Exploring West Coast Forest

Falcon's Tower spruce, the Oregon champion Sitka spruce

Sitka Spruce at the Oregon Coast

Previous Oregon champ
Klootchy Creek Giant

The Cape Meares Spruce
near Tillamook - a pseudo-champion

of Cape Meares explained


Discovery of Falcon's Tower spruce
80 feet taller than Cape Meares



Copyright 2011 - 2016 - Certified Arborist documentary report by Mario Vaden / aka M. D. Vaden

Arborists Portland Tree Services

Falcon's Tower is the actual champion Sitka Spruce of Oregon, based on rules of a point system commonly accepted across the USA.

See notes below for Cape Meare's and Falcon's Tower spruce. I independently disqualified the measurement by Ascending the Giants performed for the Oregon registry. The photo documentation erases debate.

My measurement was the only one based on diameter at 4.5 feet above average grade for both spruce. ATG did not follow American Forest's standards for both spruce.

Recently, Chris Atkins and I discovered a Coast Redwood in northern California, close to 1307 points surpassing the existing AF champion. Due to the spruce measure failure by ATG, we decided to postpone nominating that redwood to American Forests for an indefinite period. Another reason is we learned that Ascending the Giants leaked locations of new tree discoveries to news media. One or more of them expressed their desire to do the same again.

American Forests can demand more accuracy for national champions. But has no authority over state level registries and only provides the recommended guidelines.



Several unique Sitka Spruce are shown below, among the largest known in Oregon. We will begin with Falcon's Tower which genuinely has the most point value. Followed by Cape Meares, then Klootchy Creek, and octopus spruce. In 2008 Cape Meares replaced Klootchy Creek spruce for largest spruce in Oregon. Falcon's Tower was found more recently and is 80 feet taller.

These are all very large and interesting conifers along the northern Oregon coast.



Falcon's Tower - actual largest by points

Discovery: The photo below is Falcon's Tower Sitka Spruce near Manzanita and Cannon Beach, in one of Oregon's state parks.

Falcon's Tower was discovered May 22, 2011 on the heels of our world's Tallest Pine & Tallest Hemlock discoveries. I nominated Falcon's Tower for the Oregon Registry, August 2011. This Spruce was measured (mis-measured) by the Oregon Registry group Ascending the Giants. Their results are included after my measurements. Even though the ATG team wrapped a burl on the other Cape Meares spruce, greatly inflating its points, Falcon's Tower still exceeds it by a few points if done properly.

Oregon and Nations largest Sitka Spruce at one time

My measuring for Falcon's Tower spruce began solo in May, 2011. July, 2011, I returned with an assistant for a second measurement:

750 points


Height - 224 ft.

Circumference - 504 in.

1/4 Crown Estimate - 22 ft.

Total Points - 750

I also located Falcon's Tower on Google Earth, and the scale showed that a 1/4 crown spread of 22 ft. was acceptable for 22 points. This also dismisses ATG's casual eye-balling from the ground.

The circumference was 504 inches and the diameter was 13.51 ft. DBH. The 224 ft. towers over the stubby 144 ft. of Cape Meares Spruce.

There is about 10 feet elevation difference between the high and low sides of the trunk.

Comparison of this Spruce to the Cape Meares Sitka was supposed to be based American Forest system. But the team failed to measure the diameter accurately at average dbh. The diameter should have been measured about 5 ft. lower than where the man in the image is holding the tape. There was a large root he is kneeling on. Instead of measuring at 4.5 ft. above average grade, Ascending the Giants measured about 5 ft. above average grade.

The RED ARROW is pointing to ATGs tape level. The YELLOW ARROW beneath the man would have been the proper place to measure diameter according to American Forests standards.

It would have taken but a few minutes to bridge the root using something like a pair of plumb-lines. But ATG quit without completing the work.

In other words, the spruce diameter was not measured by ATG

Click these for a few extra views. Captions should be underneath.


Tall Spruce in Oswald West State Park Measuring Sitka Spruce looking south Measuring Sitka Spruce looking east Showing size of Oregon Coast Spruce Falcon's Tower Sitka Spruce Measuring trunk diameter dbh of Sitka Spruce Measuring upper diameter for largest Sitka Spruce comparison Old Sitka Spruce with moss and extra trunk



Falcon's Tower Part II

Falcon's Tower was measured September 25, 2011, by the Oregon Registry volunteers aka Ascending the Giants. They came up with 219 ft. using a tape drop. That is 5 feet variance from my number. The crown spread they guessed at, using the eyeballing method like they did for the Cape Meares spruce. At Cape Meares, I used my laser and found the eye-balling method could be off as much as 15 feet on one side alone.

