Redwoods and a Hiker

Chris Atkins | Tall Trees Club

Redwood Legend and one of the world's best for measuring

Continued from: Coast Redwoods Main Page


Copyright 2011 by Mario Vaden


In 2015, I added a group of pages on legendary men and explorers of the coast redwood forest. Chris Atkins is one of the few. Yes, we can say coast redwoods are more legendary. But the research of Sillett and the explorations of Michael Taylor and Chris Atkins fueled an awareness that made redwoods even more legendary.

Chris Atkins is a man known as the discoverer of Stratosphere Giant (2000) and co-discoverer of Hyperion, Helios and Icarus (all in 2006). Four extraordinary evergreens with the tallest known tops on the face of the planet.

Atkins also co-discovered Melkor and Grogan's Fault the largest known Coast Redwood (2014)

Professor Steve Sillett and Chris Atkins measuring redwood canopy

Among those who have explored with him, he is known as one of the best in the world at measuring redwoods. Here is a quote that canopy scientist Dr. Stephen Sillett put (2010) on his site's collaborator section about Chris:

"Chris Atkins is a tall tree expert who has found and measured most of the super-tall Sequoia, Sequoiadendron, Pseudotsuga, and Picea discovered since 2000. He is a world-class surveyor whose ground-based measurements of tree height often agree with my direct tape measurements to within 1 cm"

Chris Atkins was also a character of the book (2007) The Wild Trees, by author Richard Preston. The narrative builds to a crescendo where Chris and Michael Taylor discover the tallest redwood, Hyperion.

The super tall redwoods and other species he found provided more than jus finding for discovery's sake or a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. The measurements and experience helped generate more public interest in forests, plus boosted data for canopy research. And that leads to a broader education about coast redwoods.

Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor did much of this together.


From a August 2007 article by Tom Clynes:

"Santa Rosa amateur naturalist Chris Atkins first visited the redwoods in the 1980s. "I was in awe of their size, their beauty and their longevity," Atkins says. He found himself drawn back to redwood country again and again.

In time, Atkins teamed up with Michael Taylor, who shared his craving for fresh air and biological extremes. Eventually, Atkins and Taylor blew $3,000 apiece on high-end laser range-finders."


Chris does not compromise quality when it comes to measuring. He does not simply want a window through the canopy that he can aim a laser through. Chris wants a wndow of space which can last for years in case he needs to return. He double and triple checks tripods, fasteners and numbers. Chris will sit and wait for 20 minutes until the wind subsides and the tops quit swaying. The measurements are repeated and he uses a trigger cable to avoid slight movement. Atkins is Mr. Precision all the way.

Few people can keep track of a redwood top like Chris. Sometimes he needs to go up a slope or meander through the forest to get a better window to aim through. Even though the top repeatedly vanishes out of sight he's still able to pin-point his target.


Chris Atkins likes good food, beer and wine. Even when it comes to pack snacks for exploring, Chris will spend an hour if not two, tracking down the right deli or store that will satisfy his descriminating palate.


Image: Chris Atkins pin-pointing laser range finder scope cross-hairs near Brown Creek watershed

Redwood Legend Chris Atkins measuring with a laser range finder in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park Forest