Zoar Valley Update

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ElijahW
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Zoar Valley Update

Post by ElijahW » Sun Dec 13, 2015 11:10 am

NTS,

Thanks to the unusually warm December we're enjoying in NY, I had the opportunity yesterday and Friday to pay a visit to Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area in Gowanda, NY. This deep (for the eastern U.S.) canyon is well-known to most of you, and some have seen it in person. Tom Diggins wrote up multiple reports on the Valley 10-12 years ago, and I've been longing to update his, Bob Leverett's, and other NTS measurements for several years now. Zoar Valley is the tallest forest in NY, as indicated by its Rucker height index, and nowhere else is remotely close.

The water level of the main branch of the Cattaraugus, which runs west to east through the Valley, was too high to visit the terraces on that side, including the one containing the 120' American elm and probably the tallest white pines, in the mid-120s. I was able to navigate forests on both sides of the South Branch, which runs north-south. Hopefully this map is helpful: http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/49452.html. I also got to the Skinny Dip terrace on the south side of the Main Branch and the next terrace west of it. I'll structure this report by individual sections of forest, and then wrap it all together at the end.

Valentine Flats

Scientific Name Common Name Height CBH
Populus grandidentata Bigtooth Aspen 113.2' 5'6"

Ist Terrace Across South Branch

Scientific Name Common Name Height CBH
Platanus occidentalis American Sycamore 147.4' Double
Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 145.2' 7'8"
Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 140.8' Too Steep
Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 138.5' Double
Carya cordiformis Bitternut hickory 128.4' 6'5"
Fagus grandifolia American beech 122.2' 7'11"
Pinus strobus Eastern white pine 121.2' Double
Quercus rubra Northern red oak 116.3' 7'4"
Acer rubrum Red maple 114.4' 5'11"
Acer saccharum Sugar maple 108.8' 8'3"
Tsuga canadensis Eastern hemlock 106.6' Too Steep
Juglans nigra Black walnut 97.8' 5'3"

Skinny Dip

Scientific Name Common Name Height CBH

Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 157.8' 11'0"
Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 151.6' 8'8"
Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 145.6' 9'5"
Platanus occidentalis American Sycamore 147.9' 8'8"
Platanus occidentalis American Sycamore 147.0' 9'2"
Carya cordiformis Bitternut hickory 144.6' 4'6"
Quercus rubra Northern red oak 141.8' 6'9"
Quercus rubra Northern red oak 138.8' 7'10"
Fraxinus americana White ash 137.3' 6'2"
Fraxinus americana White ash 136.6' 5'6"
Fraxinus americana White ash 132.7' Too Steep
Fraxinus americana White ash 124.3' 4'10"
Tilia Americana American basswood 130.7' 6'7"
Tilia Americana American basswood 124.3' 7'1"
Acer saccharum Sugar maple 120.2' 8'7"
Acer saccharum Sugar maple 119.9' 7'2"
Ulmus spp. Likely Red elm 119.1' 5'0"
Ulmus spp. Likely Red elm 118.4' 4'5"
Ulmus spp. Likely Red elm 115.9' 5'4"
Ulmus spp. Likely Red elm 114.2 3'11"
Fagus grandifolia American beech 107.2' 7'7"
Fagus grandifolia American beech 110.5' 3'8"
Tsuga canadensis Eastern hemlock 107.9' 5'9"

The large Black walnut on the Skinny Dip terrace recently fell over, probably within the last couple of months. A laser shot from the broken top to the base was 132'. Accounting for some bend in the topmost branches, it probably was still about 130' tall. This tree was a beauty, and I'm glad I saw it standing on my previous visits.
Toppled walnut, ~130' tall
Toppled walnut, ~130' tall
What I figure to be the tallest white ash (~140') has been down for several years. The same is true for the only large black cherry on this terrace. I did not locate the ~127' Sugar maple previously reported.

