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Mingo Creek County Park, PA


A few weeks ago I reported on some tree measuring at Mingo Creek County Park in Washington County PA.
Since then, I've made over a dozen trips to the park in an effort to do a reasonably detailed survey of the trees.
The park is about 2600 acres in size, probably 60% of which is forested.
Consequently, this project has required a great deal of hiking and scrambling along steep hillsides and rocky streams.
Though arduous, the effort has been very rewarding and informative to me.

From the very beginning I was surprised to find how context dependent my sense of tree height is.
Larger caliber trees on level terrain were almost invariably shorter than thinner trees along steep hillside and in coves.
Even though I already knew this intellectually, my perception of height kept colliding the reality displayed by my Nikon 550.
As I've gained more experience, my perception has improved... somewhat.

The woodlands of the park are textbook mixed mesophytic forest.
About 15 native tree species are commonly found in the forest canopy.
At least 15 additional native species occur ocasionally.
The trees in the park are virtually all secondary if not tertiary growth.
With the exception of a few scatterd old field trees, I would guess they are generally 50 to 100 years old.

Mingo Creek runs from west to east though the center of the park.
The stream bank and flood plain is home to many tall sycamore trees.
They also occur occasionally on the slopes and along feeder streams, north and south of the main stem.



In the southwest corner of the park I found a couple dozen decent tulip trees. The tallest is just shy of 130'.
These are relatively young trees, so hopefully that they will grow to be considerable taller.
Downwind and from these trees,a 2 or 3 acre abandoned field, has been transformed almost pure stand of young tulip poplars.
Some are already around 90' high.

Another pioneer species, Black Cherry, is ubiquitous through out the park.
Most are between 90 and 110' in height, but competition with oak, hickory and ash, has pushed some a bit higher.
I found a few in the 120's.

Sassafras is found along borders and mixed in with young stands of maple and black cherry.
Where the forest is more mature, I occasionally found the dead trunks of overtopped sassafras.
But a few are still hanging on here and there.


This is the Henry family farmhouse.
They were early homesteaders in the area.
The house was built in 1817, perhaps the Sugar Maples growing around it were planted at the same time.

I got a surprisingly good RI of 122.6' for the park. Much better than I expected.
The park's steeply sloped topography and good species diversity substantially boosted the number.
I am anxious to survey some other sites in the area to see how they compare.

A list of the 12 x 100 trees. There are a few more that I haven't measured yet.
4 of the NROs, including the 2 biggest, are found in a 4-5 acre grove of old oak trees in the NE corner of the park.

Other trees found but not yet measured

Black Gum
Black Locust
Honey Locust
Osage Orange
American Basswood
Shellbark Hickory
Chestnut Oak
Black Willow
Colorado Blue Spruce
Bigtooth Aspen
Austrian Pine
Slippery Elm

This project has really challenged my tree identification skills. So its possible I that missed a few things.
I am particularly weak with elm trees, any helpful hints would be appreciated.
I hope to resurvey the park in a few years and see how things have changed.

Best regards,

Steve Halow
by sjhalow
Fri Apr 23, 2010 7:58 pm
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hybrid Leana Oak, Washington County, PA

Unless I'm mistaken, this is a Leana Oak (Q imbicairia X Q vellutina).
I stopped to measure this tree on my way to work this morning.
It grows along Ginger Hill road about a 100 yds from Rt 88 in Washington County PA.

I took multiple shots of the the trees top and base and got an average height of 102.5'
CBH at 4.5' feet is 11' 8".
I used to 'spoke' method a shot 5 different branches (54.5',50.5',49.5',29.5',50.5').
Getting an average spread of 93.8'.

Here's a photo of a twig from a low hanging branch around the back of the tree from the road.


There is a lot of variation in the leaf form.

The tree's surrondings are kind of interesting.
It is located almost directly beneath a 200' high Railroad trestle
which is owned by the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad Co.

(small companion tree in front is a hickory)


Interstate 43 (the Mon Valley Expressway) spans the valley above the RR trestle, 260' above Mingo Creek.
These two award winning bridgespans are named in honor of football legend, Joe Montana, who grew up in the area.

