Urban Big Trees: Sooke Giant Douglas-firs

Big Douglas-fir veterans behind new development on Phillips Road, Sooke, BC
At one time the traditional lands of the T'Sou-ke Nation grew some of the largest trees in the world. That all changed when Vancouver Island was first opened to settlement by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1849. Walter Grant became the first settler when he bought 200 acres of land on the current site of the town of Sooke.

Grant must have been pleased with the trees on his new property. It would have been a sight unparalleled anywhere in the world - 300-400 foot Douglas-fir ancients approaching 1000 years old were probably fairly common in the area.

New houses  - old trees
One of the first buildings that Grant built was a sawmill. It was a move that signaled the beginning of the end for the primal forest on T'Sou-ke lands, and over most of Vancouver Island.

Amazingly, some of the ancient giants still stand in the ex-logging town of Sooke. After 163 years of near-total transformation, the remaining big tree survivors face a different threat today - booming residential development, and a lack of a tree protection bylaw.

Other municipalities in the region have given a nod to the historical importance of trees by instituting bylaws to protect heritage trees, and other trees of significance. The largest two trees shown in the photos above would most certainly be covered by such legislation.


  1. Micah1/4/12

    Awesome post! That's a huge old snag tree in the middle. It looks like it's several feet thick at the break, about 150 feet up. