Zoar Valley Update

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#1)  Zoar Valley Update

Postby ElijahW » Sun Dec 13, 2015 12:10 pm

NTS,

Thanks to the unusually warm December we're enjoying in NY, I had the opportunity yesterday and Friday to pay a visit to Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area in Gowanda, NY.  This deep (for the eastern U.S.) canyon is well-known to most of you, and some have seen it in person.  Tom Diggins wrote up multiple reports on the Valley 10-12 years ago, and I've been longing to update his, Bob Leverett's, and other NTS measurements for several years now.  Zoar Valley is the tallest forest in NY, as indicated by its Rucker height index, and nowhere else is remotely close.

The water level of the main branch of the Cattaraugus, which runs west to east through the Valley, was too high to visit the terraces on that side, including the one containing the 120' American elm and probably the tallest white pines, in the mid-120s.  I was able to navigate forests on both sides of the South Branch, which runs north-south.  Hopefully this map is helpful:  http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/49452.html.  I also got to the Skinny Dip terrace on the south side of the Main Branch and the next terrace west of it.  I'll structure this report by individual sections of forest, and then wrap it all together at the end.

Valentine Flats

Scientific Name                                     Common Name               Height             CBH
Populus grandidentata                   Bigtooth Aspen               113.2'              5'6"

Ist Terrace Across South Branch

Scientific Name                                     Common Name               Height              CBH
Platanus occidentalis                     American Sycamore        147.4'               Double
Liriodendron tulipifera                  Tuliptree                        145.2'               7'8"
Liriodendron tulipifera                  Tuliptree                        140.8'               Too Steep
Liriodendron tulipifera                  Tuliptree                        138.5'               Double
Carya cordiformis                         Bitternut hickory             128.4'               6'5"
Fagus grandifolia                          American beech              122.2'               7'11"
Pinus strobus                               Eastern white pine           121.2'               Double
Quercus rubra                              Northern red oak             116.3'               7'4"
Acer rubrum                                 Red maple                      114.4'               5'11"
Acer saccharum                            Sugar maple                   108.8'               8'3"
Tsuga canadensis                         Eastern hemlock             106.6'               Too Steep
Juglans nigra                               Black walnut                    97.8'                 5'3"

Skinny Dip

Scientific Name                                    Common Name               Height              CBH

Liriodendron tulipifera                 Tuliptree                        157.8'               11'0"
Liriodendron tulipifera                 Tuliptree                        151.6'               8'8"
Liriodendron tulipifera                 Tuliptree                        145.6'               9'5"
Platanus occidentalis                    American Sycamore        147.9'               8'8"
Platanus occidentalis                    American Sycamore        147.0'               9'2"
Carya cordiformis                        Bitternut hickory             144.6'               4'6"
Quercus rubra                              Northern red oak            141.8'               6'9"
Quercus rubra                              Northern red oak            138.8'               7'10"
Fraxinus americana                     White ash                       137.3'               6'2"
Fraxinus americana                     White ash                       136.6'               5'6"
Fraxinus americana                     White ash                       132.7'               Too Steep
Fraxinus americana                     White ash                       124.3'               4'10"
Tilia Americana                           American basswood         130.7'               6'7"
Tilia Americana                           American basswood         124.3'               7'1"
Acer saccharum                           Sugar maple                    120.2'               8'7"
Acer saccharum                           Sugar maple                    119.9'               7'2"
Ulmus spp.                                  Likely Red elm                 119.1'              5'0"
Ulmus spp.                                  Likely Red elm                 118.4'              4'5"
Ulmus spp.                                  Likely Red elm                 115.9'              5'4"
Ulmus spp.                                  Likely Red elm                 114.2              3'11"
Fagus grandifolia                         American beech               107.2'              7'7"
Fagus grandifolia                         American beech               110.5'             3'8"
Tsuga canadensis                        Eastern hemlock               107.9'             5'9"

The large Black walnut on the Skinny Dip terrace recently fell over, probably within the last couple of months.  A laser shot from the broken top to the base was 132'.  Accounting for some bend in the topmost branches, it probably was still about 130' tall.  This tree was a beauty, and I'm glad I saw it standing on my previous visits.
               
                       
DSC00653.JPG
                       
Toppled walnut, ~130' tall
               
               


What I figure to be the tallest white ash (~140') has been down for several years.  The same is true for the only large black cherry on this terrace.  I did not locate the ~127' Sugar maple previously reported.