You can see the Leana oak at the left edge of the 2nd photo in this pdf file.

I'm quite curious about these trees, but haven't been able to find much info about them online.
So far I've learned that they are generally a medium sized trees (60 -70')
and occur naturally where Shingle and Black Oak coexists.

Does anyone have any additional information, pictures etc?
by sjhalow
Wed May 26, 2010 10:13 pm
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Friendship Hill National Historic Site, Fall 2010

Last fall I returned several times to Friendship Hill to follow up on my August 28th visit to the site with Ed Frank. By late October most of the leaves were down, so I revisited the old growth area and remeasured the heights of the tallest trees we had documented earlier. I lasered the trees from different vantage points, and in most cases, got substantially better heights

Remeasured Tree Heights
Tullip Poplar 140.5 (up from 133.5)
White Pine 134.0 (up from 131.5)
Black Oak 123.0 (up from 120.0)
Scarlet Oak 122.0 (up from 117.5)

FH- Scarlet Oak.JPG

Near the entrance I found a tall skinny American Beech (126.5' x 6'-8"). A pretty good height for PA!

FH Beech.JPG

On subsequent trips, I hiked around the park's perimeter, up two small stream drainages and through the sites western edge - a flood plain along the Monongahela River. The trees outside the old growth areas aren't quite as impressive, but there are some nice examples of White Pine, White Ash, Sycamore, Black Gum, Basswood and Black Cherry.

Some new tree measurements
White Ash 116.5' x 5'-10"
Black Gum 107.5' x 5'-5"
Black Cherry 120.5' x 6'-2"
Black Cherry 125.0' x 6'-8"
Am Sycamore 133'
Am Basswood 116'

Along the river I found several Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus octandra). I haven't seen very many of the trees in SW PA and according to USFS range map, this is pretty near the northern limit for this species.The largest I measured was 91.5' x 10'-4".

FH- Yellow Buckeye.JPG

I also found a group of a dozen or more Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) trees in the north eastern section of the site. To my eye their bark pattern is very similar to Sassafras, I would have misidentified these trees as such, had I not looked up and seen the Sourwood's charateristic racemes in their upper branches. I measured what I thought was the tallest (79.5' x 3'-3"), but soon stumpled acrross a larger tree (86.5' x 5'-3"). I'm pretty sure this is a PA height record, but will have to ask Dale Luthlinger to confirm this. These trees are rare in Pennsylvania which is the extreme northern edge of their natural range.

FH SourWood.JPG

FH- Back of house.JPG

FH- Overlook.JPG

FH -Down By The river.JPG

The new RHI10 for the site is 125.9'

Tulip Poplar 140.5'
White Pine 134.0'
American Sycamore 133.0'
American Beech 126.5'
Black Cherry 125.0'
Black Oak 123.0'
Scarlet Oak 122.0'
White Oak 119.0'
Bitternut Hickory 118.5'
Northern Red Oak 117.5'
by sjhalow
Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:46 pm
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NPR-Radio Times -1 Million New Trees in Philadelphia by 2020

An hour long show that discusses the unique benefits of trees in urban landscapes and the many challenges that urban trees face.
by sjhalow
Tue Sep 06, 2011 8:53 pm
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Ohiopyle State Park

Recently I went to Ohiopyle State Park with my girlfriend, Randi, to investigate some nice trees. Several ENTs, including Dale Luthringer, Ed Frank, Carl Harting and Tony Kelly, have visited Ohiopyle over the last few years.

Links tor prevous trips

In October, we got a chance to fly in a small plane. The pilot fly us over Ohiopyle, and Randi took some nice pictures of the Fern Cliff and Great Gorge areas.



On 11/11/2011 we drove to the park on a blustery late fall day. Although there was wind and snow on the ridgetops, Ohiopyle was sheltered and quite pleasant. Our first objective was to document a very tall Scarlet Oak that we had spotted on a hike around the Fern cliff peninsula last July 4th. At that time I got a height of around 130'. With the leaf canopy mostly gone, we got a height of 132'. Nearby is another Scarlet Oak (123.0'), and a Northern Red Oak (131.5).


