Largest Coast Redwoods | New Discovery | 2008 - 2017
The last 1/2 of this page covers redwood explorers 1963-2006 & other notes
Copyright 2014 - 2017 | by Mario Vaden | I.S.A. Certified Arborist - PNW 5584A
Redwood National and State Parks now has the tallest & widest redwoods surpassing all giant sequoias for girth and height. Coast redwoods below are a few samples of the new 2008 - 2017 discoveries. Upwards of 200 new diameter records, titans, champions and 18 ft. - 29 ft. + redwoods ... enough 24 footers that I quit counting. Even a 235 ft. weeping Hemlock. The largest shown is Spartan, exceeding the 1998 Grove of Titans. These days the 20 tallest are like gum drops in contrast. More than one coast redwood exceeds General Sherman's (Sequoiadendron) 1321 points by upward of 40 points making coast redwood the national champ off-the-record. I will explain this more, but new finds virtually erase Sequoiadendron's common name. Also the "Sherminator" is apparently not the largest single stem: read more below under Breaking with Tradition. Ever since the 2008 discovery of Dog Soldier and others in Redwood National Park, it was evident more exist. For some notable finds not revealed yet, the main redwood page menu #1 is assigned to Emissary. Albino redwoods were discovered in Prairie Creek, Jedediah Smith and Humboldt Redwoods SP: see Albino Redwoods. Another new champion was found in RNSP, January 30, 2016, named "Hail Storm": one of the finds not shown yet. Recent years also opened new observations like Howland Hill Giant's fused stems. To get 2017 started, meet DARTH VADER
Read more below the image ... person shown for for scale
What does this all mean? For me ... that I've seen the heart of the park where most people will never go. It also means I'm beginning to feel it !! Even my REI trekking pole is crooked. These days I am exploring more slowely, but do return to a few rugged spots like New Hope Grove. I hoped to explore Devil's Creek more completely, but maybe someone new to bushwhacking can cover that watershed in the future.
The era of giant coast redwood discovery is almost gone. Research will continue but the days of hunting for largest redwoods is almost a thing of the past. The remaining old growth is mostly explored. To hitch a ride on the tail end of this era is amazing to consider ... like running for the last car of an old steam locomotive, and someone reached out a hand to help me leap on board the last train that would ever steam-down the tracks. Discovery of new giant redwoods is vanishing like a whiff of smoke.
Some discoveries were not fully unveiled, but any redwood may appear any time on any page including the mystery pages (main redwood page menu) generically. Regarding Spartan (Grogan's Fault) for which we are sharing information, Michael Taylor commented "not surprise me if the total volume of this beast is over 40K cubic feet." Compare that to old discoveries: for Melkor, in May 2015, Taylor wrote the main trunk is 33,500 cu. ft.. Del Norte Titan main trunk is 33,670 cu. ft. with 9.5% volume from 43 reiterated trunks. Iluvatar has 12.3% in over 100 reiterated stems and the main trunk is 32,890 cu. ft.
In 2014, John Montague of Humboldt found a coast redwood in Redwood National Park with circumference 107.8 ft or 34.31 ft. ground diameter and 27 ft. dbh. Weeks later I found a redwood 27.4 ft. diameter dbh. May, 2015, John reported a record 29.2 ft. diameter dbh, single trunk over 25,000 cu. ft. Then John and Michael Taylor found a 24.5 ft coast redwood July, 2015. August 2015, I photographed one more 24 ft. that Chris Atkins identified in RNP near the coastal trail. Another was remeasured at 28 ft.. So many I quit counting, but John's list of 18 ft. and wider coast redwoods is nearing 400. The discoveries launched coast redwood ahead of giant sequoia for diameter. Numbers for giant sequoia often state ground level to sound bigger. But either way, coast redwood became the widest species 2014 - 2017. Recently I added the Church redwood on the blog. It's almost as wide as Del Norte Titan with a cave that may be largest in a single stem living coast redwood.
