Allegany State Park's Trackless West

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Allegany State Park's Trackless West

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sat Mar 30, 2019 2:57 pm

On wednesday 3/27 I returned to this section of the park to continue exploring this area- specifically the two coves marked with “?” marks just south of point B on the topo map displayed in the original post. It was a nice crisp morning and the road going south wasn’t open yet (it closes for use as a snowmobile trail in the winter), but fortunately my target area was close enough that it didn’t add too much of a hike in. The goal was to cover some ground and identify any stands or trees that would be worth making more intensive measurements.

In covering these two coves I observed that the distribution of stands of old trees was patchy and that large portions seemed instead to be mature second growth. Confusingly, typical signs of logging like old stumps and multitrunk red oaks were pretty much nonexistent. I am going to have to look further into the history of some of the large wildfires that occurred in the park in the late 19th century or so to see if that offers any better clues to the distribution patterns. I did observe that mature hemlock and to an even greater degree sugar maple were very much restricted to the smaller patches of old trees.

One patch of old trees, about midway up the ridge between stand B and the next cove south, had a large concentration of gnarly white oak along with a lonely old hemlock and lots of red oak, some cucumber, and the day’s first exciting surprise- a Black Tupelo with seriously old bark that rose like a column to a broken and coppiced crown. Based on the height and form of its trunk below the break I suspect it originally may have been taller than our current NY height maximum for the species. (A)
Old tupelo bark.
Old tupelo bark.
The gnarly old black tupelo in full.
The gnarly old black tupelo in full.
Up at the head of the cove, above the 2000’ isoline transition to oak-tulip forest, was another stand of old trees starting with a magnificent tulip right at a spring, flanked by a few old sugar maples, and extending almost in a line up the slop to the ridge with multiple large red oak, tuliptree, red maples, and some spectacular white ash. (B)
Tall tulip at the head of the cove.
Tall tulip at the head of the cove.
One of the few old sugar maples, growing just below the tall tulip.
One of the few old sugar maples, growing just below the tall tulip.
Ascending the ridge that delineates the next cove south of this I entered a stand that doesn’t seem as old but yielded new rucker trees for Cucumber and Red Oak. This stand was very diverse, with a dominant tulip component but nearly every one of the area’s species in the canopy, and at its edge was yet another very old Black Tupelo, remarkably similar to the first one. (C)
123.5' tall Cucumber Magnolia
123.5' tall Cucumber Magnolia
The southernmost cove has the shallowest slopes and also had no patches of trees I would identify as old-growth. A couple patches had more open canopies over dense beech sprout thickets- perhaps these were groves of magnificent beech just a few decades ago. It’s not for me to know, I suppose. The several streams that weave into each other running down the slope did yield some tall specimens in their narrow ravines, including a new state height record for Bigtooth Aspen. Mature red maple, cucumber, red oak, white ash, black cherry and hemlock all scanned to around 120’ with some regularity, though I only made a few thorough measurements here. (D)
New state height record for Bigtooth Aspen at 122.9'
New state height record for Bigtooth Aspen at 122.9'
All heights with Trupulse 200B handheld, so +-1.5’. Letters key to narrative paragraphs.

137.5’ / 9’cbh (B)
135.5’ / 8.7’cbh (D)
White Ash
129’ / 5.9’cbh (B)
125’ / 9.3’cbh (B)
121’ / 9.2’cbh (A)
Northern Red Oak
124’ / 7.1’cbh (C)
117’ / 10.5’cbh (B)
115’ / 8.1’cbh (A)
Cucumber Magnolia
123.5’ / 6’cbh (C)
121’ / 7’cbh (D)
114.5’ / 5.5’cbh (A)
Bigtooth Aspen
122.9’ / 6.4’cbh (D) steadied unit for greater accuracy
107.5’ (A)
Eastern Hemlock
121.5’ / 6.9’cbh (D)
112' / 9.3’cbh (A)
108.5’ / 9.4’cbh (A)
Black Cherry
118’ / (~2.5’dbh) (B)
Red Maple
116.5’ / 6.4’cbh (B)
112.5’ / 6.2’cbh (B)
Sugar Maple
113’ / girth measured but forgot to write down ~2.5’dbh (B)
White Oak
98.5’ / 9.4’cbh (A)
Black Tupelo
93.5’ / 6.8’cbh

This survey appreciably raised the RHI10 for ASP, but the day wasn't done- after I finished here I made a quick scouting run to the reputed “Camp 10” old-growth site which is buffered at the bottom of the slope by a vigorous mixed conifer plantation- this location will get its own report soon, especially after I get the 200LR trained on the two trees it yielded that now top the rucker (hopefully monday!). ASP has now graduated from “sure to be in the 120s” to “sure to be in the 130s.”

