Fort Hill (OH)

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Matt Markworth
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Fort Hill (OH)

Post by Matt Markworth » Sun Feb 23, 2014 9:09 am

All,

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting up with Super ENT Rand at Fort Hill in Southern Ohio. We spent the day walking the trails and, of course, looking up into the canopy! Not only did Rand measure many more trees than me, he also recorded all of the data for us, which he will post separately.

The site is perhaps most well known for the Hopewell Culture earthworks, although the earthworks don’t seem as well defined in the landscape as other earthwork sites such as Serpent Mound or Fort Ancient. Nonetheless, it’s always interesting to walk in the footsteps of ancient cultures. Also, the well known Buckeye Trail makes its way through Fort Hill as a small link in the trail’s circular path through the State of Ohio. Rand and I followed the Buckeye Trail into Pike State Forest for a bit and found more impressive forest.

Comprising 1300 acres and 11 miles of trails, not to mention the adjacent Pike State Forest, there are ample opportunities for more exploration. Driving in from the west, the hills were very prominent. This area is on the edge of the unglaciated portion of the Allegheny Plateau and it was a welcome opportunity to see terrain much different than my usual haunts. The late Cincinnati botanist Lucy Braun studied this site and here is a short excerpt of her findings: “Fort Hill lies at the northern end of the Knobs Border Area (a Mixed Mesophytic Forest region primarily found in Kentucky) and displays many of the botanical features of the Knobs. Control of underlying rock on the character of growing vegetation is pronounced, and results in a great diversity of plant communities throughout the park. The diversity is due in part to the presence of both calcareous and noncalcareous bedrock (dolomite, sandstone and shale), with the resultant differences in resistance to erosion, soil reaction, and direction of slope. The pH of soils in the park range from a high alkaline reading of 7.6 to a severely acid reading of 4.6. Topographical character has also contributed to the diversity of vegetation. Hilltops are approximately 1300 feet in elevation descending to a low of 820 feet on Baker Fork.” While the Tuliptrees, as usual, were the tallest trees present, I was most impressed with the white, chestnut, and northern red oaks. They really shoot straight up! I don’t get to see chestnut oak close to home, so that was also a welcome change to my normal scenery. There were many impressive trees and I can’t wait to see them all listed out in Rand’s post.
sign-small.jpg
View from atop Fort Hill . . .
view from atop fort hill-small.jpg
View of Baker Fork . . .
view of baker fork-small.jpg
Above Baker Fork . . .
above baker fork-small.jpg
Matt
Last edited by Matt Markworth on Sun Feb 23, 2014 5:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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dbhguru
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Re: Fort Hill (OH)

Post by dbhguru » Sun Feb 23, 2014 3:05 pm

Matt, Rand, Steve,

You guys are terrific! You are putting Ohio on the map in ways none of us could have ever foreseen. I once thought Ohio had very little to offer, except memories. But It is obvious that eastern Ohio still has some incredible places and deserves to receive a lot more attention. And NTS members are leading the way. You all are just way cool!

Rand and Steve, any chance of you all joiningMatt and the rest of us in Durango in August?

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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Rand
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Re: Fort Hill (OH)

Post by Rand » Mon Feb 24, 2014 2:24 pm

Fort Hill State Memorial is an unremarkable rumple of hills on the north eastern edge of the unglaciated area of southwest Ohio. LIDAR surveys turned up an abundance of 140' hits in corridors shading the stream courses that crease the bottoms of the coves, with a few hits in 145'-150' class. Accustomed to the masses of young skinny tulip trees found in other sites in southern Ohio, I wasn't expecting anything different here. I was to be proven very wrong.