One mystery finally unravelled. When John encountered the 29.2 ft. dbh coast redwood in 2015, I didn't ask where it was specifically, but remained curious where it could be that I had not seen it already. Eventually, through a series of bushwhacks with Atkins, I learned that the 29.2 footer was actually one of several redwoods Thomas and I found years ago back-to-back with our Helios excursion. Due to time constraint, Thomas and I only measured a few redwoods, planning to return. This further explains what I wrote down the page about repeat findings. John got the first definitive tape wrap and deserves recognition for the diameter data. John requested keeping this among the group of redwoods not shown in photos. Due to finding the redwood with Thomas years earlier, it will end up with two names. Thomas and I call the 29.2' diameter champ coast redwood Captain Jack Sparrow.
It's unlikely others will find Spartan, Capt. Jack, Enterprise, 867-5309, Maximus or Spock with an ease some folks found Grove of Titans prior to 2010. The new discoveries are not a waltz in the park like Sir Isaac Newton that stares at us passing by. The new discoveries are buried deep in the forest where few people feel comfortable going.
Chris Atkins and Ron Hildebrant the math whiz from Humboldt, number-crunched 38,299 cu. ft. for Grogan's Fault, the biggest single stem coast redwood disclosed for the time being. The 38,299 cu. ft. was just the main trunk, excluding all reiterated trunks. By 2013 - 2017 we were aware of more in the 40,000 - 60,000 cu. ft. league. It reasoned that redwoods this large remained in Redwood National and State Parks. A few tower in Brünnhilde Gulch. There are a few more updates at Hyperion.
My exploring friend Thomas also helped get momentum going and returned from Germany to the redwoods, May 2017. We made a 3rd expedition past Bigfoot Ridge and other spots, but I think whatever holy grails remained, have been found between 2014 and 2017
It's worth noting that Redwood National and State Parks is not always behind the eight-ball on redwood facts. For example, the brand new sign for BigTree redwood claimed it was over 300 ft. when it was really 286 ft.. During July 2017, the parks posted a video to Facebook suggesting coast redwood's known age and height, but the presentation omited virtually every new discovery, and couldn't provide the actual maximum height of the species. They have since replaced the sign at BigTree though, finally correcting the math.
While the era of coast redwood discover fades into history, the frontier ahead is a new era of redwood photography. Photographers have barely scratched the surface. 98% of pro and amateur images are the same places. 1000 shots of sunbeams in Ladybird Johnson grove, Rhododendrons along Damnation Creek trail or Avenue of the Giants. The heart of the redwood forest has never really been captured. It requires time, repetition and going places others won't go. This is the new era of coast redwood photography ... the journey continues.
More below the image ... Chris Atkins shown for scale
Explorers of the Redwood Coast
Among the explorer network, Ron Hildebrant goes back years with Michael Taylor. After Dyerville Giant of Humboldt Redwoods fell March 24, 1991, after a strorm, Michael and Ron teamed-up to calculate height using marks on the adjacent "Cat Scratch" redwood. Dyerville Giant was discovered around 1966 by University of California scientist Paul Zinke and graduate student Allen Stangenberger. Taylor and Hildebrant realized the fallen Dyerville Giant was actually an unknown potential world record.
In February 1993, by phone, Zinke told Michael Taylor to watch for his other finds tagged 12, 13, 14, or the Three Peas in a Pod. Taylor and Hildebrant first became friends around Christmas 1990, and their first expedition together was February 1991 in Humboldt Redwoods State Park searching for tallest redwoods. Between that winter and the next summer is when Taylor began his quest for largest coast redwoods. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park was Taylor's starting point.