Since they mis-measured above the tall root, if they counted in as trunk, that could easily explain part of the 5 foot change in their height.

Compared to others I worked with and observed down in the redwoods, Ascending the Giants seemed like amateurs the two days I watched them climb Cape Meares and Falcon's tower. ATG combined some good with some guesswork, whereas others like Taylor and Atkins in the redwoods put forth more effort and technique.

In the end, ATG did not report back with all final numbers, but said they did not come up with enough points. When they measured Cape Meares spruce, they wrapped the tape around a big burl that inflated size and points. Compare that to Falcon's Tower diameter points diminished by wrapping too high where trunk diameter narrrows.

It is worth sharing that one from Ascending the Giants said the 1/4 crown points "are not as important" as height and circumference". The statement was surprising to hear, that anyone involved with tree registries would consider any points of less importance.

In light of the burl wrap on Cape Meares and the too-high wrap on Falcon's Tower, it leaves the question why they even bothered at all, other than an excuse for a recreational climb.


Klootchy Creek Spruce - the Fallen One

The Klootchy Creek Giant Spruce below in 2004 while it was still alive. 6 miles east of Seaside, Oregon.


Photo of the Klootchy Creek Giant and Largest Spruce in Oregon before 2005


The Klootchy Creek Spruce broke in a storm, December 2, 2007. It was 204 feet tall, 16.7 feet diameter dbh, and over 850 points on the National champion list.


The wide base of Sitka Spruce that used to be largest in Oregon Cut trunk end of the previous largest Sitka Spruce in Oregon

It was a co-champion with the Washington Sitka Spruce at Quinault.

Even the remnants are interesting.

The deck was removed but the lower trunk was left standing. The location is barely a minute off Hy. 26 with ample parking. If you want a good idea what the Klootchy spruce was like before if broke, drive up to Quinault, because that spruce is very similar in size and volume.



Cape Meares Spruce - the Pseudo-champion

Huge Sitka Spruce in Oswald West State Park of Oregon

Oregon Champion Spruce replacement: the pseudo-champion

After the collapse of the Klootchy Creek Spruce, another Sitka near Tillamook and Cape Meares, became the new Oregon champ by default with 743 points (2011). Its only 144 feet tall. That was a logical substitute back then.

It was measured by Ascending the Giants.

The Cape Meares Spruce is at Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint and National Wildlife Refuge.

The trunk was published 15.27 ft. diameter or 576 inches circumference. But the tape was wrapped around a protruding burl, inflating its points.

In the photo to the right, you can see the tape being wrapped around the large burl.

Crown spread was said to be 93 ft. But the method used was crude. The team wandered the ground staring up trying to eyeball a guess whether they were under the branch tips. I tested the wandering method and found it can be off by 15 feet easily. My test compared their wandering eye method to my laser's precision.

If the Cape Meares spruce had been measured by Michael Taylor instead of ATG, its certain Michael would have dealt with the burl much better.

Octopus Spruce of Cape Meares Explained

Change of pace here for a moment ...

The multiple trunk Octopus Sitka Spruce at Cape Meares

Enlarge the photo to the right, to see the Octopus Spruce which grows in the same area as Cape Meares Spruce.

The sign for it says that the form is a mystery people have debated about. Almost certainly we cannot know for a fact what happened ... but chances are about 90% that it resulted from a simple occurance. When the Spruce was young with a trunk not much bigger than 14" to 20" in diameter, a storm snapped the trunk, or another trunk nearby fell and broke it, just above a whorl of limbs.

The extended length of the curved trunks (up to 16 feet outward) from the center, connote that it was not just 10 feet tall with 1 inch diameter branches. The branches would have to have been about 2 to 4 inches in diameter, and in relatively good health with foliage. And the branches would need to have already been about 10 to 14 feet long when the breakage occured. This also suggests something else ... that this Spruce was not in a thick grove ... probably more in the open, maybe with just a few others around it. Otherwise, in thick groves, the lower limbs die and decay fairly quickly: evident by the grove you will walk through to see this one. Just look at all the understory stubs in the shady grove.