Zoar Valley Update

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#11)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby ElijahW » Mon Dec 14, 2015 7:56 pm

Bob,

You're right on.  Probably one or two more 150s grow in the shadow of Point Peter, a spot I didn't get into, and in the next year or two, one of the trees on the brink should join the club.  It's an exciting place to visit for me, and I wonder if Erik is on to something when he suggested a while back that there might be similar, though smaller sites south of Lake Erie.  From what I've seen on Howland's Island and the surrounding area, I'm fairly convinced that tulips, and possibly sycamores and white pines, once grew to over 140' on favorable sites on the Lake Ontario Plain.  I can't prove that, of course, and others may disagree, but I think the evidence is there.

I have to thank Tom Diggins, you, and Bruce Kershner for making Zoar Valley known to me.  What I've done recently are mostly just re-measurements, and hopefully being a compliment to the work of others before me.  

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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#12)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby dbhguru » Tue Dec 15, 2015 4:16 pm

Elijah,

 Your recent measurements for Zoar Valley are an eye opener for all of us, and the promise of a higher RHI is very exciting. To tell the truth, I thought the heights of the trees there had maxed out.

 As a bit of history, when we started getting serious about computing RHIs, we had 3 super sites in the Northeast north of latitude 41 degrees. They were (and still are) Cook Forest State Park, Zoar Valley, and MTSF. Of these sites, MTSF is the most northerly, but only slightly. Later we learned of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia around 40 degrees latitude, I think. Will and others complied some big numbers from there and we saw that there were going to be northeastern sites that went higher than the original big 3. Later George Fieo reported on two other sites in southeastern PA with very high RHIs, but below latitude 41 degrees.

 Based on your measurements for Zoar and periodic updates from Dale Luthringer for Cook, Zoar Valley, Cook Forest State, and MTSF are likely to retain their rankings as the top RHI sites at the latitude of 41 degrees latitude and higher in the Northeast. Once the Midwest is factored in at slightly lower latitudes, we see that RHIs in the high 130s and potentially low 140s appear on the horizon. However, it looks to me as if Zoar is the only Northeastern site at or above 41 degrees that has a chance of reaching 140. I hope to update Mohawk's RHI, but doubt that it quite reaches 135 now. The white pines continue to grow, but the ashes are losing ground.

Bob
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#13)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby Erik Danielsen » Tue Dec 15, 2015 6:21 pm

Elijah,

Referring to "in the shadow of Point Peter-" do you mean the stand of sycamores just below it on the east, or the terrace of mixed hardwoods below to the west? The stand to the east is definitely very promising for tall sycamore, and there are a scattering of other trees growing on the lower slope of the cliff (sort of behind the sycamores) that might have height potential as well. A reasonably thick white ash sticks out in my memory. My recollection of the terrace down to the west is that the trees were relatively less exciting, but I last visited before I got my rangefinder. How are you liking the 550, by the way?

The terrace across from point peter I suspect has some serious potential as well. As you can see in this photo (from the ridge trail leading out to point peter) there's one particular standout sycamore on that side, near the left edge of the photo. https://www.flickr.com/photos/er1kksen/14168701892/ That's also around where I thought the coordinates had placed the tallest tulip tom and bob measured, but I may have misinterpreted. Either way, I'd like to see the north side put up some real numbers. Knife Edge terrace didn't really deliver the way I had originally hoped. I hope I can take part in finding some of those!

Bob, I read about the 150'+ tulips you measured at Storm King Park, a site which should be relatively easy for me to revisit in the spring. Are there any other southeastern NY sites with tall tulips you were referring to?
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#14)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby ElijahW » Tue Dec 15, 2015 9:20 pm

Erik,

I was referring to the stand of sycamores to the east of Point Peter, on Valentine Flats.  Tom Diggins mentioned a handful of 140' trees in this area.

I've been near the spot where your picture was taken several times, but I'd never noticed the nice sycamore across the river.  It does look like a good-sized tree.

I'm up for a return trip this winter or sometime next year. Let me know when you're in the area and we can check it out.  I'm still using the Nikon 440 & Suunto clinometer.  Bob Henry has a 550, and I've tried it out, but the 440 works very well for me.  Of course it's not quite up there with Zeus, but it'll do for now.

Elijah
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#15)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby tomhoward » Sun Dec 20, 2015 12:10 pm

Elijah,

Congratulations! The trees at Zoar Valley are truly extraordinary. The Tuliptree at 157.8 ft. is the tallest tree I know of in NY. These other species - Sycamore 156.9 ft., Bitternut Hickory 144.6 ft., Northern Red Oak 141.8 ft., Cottonwood 140.3 ft., Basswood 130.7 ft., Black Walnut 135.8 ft., Bigtooth Aspen 113.2 ft. - should all be NY height records.