Norway Spruce: 143’ (new state height record, conservative number)
White Pine: 141.5’
Tuliptree: 137.5’
White Ash: 134’
Red Oak: 124’
Hemlock: 124’
Black Cherry: 123.5’
Cucumbertree: 123.5’
Bigtooth Aspen: 122.9’
Red Maple: 116.5’

RHI10: 128.99

A couple notes following up on the original post- reexamining the fruits and foliage of the mystery hickory from the original post, the telltale tufts of hair in the teeth of the leaf confirm the tree to have been Shagbark all along. The tight bark fooled me. This sort of barely-shaggy shagbark must be what old loggers referred to as “Bastard Hickory” according to Peattie’s natural history of eastern trees, as are two of the shagbarks I’ve discussed from the Leolyn grove.

The fern has also since been confirmed to be a new record for Botrychium oneidense, a NYS threatened species.

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Re: Allegany State Park's Trackless West

Post by ElijahW » Mon Apr 01, 2019 6:33 pm


Lots of great finds! Congrats. Do you think the plantation is Depression-era or younger?

I’m finding that hickories can be figured out, but every feature sometimes needs to be keyed out; simply counting the number of leaflets or examining the bark texture isn’t enough. The 140’ Ellison Park Shagbark is similar in shag-factor to your hickory - relatively tight bark low on the trunk with increasing amounts of shag going up into the canopy.

I’m looking forward to seeing photos of the Norway Spruce. Keep up the good work,

"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: Allegany State Park's Trackless West

Post by Erik Danielsen » Tue Apr 02, 2019 3:58 pm

The plantation is most likely depression era or possibly even a couple years predating that, as according to the "botanical survey of allegany state park" compiled in the 1930s, efforts at reforestation via conifer plantations including norway spruce, scotch pine, red pine, and white pine got rolling in the park in the early 1920s. At the time that was written they noted that scotch pine seemed to be growing the most rapidly and predicted it would be much more successful than the red pine, commercially- so much for that! The red pines have by now quite outgrown the scotch pines, most of which are not well-formed. The plantings are large and ideally sited, so I can't really even say that this will be the tallest spruce, or that challengers for red pine or scotch pine state height records aren't in there as well.

Hickories are gradually making more and more sense to me too- as a single trait for positive identification, though, the tufts of hair in the teeth of C. ovata leaves are great! So far I have only seen significant populations of any hickory in ASP on the west-facing slopes of the basin of Crick's Run heading up to site A from the original post. That second-growth area seemed nice and tall and would be worth a return visit. Outside of that, I have seen a single bitternut and a single shagbark in now a few dozen miles of on- and off-trail trekking.

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Allegany State Park's Trackless West

Post by Erik Danielsen » Tue Dec 31, 2019 10:26 am

On November 26, 2019, after some explorations in ASP's Big Basin (report pending) with Jamestown NY old-growth enthusiast Chris Merchant, we decided to use the last hour or so of daylight to go measure a White Pine that Chris discovered several years before. He had sighted its emergent crown on aerial imagery of the forest lining aptly-named Pine Creek, a minor drainage at the northwestern edge of ASP's rugged landform. We hiked down the east bank of the creek to bypass a private inholding, before hiking the final stretch directly in the creekbed. It was clear that everything we passed through had a significant disturbance history prior to the park's establishment, including some small Red Pine and White Pine plantations more or less across the creek from the big tree.
Looking up into the canopy of the big tree.
Looking up into the canopy of the big tree.
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The big White Pine itself stands ramrod-straight over a canopy of homogenous youngish hemlocks with scattered hardwoods, the sort of regeneration typical in hemlock-hardwoods stands that have most of their canopy removed followed by strong hemlock recruitment. Near the big pine was a large fallen Black Cherry- one of a handful of scattered trees along with the pine that probably initiated or were released by initial disturbance.
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The big white pine is youthful and vigorous, to the point of throwing off my sense of visual scale- it was further away than it looked, because it's larger than it looks like it should be! This tree is no doubt growing at a rapid clip. It's already the largest girth I've measured in the park, and may give the tallest few in the main Big Basin stand a run for their money in the next decade for height. It'll almost certainly join the 12'x150' club within a couple growing seasons. I look forward to modeling its volume at some point. Unless Chris has another name in mind, I'd like to name this Chris's Pine.
Full view of the tree- relatively even taper but it certainly has some mass in spite of its apparent youth.
Full view of the tree- relatively even taper but it certainly has some mass in spite of its apparent youth.
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Chris's Pine:

151.7' Tall / 11.83' CBH / 45.2" DBH

Heading back to the road we traversed the steep east-facing slope on the west bank of Pine Creek to bypass the other side of the inholding. The slope forest was taller and less disturbed than I would have expected, hardwood-dominant Rich Mesophytic forest with many tuliptrees, oaks, white ash and others worth a return visit.