From here we proceeded to the biking/hiking trail bridge. Near the base of the bridge we found a Tulip Tree (143.0'), Shagbark hickory (126.0') and Black Cherry (137.0').

OP-Black Cherry-resize.JPG

Then we crossed the river to the Great Gorge Trail. Here we found a White Ash (135.0'), Bitternut Hickory (124.0') and Cucumber Tree (123.0'). We also measured several other Black Cherry and White Ash trees > 130'.


Next we investigated a Lidar hit > 155.0' at the southern end of the trail near Cucumber Falls. It turned out to be a White Pine around 120' overhanging a 40' cliff. Beautiful tree and setting, though not incredibly tall.

There are also a number of Lidar hits in the upper 140's in several other areas of the park. The park is several thousand acres in size, there is much more to investigate. We are hoping to revisit the Ferncliff area of the park sometime this winter.

List of measured trees

Scarlet Oak 132.0' 8'-7"
Scarlet Oak 123.0' 9'-5.5"
N Red Oak 131.5' 13'-0"
Black Cherry 137.0' 7'-5"
Tulip Tree 143.0' 9'-1"
Shagbark Hickory 126.0"
White Ash 135.0'
Bitternut Hickory 124.0'
Cucumber Tree 123.0'
Sassafras 108.5 4'-8"
Red Maple 117.0'
Sugar Maple 118.0'
White Pine 132.0 9'-0"

Combining these heights with trees previously recorded by Dale, Ed, Carl and Tony, gives Ohiopyle a RHI10 > 130!

1 Tulip Tree 143.0
2 Black Cherry 137.0
3 White Ash 135.0
4 White Pine (Dale) 132.8
5 Scarlet Oak 132.0
6 Northern Red Oak 131.5
7 Shagbark Hickory 126.0
8 E Hemlock (Dale) 124.4
9 Bitternut Hickory 124.0
10 Cucumber Tree 123.0

RHI10 130.87
by sjhalow
Sun Nov 27, 2011 12:34 pm
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Re: Nikon/Callaway idTECH Rangefinder

I think you definitely want the Distant Target Priority mode option because often you have to shoot thru closer, lower branches to get to the top branch of a tree. Distance mode is also useful when trying to shoot the base of a tree through a lot of under brush. First Target Prioirty mode is more useful to golfers and marksmen, because their targets are usually in the foreground.

Some folks use the Nikon 440 which doesn't have a build in clinometer. It does however have a narrower focus than the 550 which makes it even better at cutting through foreground branches. The 440 is probably the best option in thick conditions, but the 550 can give you a good height measurement in seconds. I would recommend the 550 over the Callaway, although the Callaway would probably work well enough in a lot of situations.

BTW- I have a Nikon 550 and I'm pretty happy with it.
by sjhalow
Sat Aug 03, 2013 8:44 pm
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Re: Hewitt Island, Perryopolis, PA

I revisited this island last summer and the tree that we first identified as a Scarlet Oak. I collected a few acorns and none of them had concentric circles that would indicate a Scarlet Oak, also they were too large to be Pin Oak acorns. So I am now reasonably sure that it is actually a Black Oak. The tree is devoid of lower shaded branches and I think this is a contributing factor in our original ID as a Scarlet Oak because we only saw deeply sinused 'sun' leaves. Of course it might also be somewhat hybridized with Scarlet Oak or Pin Oak. I've identified several Scarlet Oaks upstream from the island in Ohiopyle State Park.
by sjhalow
Sat Aug 03, 2013 9:23 pm
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Re: Rucker Index for a Trail - How wide?