Terrace across Main Branch from Skinny Dip

Scientific Name Common Name Height CBH
Juglans nigra Black walnut 125.8' Could not cross Main Branch

Next terrace west of Skinny Dip

Scientific Name Common Name Height CBH
Platanus occidentalis American Sycamore 156.9' 8'8"
Platanus occidentalis American Sycamore 154.5' 8'3"
Platanus occidentalis American Sycamore 146.8' 8'3"
Platanus occidentalis American Sycamore 142.9' Double
Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 143.0' 9'3"
Fraxinus americana White ash 139.0' Double
Populus deltoides Eastern cottonwood 134.2' 13'9"
Tilia Americana American basswood 125.4' 8'1"
Ulmus Americana American elm 96.0' Grows in wet spot; did not measure
Tallest American sycamore, 156.9'
Tallest American sycamore, 156.9'
96' American elm.  Looks to be very old.
96' American elm. Looks to be very old.
East Side of South Branch

Scientific Name Common Name Height CBH
Platanus occidentalis American Sycamore 152.8' Double
Platanus occidentalis American Sycamore 136.7' 7'11"
Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 146.4' Too Steep
Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 146.1' Too Steep
Populus deltoides Eastern cottonwood 140.3' 14'7"
Carya cordiformis Bitternut hickory 132.7' 7'11"
Carya cordiformis Bitternut hickory 128.4' 9'2"
Tsuga canadensis Eastern hemlock 126.7' 8'1"
Tsuga canadensis Eastern hemlock 120.5' Too Steep
Tsuga canadensis Eastern hemlock 118.8' Double
Tsuga canadensis Eastern hemlock 111.0' Too Steep
Fraxinus americana White ash 125.4' 5'8"
Fagus grandifolia American beech 122.6' Too Steep
Prunus serotina Black cherry 121.2' Too Steep
Ulmus spp. Likely red elm 119.0' 4'3"
Tilia Americana American basswood 118.3' Too Steep
Pinus strobus Eastern white pine 118.2' Double
Acer saccharum Sugar maple 115.7' Too Steep

From reading Tom Diggins's reports, the 130' American beech should have been in this area, but I did not find it. The 122.6' tree is possibly the same, with a damaged crown, or I just missed it. The cottonwood has at least two other tops above 130', at 136' and 134'.

West side of South Branch below abandoned road

Scientific Name Common Name Height CBH
Platanus occidentalis American Sycamore 151.7' 8'0"
Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 151.1' 11'6"
Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 149.7' 9'10"
Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 141.3' 8'7"
Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 139.5' 8'10"
Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree 120.5' 7'8"
Carya cordiformis Bitternut hickory 134.3' 5'9"
Carya cordiformis Bitternut hickory 129.8' 6'5"
Carya cordiformis Bitternut hickory 126.1' Too Steep
Tsuga canadensis Eastern hemlock 128.1' 8'9"
Quercus rubra Northern red oak 128.1' 9'2"
Fraxinus americana White ash 125.7' 7'4"
Tilia Americana American basswood 122.4' Too Steep
Tilia Americana American basswood 117.7' Too Steep
151.7' American Sycamore
151.7' American Sycamore
151.1' Tuliptree
151.1' Tuliptree
128.1' x 8'9" Eastern hemlock
128.1' x 8'9" Eastern hemlock
Much of this section of forest appears to be old second growth.

Overall Rucker Height Index for this trip: 138.7'

Tuliptree (Skinny Dip Giant) 157.8'
American Sycamore 156.9'
Bitternut Hickory 144.6'
Northern Red Oak 141.8'
Eastern Cottonwood 140.3'
White Ash 139.0'
American Basswood 130.7'
Eastern Hemlock 128.1'
Black Walnut 125.8'
American Beech 122.6'

Adding the 130.1' American beech and the previously measured Sugar maple on Knife Edge terrace, the Rucker Height Index would stand at 139.6'. I'm pretty confident that a complete re-visit to all previously measured terraces would yield an Index of over 140'. Not bad at all.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Zoar Valley Update

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sun Dec 13, 2015 1:35 pm

Holy crap Elijah, you really knocked this one out of the park!

Very exciting to see some serious numbers in quantity out of Zoar for the first time in a long while. The big tulip above the north shore of the confluence is still the great white whale, but that may be hard to access this time of year. Looks like my previous concentration on the knife-edge ridge terrace was misplaced.