Terrace across Main Branch from Skinny Dip

Scientific Name                                     Common Name                Height            CBH
Juglans nigra                                Black walnut                    125.8'             Could not cross Main Branch

Next terrace west of Skinny Dip

Scientific Name                                     Common Name                Height            CBH
Platanus occidentalis                     American Sycamore         156.9'             8'8"
Platanus occidentalis                     American Sycamore         154.5'             8'3"
Platanus occidentalis                     American Sycamore         146.8'             8'3"
Platanus occidentalis                     American Sycamore         142.9'             Double
Liriodendron tulipifera                  Tuliptree                         143.0'             9'3"
Fraxinus americana                       White ash                       139.0'             Double
Populus deltoides                          Eastern cottonwood          134.2'            13'9"
Tilia Americana                            American basswood          125.4'            8'1"
Ulmus Americana                          American elm                   96.0'              Grows in wet spot; did not measure
               
                       
DSC00657.JPG
                       
Tallest American sycamore, 156.9'
               
               

               
                       
DSC00655.JPG
                       
96' American elm.  Looks to be very old.
               
               


East Side of South Branch

Scientific Name                                     Common Name                 Height          CBH
Platanus occidentalis                     American Sycamore          152.8'           Double
Platanus occidentalis                     American Sycamore          136.7'           7'11"
Liriodendron tulipifera                  Tuliptree                          146.4'           Too Steep
Liriodendron tulipifera                  Tuliptree                          146.1'           Too Steep
Populus deltoides                          Eastern cottonwood          140.3'            14'7"
Carya cordiformis                         Bitternut hickory               132.7'           7'11"
Carya cordiformis                         Bitternut hickory               128.4'           9'2"
Tsuga canadensis                         Eastern hemlock               126.7'            8'1"
Tsuga canadensis                         Eastern hemlock                120.5'          Too Steep
Tsuga canadensis                         Eastern hemlock                118.8'          Double
Tsuga canadensis                         Eastern hemlock                111.0'          Too Steep
Fraxinus americana                      White ash                         125.4'           5'8"
Fagus grandifolia                          American beech                122.6'           Too Steep
Prunus serotina                            Black cherry                      121.2'           Too Steep
Ulmus spp.                                   Likely red elm                   119.0'           4'3"
Tilia Americana                            American basswood           118.3'           Too Steep
Pinus strobus                               Eastern white pine             118.2'           Double
Acer saccharum                            Sugar maple                     115.7'            Too Steep

From reading Tom Diggins's reports, the 130' American beech should have been in this area, but I did not find it.  The 122.6' tree is possibly the same, with a damaged crown, or I just missed it.  The cottonwood has at least two other tops above 130', at 136' and 134'.

West side of South Branch below abandoned road

Scientific Name                                     Common Name                  Height          CBH
Platanus occidentalis                     American Sycamore           151.7'           8'0"
Liriodendron tulipifera                  Tuliptree                           151.1'           11'6"
Liriodendron tulipifera                  Tuliptree                           149.7'           9'10"
Liriodendron tulipifera                  Tuliptree                           141.3'           8'7"
Liriodendron tulipifera                  Tuliptree                           139.5'           8'10"
Liriodendron tulipifera                  Tuliptree                           120.5'           7'8"
Carya cordiformis                         Bitternut hickory                134.3'           5'9"
Carya cordiformis                         Bitternut hickory                129.8'           6'5"
Carya cordiformis                         Bitternut hickory                126.1'           Too Steep
Tsuga canadensis                         Eastern hemlock                 128.1'           8'9"
Quercus rubra                              Northern red oak                128.1'           9'2"
Fraxinus americana                      White ash                          125.7'           7'4"
Tilia Americana                           American basswood             122.4'          Too Steep
Tilia Americana                           American basswood             117.7'          Too Steep
               
                       
DSC00668.JPG
                       
151.7' American Sycamore
               
               

               
                       
DSC00665.JPG
                       
151.1' Tuliptree
               
               

               
                       
DSC00667.JPG
                       
128.1' x 8'9" Eastern hemlock
               
               

Much of this section of forest appears to be old second growth.  

Overall Rucker Height Index for this trip:  138.7'

Tuliptree (Skinny Dip Giant)            157.8'
American Sycamore                        156.9'
Bitternut Hickory                            144.6'
Northern Red Oak                           141.8'
Eastern Cottonwood                        140.3'
White Ash                                      139.0'
American Basswood                        130.7'
Eastern Hemlock                             128.1'
Black Walnut                                   125.8'
American Beech                              122.6'

Adding the 130.1' American beech and the previously measured Sugar maple on Knife Edge terrace, the Rucker Height Index would stand at 139.6'.  I'm pretty confident that a complete re-visit to all previously measured terraces would yield an Index of over 140'.  Not bad at all.  

