps into
Lake Erie. I also gave her a bath in the lake which she didn't like.
wife doesn't like a dirty smelly dog in bed. There was about a
200-250ft drop in elevation from the bluff to the lake. I'm definitely
anxious to return to check out the steep ravines that I passed on my
peripheral outing yesterday. The day's catch as follows:

Species            CBH     Height   Status

Am. beech        9.1        101.5+ (beautiful beech on the edge of
steep ravine, too bad some moron carved into it)

Cottonwood       N/A       78         (on bluff, just for Bob)

N. red oak         8.8        93.1+
N. red oak         12.5      83.1+
N. red oak         13.4      105.1+ new 12x100 Club

Tuliptree            12.7      105.1+ new 12x100 Club
Tuliptree            14.7      111.1+ new forest grown CBH record, new
12x100 Club

White ash         7.9        102.1+