Michael Taylor and Steve Sillett met autumn 1994 after Taylor spotted a super tall coast redwood. When Sillett arrived with a climbing team to measure, he noticed a small #12 tag, meaning it must be one of Zinke's Peas in the Pod. This is the same redwood they named Telperion. The group also spent a night up in it high canopy during a small rain storm, sleeping in customized hammocks called Tree Boats, acquired from New Tribe of Oregon. Telperion fell during the next strong storm 1 or 2 months later. The team may have escaped death by a matter of weeks. By 1996, Sillett climbed and confirmed Taylor's Mendocino redwood as a new world record for that era; 367.5 ft. And they found others together around the same time like Pipe Dream in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
1987, Sillett's first exposure to the famous redwoods overlapped enrollment at Reed College where he studied botany. He eventually went camping at Prairie Creek, involving his legendary free-climb of a big redwood with friend Marwood. They used a smaller adjacent redwood's limbs to reach 70 feet, then leaped into the big one, and to the top. They obviously made their way down, but with some conflict with yellow jackets. The same week, Taylor, who had already experienced the redwoods at a younger age, was 15 miles away with a tour group in Redwood National Park.
In 1996, Sillett was hired to teach at Humboldt State University, and moved to Arcata from Corvallis, Oregon, three years after meeting Taylor. Sillett was very busy but managed to squeeze in a few hikes and bushwhacks with Taylor. Sillett also applied to Redwood National Parks at that time to climb coast redwoods for research. That is when Redwood National Parks established a permit process for scientists. There was no established climbing permit process for redwoods before. This is when the study and climbing began in Iluvatar and Atlas Grove redwoods. Sillett already knew Robert Van Pelt, a long-time explorer of other Pacific NW forests. He contacted VanPelt, taught him redwood climbing techniques, then Robert (Bob) joined the Atlas Grove study project. In 1997, Sillett called Taylor and started teaming with him to explore Redwood National Park on foot for more tallest redwoods. 1998 is the year Sillett and Taylor discovered Lost Monarch up in Jedediah Smith, the largest coast redwood known for that era.
Soon after in 2000, Chris Atkins heard about Taylor. They met and teamed together for many explorations including discovery of the world records Helios and Hyperion in 2006. Earlier, Atkins broke the world record himself in 2000, with Statosphere Giant in Humboldt Redwoods State Park; it moved ahead of the Mendocino coast redwood for at least four years. Together they found at least another hundred redwoods 350 ft. and taller.
We should note Paul Zahl, who, in 1963, led a small National Geographic expedition to what later became Redwood National Park. Finding no world record at first, he flew back east, but returned shortly and discovered the Libbey redwood: a world record that held the title for quite a few years. Zahl seems one of the shortest-lived redwood explorers, but I think the effort deserves attention. His discovery was also useful leverage to help secure Redwood National Park. Much of their quest did not have the present-day trail system to get around. He practically had to bushwhack the midst and banks of Redwood Creek. They finally found an old logging road to get into new spots.
Most of these discoverers are named in Forest Giants of the Pacifc Coast by Dr. Robert Van Pelt, or Richard Preston's non-fiction redwood adventure book. This is part of the network in a nutshell. Check out my review page on that Preston book because another explorer of a different sort is mentioned: G. F. Beranek.
Around 2008, I was contacted by Steve Sillett and Michael Taylor, about a month or two apart. Taylor invited me to explore and explained his methods. Sillett invited me to check out potential study plots and explore with him and Dr. Robert Van Pelt (aka The Lorax). Eventually Sillett offered me part time work assisting Chris Atkins to measure other tallest redwoods associated with a LiDAR project. In those years and following, I found new notable or record trees with them, some on my own, and met other people involved with the research network: Marie Antoinne, Jim Spickler, Giacomo Renzullo, Anthony Ambrose, Dr. Hiroaki Ishii and Kenneth Fisher. This is where I joined the redwood forest network.
For the LiDAR redwoods, Chris Atkins preferred camping, and we spent many evenings enjoying campfires and talking about the day's adventures as fog rolled-in over the redwood park. The few times I helped Steve Sillett, cabin lodging was in style, with home-cooked meals.