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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#2)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby Erik Danielsen » Sun Dec 13, 2015 2:35 pm

Holy crap Elijah, you really knocked this one out of the park!

Very exciting to see some serious numbers in quantity out of Zoar for the first time in a long while. The big tulip above the north shore of the confluence is still the great white whale, but that may be hard to access this time of year. Looks like my previous concentration on the knife-edge ridge terrace was misplaced.
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#3)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby sradivoy » Sun Dec 13, 2015 3:34 pm

Awesome report! I'm gonna have to visit that place. That 157' sycamore is a beauty!
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#4)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby Matt Markworth » Sun Dec 13, 2015 6:13 pm

Elijah,

Wow, great numbers all around!

The tall cottonwoods especially caught my eye and white ash must do really well there.

Matt
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#5)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby dbhguru » Sun Dec 13, 2015 6:57 pm

Elijah,

    Ditto to what Erik said. I can't tell you how impressed I am with your report. You hit the ball, not only out of the park, but out of the stadium. Zoar Valley is an incredible place, as your numbers reflect. Simply off the charts, and especially considering its latitude.

   I was especially pleased that the tall tuliptree originally measured by Dale Luthringer and myself has grown. I think it is the same one, but wasn't prepared for the number of additional 150s, both tulips and sycamores. Gotta get over there in the spring, or late summer.

    M friend, it is time that you joined the AF National Cadre. We need you!

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
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Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest

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#6)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby ElijahW » Sun Dec 13, 2015 7:35 pm

Thanks, fellas.

Erik, my next target, when I get the opportunity, will be the north side of the main branch.  This outing covered maybe a third of what was surveyed earlier by Tom Diggins and his team, so there's still plenty of work to be done.  

Mark, most everything that grows on the valley floor grows very well, except maybe sugar maple.  Tom Howard and I have found two sites further north, in Liverpool and Trumansburg, that have sugars just as tall or taller than Zoar.  The 140' cottonwood could almost be considered open-grown, as it has little immediate competition, but it continues to grow.  Since first measured a little over a decade ago, it has put on about six feet.  

It may take a few decades, but I believe that white pine will top 150'.  I haven't seen any old pines on favorable sites; my theory is that the few pines contemporary with the oldest hardwoods were selectively cut at least once.  The same may be true of hemlock.

Bob, in the 150' contest, sycamore leads 4-3 over team tulip.  I think sycamore will take the height crown, surpassing 160', in the next decade or so.  My guess is it will be the 154' tree, as it has better access to water and is more sheltered than the 156' tree.

Elijah
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#7)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby Jess Riddle » Sun Dec 13, 2015 10:23 pm

Elijah,

Thanks for the update!  I've been doing some re-measuring recently too, and am beginning to appreciate just how much exceptional second growth sites are continuing to grow.  Seeing all your numbers together makes me appreciate some things I had missed in earlier reports.  I hadn't realized how many extremely tall sycamores Zoar harbors, and that bitternut is amazing for the latitude.

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#8)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby bbeduhn » Mon Dec 14, 2015 11:24 am

Dang, those sycamores are right up with the best of The Smokies. Even the tulips are impressive for that latitude. Definitely cover every inch of that place!
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#9)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby sradivoy » Mon Dec 14, 2015 1:59 pm

What's exciting about eastern trees is that they haven't reached their full height potential. Western trees are taller but have, for the most part, reached their full height potential. Douglas firs probably have some room to grow, but redwoods, spruces, very little. I think the most exciting species on the west coast in terms of height potential is the introduced Eucalyptus. Who know how tall that species will grow in that location.
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#10)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby dbhguru » Mon Dec 14, 2015 2:31 pm

Elijah,

In the 150 competitions, 7 hardwoods (4 sycamores and 3 tulips) on a site that is 42.45 degrees north latitude is something special. I was trying to think if we have any site with that many 150-foot hardwoods as far north. We have one in MTSF at 42.6 degrees, a white ash, but it may no longer be standing. The site where it grows was hit hard by storms. We do pick up 150-foot tulips in central Connecticut and in southeastern NY state, but all sites are below 42 degrees.

Bob
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