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sradivoy
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Re: Zoar Valley Update

Post by sradivoy » Sun Dec 13, 2015 2:34 pm

Awesome report! I'm gonna have to visit that place. That 157' sycamore is a beauty!

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Matt Markworth
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Re: Zoar Valley Update

Post by Matt Markworth » Sun Dec 13, 2015 5:13 pm

Elijah,

Wow, great numbers all around!

The tall cottonwoods especially caught my eye and white ash must do really well there.

Matt

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dbhguru
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Re: Zoar Valley Update

Post by dbhguru » Sun Dec 13, 2015 5:57 pm

Elijah,

Ditto to what Erik said. I can't tell you how impressed I am with your report. You hit the ball, not only out of the park, but out of the stadium. Zoar Valley is an incredible place, as your numbers reflect. Simply off the charts, and especially considering its latitude.

I was especially pleased that the tall tuliptree originally measured by Dale Luthringer and myself has grown. I think it is the same one, but wasn't prepared for the number of additional 150s, both tulips and sycamores. Gotta get over there in the spring, or late summer.

M friend, it is time that you joined the AF National Cadre. We need you!

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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ElijahW
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Re: Zoar Valley Update

Post by ElijahW » Sun Dec 13, 2015 6:35 pm

Thanks, fellas.

Erik, my next target, when I get the opportunity, will be the north side of the main branch. This outing covered maybe a third of what was surveyed earlier by Tom Diggins and his team, so there's still plenty of work to be done.

Mark, most everything that grows on the valley floor grows very well, except maybe sugar maple. Tom Howard and I have found two sites further north, in Liverpool and Trumansburg, that have sugars just as tall or taller than Zoar. The 140' cottonwood could almost be considered open-grown, as it has little immediate competition, but it continues to grow. Since first measured a little over a decade ago, it has put on about six feet.

It may take a few decades, but I believe that white pine will top 150'. I haven't seen any old pines on favorable sites; my theory is that the few pines contemporary with the oldest hardwoods were selectively cut at least once. The same may be true of hemlock.

Bob, in the 150' contest, sycamore leads 4-3 over team tulip. I think sycamore will take the height crown, surpassing 160', in the next decade or so. My guess is it will be the 154' tree, as it has better access to water and is more sheltered than the 156' tree.

Elijah
Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Zoar Valley Update

Post by Jess Riddle » Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:23 pm

Elijah,

Thanks for the update! I've been doing some re-measuring recently too, and am beginning to appreciate just how much exceptional second growth sites are continuing to grow. Seeing all your numbers together makes me appreciate some things I had missed in earlier reports. I hadn't realized how many extremely tall sycamores Zoar harbors, and that bitternut is amazing for the latitude.

Jess

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bbeduhn
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Re: Zoar Valley Update

Post by bbeduhn » Mon Dec 14, 2015 10:24 am

Dang, those sycamores are right up with the best of The Smokies. Even the tulips are impressive for that latitude. Definitely cover every inch of that place!
Last edited by bbeduhn on Mon Dec 14, 2015 4:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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sradivoy
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Re: Zoar Valley Update

Post by sradivoy » Mon Dec 14, 2015 12:59 pm

What's exciting about eastern trees is that they haven't reached their full height potential. Western trees are taller but have, for the most part, reached their full height potential. Douglas firs probably have some room to grow, but redwoods, spruces, very little. I think the most exciting species on the west coast in terms of height potential is the introduced Eucalyptus. Who know how tall that species will grow in that location.

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dbhguru
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Re: Zoar Valley Update

Post by dbhguru » Mon Dec 14, 2015 1:31 pm

Elijah,

In the 150 competitions, 7 hardwoods (4 sycamores and 3 tulips) on a site that is 42.45 degrees north latitude is something special. I was trying to think if we have any site with that many 150-foot hardwoods as far north. We have one in MTSF at 42.6 degrees, a white ash, but it may no longer be standing. The site where it grows was hit hard by storms. We do pick up 150-foot tulips in central Connecticut and in southeastern NY state, but all sites are below 42 degrees.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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