I still have strong interest for exploring, but started photography and portraiture through my redwoods experience and plan to focus on that more. But I still keep an eye out for notable redwoods.
Meanwhile, I watch a few others picking up the quest of exploring. Zane Moore is an albino redwood enthusiast and committed his path to related college education. Zane will follow the path of botany and forestry, but presently his experience is minimal. John Montegue has an emphasis looking for fat redwoods and recording dimensions. But aside from Zane, hardly any new redwood explorer understands nuts & bolts of horticulture.
What really set apart explorers like Van Pelt, Sillett and Taylor, was not just a good eye for spotting new discoveries. It was their connection with the forest, understanding it more with every season. Each one of them was a forester, arborist and naturalist of a sort. Even Chris Atkins is more of a naturalist than some realize. These men and their collaborators went beyond the basics of knowledge. They read the forest like a book, learning it's story unfold as countless chapters continue to be written.
Breaking with Tradition
Some remarkable redwood photos and stats were withheld after learning about a few people who triggered damage around some redwoods, so the full extent of new discovery has not been unveiled. See more at Screaming Titans.
People inquired if we found coast redwoods exceeding volume of General Sherman. That question and full revelation of stats are best left unspedified because the Sierra Nevada is prepared for crowds. Not telling rangers which parks can also ease burdens if people who read 2017 news about bigger coast redwoods, make inquiry. But given everything found and realized 2013 to 2017, I'm 100% confident General Sherman is no longer the largest single trunk based on volume. But signs and trails point to it, so let's leave good enough alone. One reason I'm not naming a larger single trunk is due to a lingering question of how many exceed the Sherminator. One? Two? So it's more practical to leave the ebb and flow as-is. A limited trickle of information maintains extra tranquility around the hidden gems of Redwood National Park.
Presently, new discoveries virtually repossess "giant" away from Sequoiadendron's "giant sequoia" common name. New discoveries are so enormous that coast redwood (genus Sequoia) is practically this millenium's Giant Sequoia. But, imagine a coast redwood with literally zero trunk taper for at least 50 feet. Consider Sequoia sempervirens matching General Sherman's girth near 50 feet above ground, but exceeding at chest level. Then stack on a generous amount of extra height.
We decided not to nominate Spartan (Grogan's Fault) or other ones to American Forests, breaking with tradition. For decades the trend was that big tree hunters nominate new finds. But we see no need to go down that path anymore.
But Spartan would be an actual champ with about 1359 points. Also, if tens of thousands found out the size of all largest coast redwoods in a huge press release, imagine the extra activity. Rangers would be inundated. A low-key mention is ample for a few others who appreciate some mystery and like to connect their own dots.
Also, Taylor, Atkins and Hildebrant became so accurate measuring, there's no need for climbers. I saw Taylor measure within one millimeter of a tape drop before.
It's worth noting that anonymous leaks caused countless wild goose chases. Plenty of emails have come from people following dead-ends, but we can't be responsible to iron out wrinkles if others a gullible to contaminated hints.
Redwoods people encounter & emails
People often send emails about redwoods they encounter, wondering "does it have a name?" ... "what does this tag mean?" ... "has it been found before?" In a nutshell, almost nobody except Montague or Moore found something noteworthy that Taylor, Sillett, Atkins or Hidebrandt hadn't seen years ago. For example, one coast redwood mentioned by Redwood-Ed and measured by John in 2016 was already trunk-wrapped by Lowell Cottle and myself in 2008, viewed again with Atkins in 2011, and likely by Taylor & Sillett before 2003. That redwood's new name Redwood-Ed seemed appropriate though, because Redwood Ed (Gilbert) is known to flaunt horsepower in his Porsche. This is similar to the 29.2 ft. diameter champ Captain Jack Sparrow found around 2009 with Thomas, then spotted later in 2015 by John.