- The areas in blue are roughly the areas we surveyed (Red areas also have overall high LIDAR presentations but were not surveyed) The general plan of the day was to hit the locations with the very highest LIDAR hits. With the GPS coordinates of these locations programmed into the Trimble navigation app of his fish-in-a-barrel-shooter/iphone Mark lead the way. The first area we hit was an east-west orientated cove in Pike State Forest. Marked in # 1 in the Overview Map:
Fort Hill-overview.jpg
The higher slopes of this area were dominated by chestnut oaks, mixed with a few white oaks, pignut & shagbark hickory. The lower slopes and stream bottoms were dominated by towering 140'-150' tulip trees, with a smattering of red oaks, beeches, white ashes, and sugar maples sandwiched in between on the midslopes. A lucky few of these less common species managed to fight their way through the tulip trees on the cove's lower slopes and reached their best development there:
11' 8.0" x 129.0' White Oak
11' 8.0" x 129.0' White Oak
10' 2.5" x 137.0' Red Oak
10' 2.5" x 137.0' Red Oak
9' 8.0" x 150.9' Tuliptree
9' 8.0" x 150.9' Tuliptree
9' 4.0" x 142.0' Tuliptree
9' 4.0" x 142.0' Tuliptree
11' 10" x 115' Red Oak (AKA Why LIDAR can lie)
11' 10" x 115' Red Oak (AKA Why LIDAR can lie)
FH-survey-1.jpg
After a steep climb out of the Pike Forest Cove we traversed the sloped saddle between it and the flat ridge top that contained the old earthworks (#2 on the map). We found a few nice shagbark hickories in the generally dry looking forest here. On the inside of the earthwork there was a shallow moat, perhaps 5' deep and 20' across. A few inches of water ponded here and there in the moat, and a few fat red maples found the area to their liking. A number of fat, old looking black gum were found on the exterior of the earthworks as well. A fallen and cut red oak gave a ring count of ~175.
FH-survey-2.jpg
7' 10" x 117.9' Beech
7' 10" x 117.9' Beech
Next we joined up with the Gorge Trail that headed downhill toward the mouth of the gorge. A few black oaks finally made their appearance here, but were not notably large. The trail next lead us straight through the middle of what can only be described as a super cove (#3 on the map). The cove was orientated due north-south, and relatively wide and flat bottomed, and it was this aspect that I'm assuming allowed it to be dominated by oaks instead of tulip trees. Three oak species reached 140' within a hundred yard stretch of the valley bottom. A variety of other species also reached their best development here:
7' 7" x 140.5' White Oak, 8' 3" x 140.0 Shumard Oak
7' 7" x 140.5' White Oak, 8' 3" x 140.0 Shumard Oak
10' 5" x 140.0' Red Oak
10' 5" x 140.0' Red Oak
SH-survey-3.jpg
As we headed downstream, the valley steepened and narrowed. A few large but not particularly tall tulip trees overshadowed the stream here, suppressing any stream side trees. Gradually the deepening ravine pinched down into a small gorge with short, shaley cliffs on either side. Mark noticed a carpet of canada yew clinging to these cliffs, and few Eastern red cedar were seen colonized the cliff tops.

Lastly we entered the Gorge proper. This is the area pictured in most of Mark's pictures. We did spot one deep alcove in cliffs with an overshadowing oak that was the source of a spurious 157' LIDAR hit. In general the gorge bottom was too narrow to support any large trees, but we did find one nice sycamore:
FH-survey-4.jpg
Unfortunately at this point it began to get dark and we could only look up at the large tree filled coves above the gorge and promise to return another day:
Easily the oldest and largest looking Tuliptree we saw, but no time to measure
Easily the oldest and largest looking Tuliptree we saw, but no time to measure
Finally on the way back we saw a massive sycamore on a flat on the opposite side of the creek. Not terribly tall, but it had a massive towering bole, heavy limbed, spreading crown, with huge buttressed roots sprawling out from its base. It was easily the largest either of us has ever seen. It was at least 20' cbh, more likely in 25' range. Chased by the gathering darkness, we scurried on, and barely made it back before full dark.

