Caledon State Park, VA

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Darian Copiz
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Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 8:52 pm

Caledon State Park, VA

Post by Darian Copiz » Wed Nov 11, 2015 8:40 pm

I have been to Caledon State Park several times over the years and there have been previous NTS reports (the most recent only 2 or 3 posts down) on the location, but there haven’t been many measurements taken. With the new ease and accuracy of measuring with the TruPulse 200X, last fall I decided to take some fairly methodical measurements. The drive there is fairly annoying, or I should say the drive back is, as the stretch of I-95 between Fredericksburg and DC is almost always congested during afternoons and evenings. It can take me an hour and a half to get there and three hours to get back. I went four times over the winter to measure, and took an additional trip in the spring for some pictures. I also have some pictures from the fall of 2013.
Taken in November of 2013, This is at the edge of a nice grove of hollies. Unfortunately, there is a substantial amount of invasive wineberry in the understory.
Taken in November of 2013, This is at the edge of a nice grove of hollies. Unfortunately, there is a substantial amount of invasive wineberry in the understory.
The area encompassed by Caledon State Park has a fairly long history of settlement. The park is located on the Northern Neck, the peninsula between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. American Indians had been active in this area for thousands of years, but by the 1640s and 1650s the English had purchased much of this land from them, and the Indians were being pushed out. In 1659 John Alexander purchased land in the Caledon area from Edmund Scarborough (who had sometimes been questionably aggressive toward the Indians). The Alexanders settled between 1663 and 1664 and farmed the land for many years. There were other property owners as well. A stone boundary marker is still intact along one of the trails with the name of the owner, John Short, and the year it was placed, 1754. The land for the park was donated to the state of Virginia in 1974.

Historically, tobacco farming dominated the region. The area within the park had various settlements, farms, and even included a tobacco inspection warehouse at Boyd’s Hole, an area of deeper water that allowed ships to dock. Tobacco was inspected here before export to make sure the colonists weren’t trying to pull any fast ones on those at the receiving end in Europe. During the Civil War the Confederates harassed Union boats from the area. I have included a Confederate map from the period. The map shows three sections of forest within the area of interest. I checked out the portion along the Potomac River near Boyd’s Hole. It was obvious that it had been cut since the map was made. It may have even been cut by Union soldiers to remove cover for the Confederates. The other two sections of forest are on the east and west tributaries of what is known today as Caledon Marsh (just west of Fitzhugh on the map). I haven’t yet thoroughly investigated these areas. The western section may be outside of park property.
Portion of an 1864 Confederate map showing the Caledon area
Portion of an 1864 Confederate map showing the Caledon area
I focused my measurements starting from the well known grove of tulip trees at the head of the eastern tributary of Caledon Marsh. For the most part the terrain is gently rolling, with some steeper banks going down to streams here and there. Most of the area has been farmed, but some of the steeper banks may have remained as forest (although logged) for most of the site’s history. Closer to the Potomac, the rolling terrain drops toward flatter, wetter terrain with somewhat less interesting tree cover. The site is on the coastal plain, with relatively sandy soils.