Unless somebody finds something in a rare size class never heard of, discoverers or researchers may have little interest. 99% of the time people write about redwoods that were already seen or archived. John keeps track of every 18 ft. dbh coast redwood. But an 18 footer list has no more value than the man feels it's worth because some 14 to 16 footers "smoke" the volume of various 18 footers on the list. Pause and think ... there are hundreds of 18 footers on this list, but Adventure coast redwood, one of the 30 largest, must be omitted because it's less than 18 ft. wide.
After a long talk with Ron Hildebrant, it's evident more coast redwoods were found many years ago than we realize. Ron's exploration exceeds whatever author Preston conveyed in his book. When I heard how long Ron has been exploring and where, I realized some of the new finds may be repeat finds. Richard Preston focused so much on Sillett and Taylor, that Hildebrant and a couple others were pushed-aside in regard to the meat and potatoes of exploration. Yes .. there will be a couple of big remnants somewhere. But I think the chance of a new 30,000 cu. ft. to 40,000 cu. ft. coast redwood is about one percent. And the chance for a 50K (+) is like 1/50th of 1%
If you read my book review, you know Preston's writing was a blackout of G. F. Beranek, who just released his 5th hard cover coast redwood book. Beranek spent the greater part of his life in redwood country, and like Ron, visited countless groves. But aside from his technical skills, most redwood
connoisseurs around the world have no clue how much area Beranek explored. When we couple Beranek and Hildebrant with Taylor, Atkins, Van Pelt and Sillett, the acreage covered is exceedingly broad. If Redwood National and State Parks would carry Beranek's books, people would be even more familiar. Fortunately, Humboldt Redwoods State Park is much wiser and carried several of his book in their visitor center
Along this narrative of old discoveries, it's worth interjecting that the huge coast redwood Juggernaut is not a new discovery, but a pre-2012 repeat find. A lot of people seem confused because someone interjected that name to another redwood Spartan (Grogan's Fault).
Finally, Atkins figured out how to use LiDAR to explore for largest redwoods. LiDAR is easier to use for locating tallest redwoods and other species. But there is a way to use the data to hunt for the largest volume coast redwoods. Atkins started showing me how he could use the LiDAR data for big redwood hunting in 2016, about two years after finding the likes of Spartan or Enterprise. The parks are vast, so even the handful of unexplored slivers will take a few years to mop up. Going beyond 2017, I expect a few tidbits of discovery. but expect minimal update changes. The remnant finds are so few and medium now ... it reminds me of people "scraping the bowl" when their stash depletes.
Regardless, Enjoy your adventure and "stay thirsty my friend" !!
Inside scoop about permits
Redwood National and State Parks rangers said they prefer permits for activity like wrapping tapes around trunks or using rangefinders to gather data. I applied for 2 research permits in 2014 and 2015, then wrote a report for each year. Several discoveries were found before or after, and I am not obligated to keep those undisclosed. But I limit the locations to myself and a handful of exploring friends. These days I priimarily take scenic photos which do not require a permit. A good number of other people are searching and data gathering. Dozens of them. Virtually every one decided to stay under the radar and skip the permits altogether.
I can't blame those other people for bypassing permits. It's a long story, but In 2015, someone with first-hand knowledge confirmed a "ranger" told the location of an undisclosed (at the time) research project redwood, and apparently contrary to park policy. This confirmed emails over the years about someone on the parks' payroll breaking policy. The net effect boils down to people boycotting permits to hopefully better-protect their discoveries.
Permits can have good purpose and I won't discourage you from getting one. But I can understand why some people choose those as a last resort.
$1000.00 donation for the Grove of Titans
In 2016, a letter and check was sent to the Department of Parks and Recreation to help contend with environmental impact at the Grove of Titans in Jedediah Smith park. For their purpose I am listed as the sender, but a large part came from someone we can express a big thank you (Mark Graham)
The donation can be for signs, trail or other needs. I added extra cash to the check to compensate for gofundme's fee and the final contribution matches every penny given. Photos showing impact are provided on my Screaming Titans redwood page. More about this on another page called Impact to a Grove