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#16)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby Erik Danielsen » Wed Nov 30, 2016 2:11 pm

NTS,

In the days surrounding this year's Thanksgiving, Elijah Whitcomb and I were able to continue exploring and resampling Zoar Valley's superlatives. This post will be the first of several reporting our findings. Tuesday 11/22 I visited Alexander Preserve, several miles upstream from the Zoar Valley MUA. Because the ownership and management of this site (a preserve maintained by the Nature Sanctuary Society of Western New York) is quite different from that of the MUA I have previously reported on it separately, but in terms of geography and ecology it is properly a component of the Zoar canyon complex. The area in between is just gentle enough, topographically, to have enabled clearing and farming of the land, Alexander marks the point where the canyon resumes its steep and challenging nature, and I suspect that private lands continuing upstream would offer still more terraces with exceptional trees. Perhaps in the future opportunities to explore those can be opened up through contact with landowners.
               
                       
alexander location.png
                       
Alexander Preserve circled in orange, East of the MUA.
               
               

When I previously reported on Alexander Preserve I was still a very "green" ENT and I managed to miss the vast majority of the good stuff at this site. This led me to believe that all of Zoar Valley's good stuff was restricted to the portion of the canyon immediately surrounding the confluence with the south branch, leaving Alexander as a less interesting appendix of sorts to the main story. As mentioned before, Alexander consists of a high plateau that the Cattaraugus wraps around in a nearly full loop.
               
                       
Alexander locations map.png
                       
Closeup map showing numbered locations referenced throughout.
               
               

From the location where you pull off to park, one can either follow the ridgeline up to the plateau or traverse the "sliding forest," an unstable section of land hanging above the river where two types of dissimilar clay (or a clay over some kind of rock?) are gradually sliding over each other, creating an odd topography where trees sometimes split at their base. The forest here is a mix of hemlock-northern hardwoods and a bit of floodplain stuff, mostly not too large due to the instability and relative exposure- a doubletrunked cottonwood at 118.5' is an exception, approximately point (1) on the map.
               
                       
bodies (4 of 16).jpg
                       
Cottonwood at point (1).
               
               

Descending a short slope from the western end of the sliding forest brings you down to the upstream terrace (2). This is dominated by white ash, bitternut hickory, and basswood, with sugar maple more numerous in the younger generation of trees, and some slippery elm. The forest diversifies as you move downstream, with some large sycamores appearing. The plateau reaches a narrow point at its western end that descends in a steep ridgeline to the terrace at point (3). Here the slope-base topography, floodplain forest meeting upland forest, and protection from wind due to curvature of the opposite wall create a nexus of particularly tall trees, with Sugar Maple, Bitternut Hickory, and Red Oak, and Beech, and moving down to point (4) and beyond Black Cherry, Red Maple and Sycamore all reaching their greatest heights at the site. A beautiful gnarled old Cucumber Magnolia looms on the slope above, along with the site's tallest Hemlock. The single great red oak is a particularly massive tree, lording over even the dominant sugar maples (the best in the Zoar complex as far as I can tell), and the tall bitternut is immediately beside and competing with it.
               
                       
bodies (5 of 16).jpg
                       
Location (2) with the tall slippery elm shown, the high-split tree in foreground right.
               
               

               
                       
bodies (6 of 16).jpg
                       
Me in the orange hat down at the bottom of the giant red oak at point (3).
               
               

Ascending to the plateau enters older upland hemlock-beech-maple old growth less tall but with thicker trees than the terrace forest, stretching along the southern portion of the plateau (5), which grades into old hardwood regrowth on the northern and western parts of the plateau, which is mostly dominated by sugar maple, until the youngest section around (7) which is mainly red oak, bigtooth aspen, bitternut hickory, a scattering of black walnut and a stand of Tuliptrees. Following the southern rim of the plateau down to (6) which is where the previously noted healthy American Chestnut is located, white pine and white oak, along with bigtooth aspen, share the canopy with younger hemlocks. Some of the trees here seem fairly old but are more often stout than tall. I was not able to visit the small downstream terrace (8) on this occasion but from my recollection it may have some decent red oak and chestnut oak. Part of that terrace and the western plateau is DEC land, which appears to mostly be younger forest descending north and west to the road.
               
                       
bodies (7 of 16).jpg
                       
The tall Red Oak (L) and Beech (R) from section (5).
               