As with other sites I have measured recently, I attempted to measure all trees that were especially large for a given species. This equated to roughly 14’ cbh for tulip trees, 12’ cbh for oaks, and 9’ cbh for beeches. Of course trees that looked especially tall were also measured. I measured a total of 96 trees. Some of the oaks were not easy to identify. There seemed to be some overlap between pagoda oak and southern red oak, and possibly with black oak as well. There may be some hybridization occurring here. In the measurement tables I have noted when species designation was not entirely clear.
Distribution of tree heights in the primary area I measured. The grove of tulip trees is the cluster of blue dots at the right of the map.
Distribution of tree heights in the primary area I measured. The grove of tulip trees is the cluster of blue dots at the right of the map.
Rucker Height Index of 140.2 feet
Rucker Height Index of 140.2 feet
Rucker Girth Index of 12 feet 10 inches
Rucker Girth Index of 12 feet 10 inches
The grove of large tulip trees is the old growth that Caledon is known for. These are impressive. In an area less than an acre, there are seven tulips over 14’ cbh and five that are over 160 feet tall, with several others not lagging far behind. These trees line both sides of a shallow cove. Periwinkle covers quite a bit of the ground. I get the impression that the grove was intentional – at the least that it was intentionally preserved, but possibly that it was even planted or that there may have been some selective removal of trees combined with landscape plantings. I would estimate the tree ages to be around 200 years. This would place their origin in a period when tulip trees were popular and were often used for planting around estates, including Jefferson’s Monticello. The grove occurs next to a clearing where people still live.
The tulip tree in the foreground and several others in the picture are over 160 feet tall.
The tulip tree in the foreground and several others in the picture are over 160 feet tall.
From left to right, the circumferences at breast height of these three tulip trees are 13 feet 9 inches, 12 feet 10 inches, and 14 feet 3 inches.
From left to right, the circumferences at breast height of these three tulip trees are 13 feet 9 inches, 12 feet 10 inches, and 14 feet 3 inches.
My wife looks up at three tall tulip trees. The tallest, on the left, is 162.1 feet. Based on the trunk the one in the middle is unsuprisingly the shortest, at 140.1 feet.
My wife looks up at three tall tulip trees. The tallest, on the left, is 162.1 feet. Based on the trunk the one in the middle is unsuprisingly the shortest, at 140.1 feet.
From left to right, these three tulip trees are 161.5 feet, 140.1 feet, and 162.1 feet tall. In the background, my wife is also taking pictures.
From left to right, these three tulip trees are 161.5 feet, 140.1 feet, and 162.1 feet tall. In the background, my wife is also taking pictures.
These two tulip trees are also in Devin's big poplars picture.
These two tulip trees are also in Devin's big poplars picture.
The next valley to the west also had quite a few large tulip trees, including the tallest one (I was somewhat disappointed it didn’t break 170’), which appeared to be younger than some of the other large tulips. Although not quite as exceptional as the first cove, the other valleys to the west continued to produce large trees. The tulip trees are definitely the stars of Caledon, but the coastal plain oaks do very well here. Pagoda oak is common, and gets fat and fairly tall. What I felt was the best measurement though, was a tall black oak. It appeared the tree was either already dead or on its last leg. This made the measurement that much more timely and I’m glad I was able to measure and photograph it before it is gone. Hickories also did well. Trees of smaller species (persimmon and holly) attained respectable heights. From what I measured, and as far as I recall, there was an absence of ash, maple, and sycamore. I expect this is due to the sandy soils which are probably fairly acidic.
At 16 feet 11 inches (circumference at breast height), this tulip tree has one of the widest trunks I measured in the area, but the height of 130.1 feet is relatively low compared to others nearby.
At 16 feet 11 inches (circumference at breast height), this tulip tree has one of the widest trunks I measured in the area, but the height of 130.1 feet is relatively low compared to others nearby.
This is one half of a fallen tulip tree twin. I'm standing on the other half. Each half was about 5 feet in diameter.
This is one half of a fallen tulip tree twin. I'm standing on the other half. Each half was about 5 feet in diameter.
The black oak at the bottom of the low valley was 12' 4" in circumference at breast height and 143' tall. Unfortunately it had either just died during the previous growing season or was very close to being dead.
The black oak at the bottom of the low valley was 12' 4" in circumference at breast height and 143' tall. Unfortunately it had either just died during the previous growing season or was very close to being dead.
Two pagoda oaks. This species occurs primarily in floodplains and bottom lands. These are on a low upland, but not far from bottom lands and the Potomac.
Two pagoda oaks. This species occurs primarily in floodplains and bottom lands. These are on a low upland, but not far from bottom lands and the Potomac.
Caledon is a special place. In addition to the large trees there is a lot of history, and wildlife. You are almost guaranteed to see bald eagles when you are there. I also saw red-headed woodpeckers, which I almost never see in the DC region. The park lies along the Potomac River, which provides for nice views. Typically it is not very crowded – except for the drive. Despite the traffic (and it will only continue to get worse) I will be returning, and I expect I will make some additional measurements.
This beech is 10' 8" in circumference at breast height and 122' tall.
This beech is 10' 8" in circumference at breast height and 122' tall.
A grove of predominately beech trees, near the largest beeches that were measured.
A grove of predominately beech trees, near the largest beeches that were measured.

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dbhguru
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Re: Caledon State Park, VA

Post by dbhguru » Wed Nov 11, 2015 9:16 pm

Darien,

Outstanding report. Virginia has been under-represented in the number of tall tree sites reported on. This one goes a long way to make up. It is a dilly. Even though you didn't find one in Caledon, by rights there is a 170-foot tuliptree somewhere in the Old Dominion.

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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Ranger Dan
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Re: Caledon State Park, VA

Post by Ranger Dan » Thu Nov 12, 2015 7:58 am

Outstanding report and wonderful photography!

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John Harvey
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Re: Caledon State Park, VA

Post by John Harvey » Thu Nov 12, 2015 12:46 pm

Great report. There is something about tall tulips that I just love. I'm heading back to New Jersey and Pennsylvania in a couple weeks for a bit and even after being in all these 300ft redwoods I cant wait to look for some tall tulips. Still my favorite tree.
John D Harvey (JohnnyDJersey)

East Coast and West Coast Big Tree Hunter

"If you look closely at a tree you'll notice it's knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully." - Matt Fox

Joe

Re: Caledon State Park, VA

Post by Joe » Thu Nov 12, 2015 3:48 pm

Ranger Dan wrote:Outstanding report and wonderful photography!
I agree! Darian, can you tell us what camera you use?
Joe

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bbeduhn
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Re: Caledon State Park, VA

Post by bbeduhn » Thu Nov 12, 2015 4:27 pm

That site looks fantastic and one of the most photogenic sites I've seen. There are so many big and tall trees in close proximity with very little underbrush.

The falcata with pagoda characteristics must certainly be a pagoda, right? 147' would blow the new 130' champ out of the forest. is there a chance they are a hybrid? The species are so close anyway. I've noticed pignut and red hickory potentially hybridizing but I'm not sure if they really do. The bark can appear as a hybrid where the two species overlap.

Darian Copiz
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Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 8:52 pm

Re: Caledon State Park, VA

Post by Darian Copiz » Mon Nov 16, 2015 6:53 pm

Joe,
The pictures were taken with a Canon 5d mk2. I usually prefer making separate trips for photographing vs. measuring, but at least a couple of the shots were taken during measuring trips.

bbeduhn,
I may try to take a closer look at the falcata/pagoda oak this winter to see if I can make the identification more definitive. Fallen branches are often helpful - I don't remember if I found any for that tree or not.

Darian

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Caledon State Park, VA

Post by Larry Tucei » Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:15 pm

Darian- A very well put together report and the photography is good as well. The area is very pleasing to the eye and reminds me of some of the Forests in Central Ms. The wide open views on the ground are great. I love walking in this type of Forest. Larry

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gnmcmartin
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Re: Caledon State Park, VA

Post by gnmcmartin » Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:00 pm

Darian:

Beautiful!

--Gaines

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Caledon State Park, VA

Post by Jess Riddle » Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:26 pm

Darian,

Wonderful report, as usual. Great to see such an important site getting the full measuring treatment it deserves.

Jess

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