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Allegany State Park's Trackless West

Post by Erik Danielsen » Tue Oct 27, 2020 12:49 pm

In the past month I've had the chance to make a couple visits to this part of ASP. I'm including now the rest of the western portion of this park (not just that large trail-free block) in this thread. Even though there are some trails around Quaker Lake and Blacksnake Mountain, the density of trails and roads throughout is much lower than it is in the Big Basin and East Slope sections of the park.
Finally, a mature Shagbark.
Finally, a mature Shagbark.
A visit on October 10 brought me back through both of the areas previously covered- up through the Bay State Brook coves and over the ridge down to the old-growth hemlocks up Crick's Run. I was escorting a friend to old-growth and tall-tree sites in the park so wasn't focused on measurement, but I took note of some tall hemlocks just below the tallest Cucumber Magnolias and Red Oaks I had seen in the Bay State Coves previously, and down on the slope above Crick's Run we go into an impressively diverse mature forest that even featured (at last) a large, mature Shagbark Hickory.
The new tall Bitternut isn't huge, but pleasantly columnar.
The new tall Bitternut isn't huge, but pleasantly columnar.
At the end of the day I accessed an interesting crescent-shaped ravine feeding into Holts Run partially mapped as old-growth by NYNHP. This turned out to be one of the richest environments I've seen in the park, with even the upper slopes carpeted in herbaceous species requiring moist, calcium-rich soils. It's no surprise that here I finally found an impressive Bitternut Hickory. I had little time but the diversity of the canopy including much tupliptree, cucumber magnolia, white ash, sugar maple, and others was balanced by a high frequency of blowdown patches. I think I'll find additional tall trees in here when I have a bit more time to explore, but wind events may limit the lifespan of tall trees in this spot. In the young forest near the mouth of this ravine, on my way back to my car, I also found Black Maple foliage with the distinctive stipules and pubescence. I didn't look for Black Maple in the older forest of the ravine, but I'd bet it's in there.
Base of the new big pine (15.1'cbh, 148.95'cbh)
Base of the new big pine (15.1'cbh, 148.95'cbh)
10/25 I returned to trace the same route through the Bay State Coves and Crick's Run drainage to get some followup measurements, but first I accessed a stand near the westernmost tip of the park that showed a number of large, scattered white pine crowns on the orthoimagery. This turned out to be vigorous maturing second-growth with strong oak and cucumber magnolia components as well as a couple dozen impressive white pines, many exceeding 11'cbh. A single standout near the base of the slope with an improbable girth may be older than the rest, perhaps released from competition in the 19th century and seeding many of the pines upslope. While some of this tree's girth comes from a dramatic basal flare, I think it is still possibly the largest by mass I've seen outside of the adirondacks. Almost a 15x150!
More specimens of the NYS-threatened Blunt-Lobed Grapefern. It seems to be common on both sides of this ridge.
More specimens of the NYS-threatened Blunt-Lobed Grapefern. It seems to be common on both sides of this ridge.
The rest of the day turned up new park maximums for hemlock and shagbark hickory, and a new state maximum for Black Cherry. The tall hemlocks and black cherries were all concentrated in a low ravine in the Bay State Coves, just below the tallest cuke, red oak, and former tallest tulip. This spot seems to have the greatest intersection of heights and diversity in the park so far, as well as an interesting concentration of gnarly black tupelo. The sun was setting on me as I measured the last hemlock, and there's still a lot of leaves to deal with, but I think I might have to spend a nice day concentrating on this spot in April or May.

White Pine all but one from the western tip
148.95' / 15.1'cbh
142.5' / 10.3'cbh
137.5' / 11.65'cbh
137' / 11.6'cbh
135' (bay state coves)
130.4' / 11.05'cbh
126.5' / 11.1'cbh

Eastern Hemlock all Bay State Coves
132.96' / 9.6'cbh
130.56' / 8.7'cbh
129.9' / 8.9'cbh

Black Cherry Bay State Coves, with the hemlocks
134.76' / 7.15'cbh
130.08' / 6.5'cbh

Northern Red Oak from the western tip, among the pines
117.5' / 9.45'cbh
115.08' / 8.05'cbh

Cucumber Magnolia from the western tip, among the pines
121' / 8.9'cbh

Shagbark Hickory diverse forest above Crick's Run
112.92' / 9.4'cbh

Bitternut Hickory rich crescent-shaped ravine
118.5' / 8.35'cbh

Some comparisons: The RHI10 for just the Bay State Brook Coves, a very confined area, is 124.96 with no species exceeding 140'. The much larger old-growth area of the Stoddard Hollow Creek drainage at the heart of the Big Basin, classically the park's "big tree" area, is 125.09. There's still more to measure in both locations but I'm impressed by what I'm finding in the "trackless west." The RHI10 for the whole "trackless west" currently, including Chris's Pine and the new Bitternut, is 129.6 against the whole-park RHI10 of 134.1.

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