               

Trees measured, with number locations keyed to the map:

Eastern Cottonwood
118.5' (1)
White Ash
124.2'/6.7'cbh (2)
122.7'/7.2'cbh (2)
120.3'/5.3'cbh (4)
120.3'/9.1'cbh (3)
107.1'/6.7'cbh (2)
Bitternut Hickory
132.3'/7.1'cbh (3)
116.1'/6'cbh (2)
108.9' (7)
108.6'/6.3'cbh (2)
Sugar Maple
130.2'/8.7'cbh (3)
127.2'/7.4'cbh (3)
117.9'/9'cbh (4)
115.8' (3)
113.7'/8.4'cbh (5)
112.8' (3)
110.1'/10.7'cbh (5)
Basswood
115.5'/5.9'cbh (3)
110.1'/6.4'cbh (2)
108.6'/6.7'cbh (20)
Slippery Elm
107.4'/6.2'cbh (2)
Black Cherry
126'/7.6'cbh (4)
111.3'/6.2'cbh (3)
Northern Red Oak
131.7'/13.8'cbh (3)
107.4'/11.4'cbh (5)
Sycamore
121.2'/8.2'cbh (2)
117.6'/8.9'cbh (4)
111.6'/8'cbh (2)
108.3'/8.2'cbh (2)
Eastern Hemlock
121.8'/8.8'cbh (3)
114.3'/9.6'cbh (5)
109.2'/7.6'cbh (5)
105.3'/7.7'cbh (4)
Red Maple
120.6'/7.7'cbh (4)
107.7'/6.6'cbh (5)
American Beech
116.4'/7.1'cbh (3)
110.7'/7.2'cbh (5)
Cucumber Magnolia
109.8'/7.1'cbh (3)
101.1' (5)
White Oak
91.8'/6.6'cbh (5)
White Pine
114.6'/9.6'cbh (5)
102.9' (5)
American Chestnut
69.6'/3.9'cbh (6)
Tuliptree
119.7' (double) (7)
116.7'/5.1'cbh (7)
112.5'/6.9'cbh (7)
111.6'/8.2'cbh (7)
109.5'/4.8'cbh (7)
Black Walnut
104.4'/5.9'cbh (7)
102.6'/7'cbh (7)
101.7'/7.1'cbh (7)

The subsite RHI10 for Alexander Preserve is 124.8, which I consider especially impressive when considering that the tallest tree present is just 132.3'. This bodes well for additional Zoar Valley subsites outside of the MUA (Deerlick Preserve on the south branch, for instance).
Last edited by Erik Danielsen on Mon Dec 05, 2016 9:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#17)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby dbhguru » Wed Nov 30, 2016 4:52 pm

Erik,

  Super report! I'm interested the plotting our tallest sugar maples across the range of the species. It appears to climb up into the low 130s over a wide range and then hit a barrier.

Bob
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#18)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby Erik Danielsen » Fri Dec 02, 2016 3:46 pm

I wonder why that is. Perhaps it has to do with shade tolerance within the canopy structure; basswood as a frequent shade-tolerant associate of sugar maple in rich forests seems to have a very similar maximum height range.
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#19)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby Erik Danielsen » Sun Dec 04, 2016 2:18 pm

On Friday 11/25, anticipating Elijah's showing up on Saturday to get back into the really tall spots in the main canyon, I spent some time surveying less-documented portions of the main gorge's north rim. I was particularly interested in locating and measuring species less impressive than the canopy hardwoods down in the canyon and consequently without any height data for Zoar, including certain species mentioned in a paper by Diggins about a decade ago such as Black Tupelo, pin oak and scarlet oak, as well as hoping to locate the Sassafras population noted in an old ENTS post. The north rim hosts a variety of additional habitats including wetlands, post-agricultural regrowth, conifer and hardwood plantations, and some upland old-growth that would qualify as an impressive NY state site for an ENTS report on its own were it not overshadowed by the unparalleled canopy down in the canyon.
               
                       
northrim1125map.png
                       
Location Overview
               
               

I parked at the Vail Road parking lot next to the experimental Chestnut plantation, where I had previously measured a standout Sumac to ~40' tall, and regret not taking the time on this occasion to more definitively remeasure it. It'll wait for another time, I hope. Heading east between the chestnuts (not in great shape) and the larch plantation (nice trees seeming to average around 100' tall) I passed beneath a nice old, somewhat open-grown black birch but passed it up with the expectation of visiting some of the forest-grown specimens in the gorge-edge forest. A beautiful trail takes you down through the larch plantation and then the spruce plantation, with intact low boughs creating a forest-tunnel effect, before bringing you to a pond. Skirting the north edge of the pond I entered a section of young hardwoods, plenty of tulip, bitternut, red maple etc. (Location (1)) Here I measured a pin cherry. This species is common enough in the area but has a very patchy distribution, mostly as an early succession species, and in this stand there were more specimens rotting on the ground than left standing- fading out of the species mix as the canopy matures. Moving south the forest became gradually more mature, and I measured a young black birch under some taller tulips at the edge of a boggy wetland patch between the natural swamp and the man-made or -altered pond. Right on the edge of the boggy patch was a small, shrubby tree that I just could not make sense of. After reviewing the many photos I took I believe it's just a very young black tupelo but some parts still seem incongruous, so the ID is tentative.
               
