I’ve driven past Klootchy Creek County Park on Highway 26 around milepost 2 south of Seaside many dozens of times. But I haven’t stopped since the main attraction was suddenly altered on December 2, 2007. Probably haven’t visited since before the kids started joining our family in 2000.
A sign on the highway still reads that it’s the home of the largest Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) in the United States, and the largest tree in Oregon. It’s the first tree designated as an Oregon State Heritage Tree. Here’s what it looks like now.
Still an awe-inspiring sight, though this tree’s 500-750 year life span was brought to an end by a December 2007 wind storm which broke the tree along a previous lighting scar, and caused it to break off at 80 feet from the ground. It’s shown here cut further down to about 40 feet for safety reasons. More information on this tree can be found here.
Two 17-foot diameter sections of the upper portion of the tree remain on site for visitors to examine. Here’s a 4-year-old human to give an idea of scale.
Perfect for this 11-year old climber.
I find it achingly sad that this giant is no longer living as it once did, standing at a proud height of over 200 feet. Yet at the same time, although this tree quietly occupied this earth, growing slowly over hundreds of years, the catastrophic end to its life happens at only one moment in time. As its contemporaries we were witness to this dramatic event. And now we watch this tree continue to serve a vital ecological function as its decaying trunk and enormous logs slowly convert to nurse log material, promoting establishment of vegetation, and in time mature forest trees.
Will one of the surrounding Sitka spruce trees some day become the next Klootchy Creek giant?