I've been slowly compiling tree measurements along the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail. This trail runs 150 miles from Pittsbugh Pa to Cumberland Md. It follows the Monongahela, Youghiogheny and Casselman Rivers. I've been puzzling over how to set the outer boundary for trees to be included as part of the trai's RI. For example there is a nice 130' Black Oak on an island in the Youghigany River. This tree is visible from the trail but is accross about 150' feet of water, should it be included? Also there are some nice trees in Ohiopyle State Park that are near the trail, should they be included or only be considered in the RI for Ohiopyle? My inclination is not to use an arbitrary distance or boundary, but to include any tree that is (at least somewhat) clearly visible from trail, even if it is not easily approachable from the trail.
by sjhalow
Sat Aug 03, 2013 8:15 pm
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Re: Hemlock Wooly Adelgid found at Cook Forest SP, PA

After an overnight stay at Cherry Springs State Park, to watch the Perseids, we drove through Colton Point State Park and found HWA at an overlook of the Pine Creek Gorge (PA Grand Canyon). We weren't even looking for it, so it's likely that the park is already extensively infested.
by sjhalow
Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:07 pm
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Giant Sycamore in Mingo Creek Park Badly Damaged

On April 14th the top broke off of a giant sycamore in Washington County's Mingo Creek Park.
This evening I stopped by to check out the damage. Despite of the constant rain I managed to take a few pics.

Pic of tree from distance

View up through hollow center of tree

View from the southwest

View from the southeast

Small window cut out of the tree.
I'm not sure why they did this? Maybe to check the integrity of the trunk, or to attach a chain to pull it over. Anyone have any ideas?

I first measured this tree in March 2010. Back then the height was 100.5' and cbh was 21'-3". I got 21'-7" when I re-measured the cbh today. Can't say for sure that it has grown that much in the last 4 years because the tree has a substantial flare at the base and it's hard to tell if I measured it at the exact same height.

I visit the park quite often and had noticed that the tree has been in decline for the last 2 or 3 years. About 30' of height remain on the tree. There are 3 remaining branches that look like they are still viable. The trunk seems to be fairly sound. I think this tree could reiterate a bit and maybe survive for a few more decades. According to the park superintendent, the fate of the tree has not been decided. He says in an article in the Washington County Observer Reporter that he's heard from a lot of folks who have fond memories of the tree. I think he may be open to the idea of preserving the tree. His number is listed in the article, if there are any Ents out there who can offer some expertise, it may help save this tree!

Here's are links to two articles in the Washington Observer Reporter.
by sjhalow
Mon Apr 28, 2014 7:54 pm
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Coopers Rock State Forest - Hemlock Trail 2016

On Feb 27th we visited a patch of old growth hemlocks in Coopers Rock State Forest in West Virginia. This site was visited a few years ago by Turner Sharp and Carl Harting and John Fichtner.

The weather was sunny and a bit chilly, but still pleasant for hiking. After parking, we hiked about a ¼ mile or so down hill to reach Little Laurel Run. Here the path turns left and heads upstream. The hemlocks are concentrated on the valley floor along the stream. Randi took pictures while I got out my Nikon 550 and started aiming at the tree tops. At first the hemlocks were not very impressive, but as we progressed along the trail they improved in both height and girth.


By the time we got to the 2nd to last group of hemlocks, maybe ½ mile upstream, I was getting heights approaching 130’ and girths that looked to be 9 or 10’ cbh (I didn’t have a tape measure with me on this trip).


From here the trail goes slightly up hill and into the most impressive stand of hemlock on the trail. I got a height of about 132’ for a hemlock just to the right of the trail. Hoping for even better heights I moved up slope from the trail and got some low 130’s readings on a couple more trees. At this point I noticed a large hemlock down slope from trail that seemed a bit taller than the rest and I thought it might go 140’ or better. There was no way to tell from my current vantage point, so I scrambled down hill to the stream and managed to get a height of 136’ on the downstream side of the tree. Upstream from the tree I did even better with repeatable shots of 139’ at a narrow section of the tree’s crown.


According to the Max List for West Virginia, this tree is a state height record. Turner can verify this.

I plan on revisiting the site soon to get a cbh measurement and gps coordinates for the 139' tree. If I can find a better view of the crown, I will try to improve on its height as well.



by sjhalow
Sun Mar 06, 2016 2:13 am
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