                       
bodies (9 of 16).jpg
                       
Beaver tracks coming out of the swamp.
               
               

South of the boggy patch the forest phases into an old upland forest that seems likely to have had some early disturbance, but to what extent is unclear- it's quite possible only selected desirable trees were removed and the rest was left, resulting in a maple-basswood forest with tuliptree, white ash, hemlock, and black cherry in the mix. The further south you get in this section (section labeled (6)) the older/more intact and more diverse it gets, and when I hiked through that part on my way back later on I casually scanned a few hemlocks into the 120s and tulips in the 130s. I would imagine there are some tulips that top 140' in here but I don't think new maximums are likely to turn up for any canopy species in this section. In the northern portion, however, aside from a 137.4' tulip at point (2) most trees were well under 120' tall, and I concentrated on the ample population of Striped Maple. It looked as though a 16.5' tall 0.4'cbh specimen was the largest of the bunch (with many coming close) until, near the trail just below the east end of the swamp I found an older specimen to 27.3' tall and 1.1'cbh, at point (3)
               
                       
bodies (10 of 16).jpg
                       
The largest striped maple, point (3).
               
               

               
                       
bodies (8 of 16).jpg
                       
The tallest tulip measured is the tree with the kink seen here, point (2).
               
               

Continuing east to Holcomb pond I checked the heights of the white pines there. These seemed to be under 120' so I continued back into the forest heading south the the rim of the gorge, following the stream that flows south from the pond. The canopy here is largely hemlock, red maple, and beech (an imposing double-trunked red maple came to 112.8'/11.6'cbh). Around point (4) on the map a tree near the stream with odd bark caught my eye, resembling the flaking of young black tupelo- sure enough, its crown peeking up through the hemlocks was the classic rat's-nest of black tupelo twigs, and leaves on the ground sealed the ID. 82.5' tall and 3.1'cbh left me feeling satisfied, though I'm sure there are others scattered throughout and intend to seek out more in the future.

Climbing the other bank of the stream I stopped to measure a hornbeam and then an adjacent hophornbeam. Descending the slope to the edge of the gorge a nice Slippery Elm, Bigtooth Aspen and Hemlock also caught my eye (growing with many tall tulips and a mix of other hardwoods), and near the edge I also measured the tallest Chestnut Oak I could find. The stream becomes a waterfall where it meets the gorge rim, and beside it is a ridge populated mainly by stunted chestnut oak that's just gentle enough to descend with assistance from tree-trunks and roots. Interestingly while there are many fern species distributed throughout the canyon, Rock Polypody occurs strictly on the steep slopes, never on the uplands or down on the terraces. It even grows epiphytically on the leaning trunks of some of the chestnut oaks.
               
                       
bodies (12 of 16).jpg
                       
Rock Polypody growing on a Chestnut Oak trunk on the ridge.
               
               

This ridge meets a small terrace labeled (5) with little level ground at the base of the waterfall. White ash, tuliptree, sugar maple, and red oak populate the canopy but the topography of this terrace is not as conducive to super-tall trees as some of the others. A nice surprise, though, was a shagbark hickory that becomes the tallest measured in Zoar so far, and not far off the state max.
               
                       
bodies (13 of 16).jpg
                       
An interesting moss growing on the tallest white ash's trunk at (5). Parts of Zoar certainly evoke temperate rainforest.
               
               

Trees measured on the uplands:

Pin Cherry
62.1'/2.8'cbh
Black Birch
90.3'/3.2'cbh
Tuliptree
137.4'/10.8'cbh
117'/10.7'cbh
113.7'/7.2'cbh
Striped Maple
27.3'/1.1'cbh
16.5'/0.4'cbh
Red Maple
112.8'/11.6'cbh (double)
Black Tupelo
82.5'/3.1'cbh
14.7'/0.5'cbh (uncertain identity)
Hornbeam
34.5'/1.5'cbh
Hophornbeam
49.8'/1.4'cbh
Slippery Elm
102.9'/3.3'cbh
Bigtooth Aspen
108'/5.8'cbh
Eastern Hemlock
114.6'
Chestnut Oak
90.6'/4'cbh

Trees measured on the terrace:

White Ash
126.9'/8.4'cbh
121.2'
Tuliptree
126.3'
Shagbark Hickory
120.3'/5.9'cbh

That was all I had time for on Friday but there's quite a lot yet to check out on the north rim.
Last edited by Erik Danielsen on Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#20)  Re: Zoar Valley Update

Postby dbhguru » Sun Dec 04, 2016 8:20 pm

Erik,

  Great stuff as always. The 90.3-ft black birch caught my eye. It's in the BB database now.

Bob
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