Finally the Rucker Index (Beats hocking hills by two feet)
FH-survey-Rkr.jpg

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Rand
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Re: Fort Hill (OH)

Post by Rand » Mon Feb 24, 2014 2:45 pm

There is some question on the ID of the shumard oak. I'd like others to confirm it. The leaves didn't look like full blown shumard oak, but didn't look like full red oak either:
_MG_8498.jpg
_MG_8499.jpg
The bark however does have the exaggerated 'rail-road tracks' the species is known for (compare to the red oak shot posted above):
_MG_8503.jpg
_MG_8504.jpg

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Steve Galehouse
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Re: Fort Hill (OH)

Post by Steve Galehouse » Mon Feb 24, 2014 7:07 pm

Rand, Matt, NTS-

Those are some great finds, especially the tall oaks and black cherry! Its looks like further exploration will show even more exceptional trees. The Rucker 10 is the best in the state, followed closely by Sand Run at 138.22. If you guys go again, give me a heads-up and I'll try to get there as well. And Rand, I think Shumard is corrrect.

Steve
every plant is native somewhere

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Rand
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Re: Fort Hill (OH)

Post by Rand » Mon Feb 24, 2014 7:23 pm

The tallest cherry is perhaps the most ill-formed tall tree I've ever seen. We crossed it early in the hike and I almost didn't bother, assuming we'd see a better one later. However, mark went back to measure it, and I'm glad we did because it was the biggest/tallest we saw all day.
cherry.JPG

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Will Blozan
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Re: Fort Hill (OH)

Post by Will Blozan » Mon Feb 24, 2014 7:48 pm

DUDES!!!

Exceptional site and post! I look forward to further discoveries from this site.

Head lamps...

Will

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Fort Hill (OH)

Post by Jess Riddle » Mon Feb 24, 2014 9:25 pm

Rand and Matt,

Sounds like a fantastic site. My eyes were bugging out when I saw some of your numbers, and that was before I got to the "super cove". I'm always intrigued when I see high LiDAR hits on a south facing slope, because conditions that support uncommon species and tall trees of species other than tuliptree can also lead to that odd pairing of height and topography, which certainly seems the case hear.

The oak looks more like northern red than shumard to me. The sinuses would be unusually shallow for shumard, and some of the leaf bases look much more acute than you see on shumard. Bark characteristics of the two species are often very close.

Are those paw paw in the understory in white oak and cherry photos?

All the whole tree photos are nice to see too.

I'm looking forward to hearing what you find on return trips, though its going to be hard to top what you've already found.

Jess

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Matt Markworth
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Re: Fort Hill (OH)

Post by Matt Markworth » Mon Feb 24, 2014 10:26 pm

Rand,

Fantastic report!! I can't wait to get back to check out some of the other hot spots and to check out that monster sycamore. After a long day of focusing on tall trees, it appeared like a mirage right on cue.

Jess,

Here are some more images of the tall black cherry that show what must be a paw paw patch. I love the "fish spine" branching effect showing in the upper left hand corner of the first photo. I'll start paying more attention to this species, even when there isn't the opportunity for a tasty snack:)
tall black cherry 2.jpg
tall black cherry 1.jpg
Matt

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Rand
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Re: Fort Hill (OH)

Post by Rand » Mon Feb 24, 2014 10:36 pm

Jess Riddle wrote:Rand and Matt,

The oak looks more like northern red than shumard to me. The sinuses would be unusually shallow for shumard, and some of the leaf bases look much more acute than you see on shumard. Bark characteristics of the two species are often very close.
One of my tree guides note that on sites that contain both black and northern red oak, shumard oak can be hard to distinguish because it hybridizes freely with both. Mark and I bandied this idea about, but neither of us are experts. I leaned toward shumard because this tree's bark is much different than the more clearcut 140' red oak that grows less than 100 yards further down the valley.
Are those paw paw in the understory in white oak and cherry photos?
I don't remember noticing any, but I was kinda distracted. ;) I take more note of them in the summer when their long leaves are on. There was some spice bush on the site so there may be pawpaw as well. Both species are pretty common in the swampy, clay soils of northern Ohio so I don't really look for them. I do remember seeing lots of young tulip trees growing into the open canopy gaps around, the two would be easy to interchange at a glance.

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