11/01/2010

The Harris Creek Sitka Spruce

The heavily buttressed trunk of the Harris Creek Spruce
 If you are driving the 255 km Pacific Marine Circle Tour on south Vancouver Island, a stop at the Harris Creek Sitka spruce is highly recommended. Rarely are monumental trees this accessible, unless you are in an urban area or park. This tree is in neither, and grows without official protection in the middle of the semi-wilderness between Port Renfrew and Duncan.



On the trail approaching the giant spruce


That the Harris Creek Spruce is still with us is somewhat amazing. The first harvesting of the forest (by Europeans) in the Port Renfrew area was in the Harris Creek watershed back in 1893.


Occasionally, however, it is the loggers themselves that lay down the saws and are unable to commit the dendrocide their jobs require. So mighty are the specimens, and so great the loggers respect, such trees acquire a special status and are spared.


Sign at roadside
Now such trees, or small groves, exist as islands in a sea of smaller second or third growth - often as the sole survivors of the ancient forest. The Harris Creek Spruce next to Harris Creek Main northeast of Port Renfrew is one such tree. It is an 82 meter tall giant that dwarfs everything around it. This tree is all fat flared trunk and twisted moss draped branches.

Sitka spruce show very little taper which adds to the huge volume of wood found in old specimens
Sitka spruce are uniquely adapted to the coastline. They will not be found further than about 80 km from the ocean, their preferred habitat. These trees can tolerate salt spray from the pounding waves, one of few trees that can. When away from the surf, Sitka spruce grow in the low lying river valleys that dissect the coastal hills and penetrate inland.


A fence has been built to protect the roots at the base of the tree
This amazing Sitka spruce is beautifully situated right next to Harris Creek. It is a short distance from the road along a flat, well-kept, wheelchair accessible trail. Sitka spruce are fast-growing trees - it is difficult to date this one is. Certainly its age can be measured in the hundreds of years. Sitka spruce can live to 800 years making them one of the oldest trees in the Pacific coastal forest.

It is possible the Harris Creek Spruce could still be around for your great-great-grandchildren to visit.

Harris Creek runs next to the giant spruce

Getting There

The Harris Creek Spruce is about 20 km north-east of Port Renfrew on the paved Harris Creek Main. It will be found on the right side of the road 8 km past Lizard Lake while heading toward Lake Cowichan, and is marked by a small sign. Set your tripometer and watch for the sign when you get close.

Note: there are no gas stations between Sooke and Cowichan, and no services at all between Port Renfrew and Cowichan/Duncan. Drive safely - be prepared for emergencies.


View The Harris Creek Sitka Spruce in a larger map

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous15/11/10

    Magnificent!

    God Bless, Eb

    www.nimblewillnomad.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous15/8/12

    These trees just humble you when you look up at them, I mean, 500 years!!! This tree was there for Christopher Columbus's time! I love these sites that bring attention to these important forests...

    ReplyDelete
  3. I got to visit this tree and take pictures.. Visiting from Ontario it was humbling to be in it's presence.

    ReplyDelete

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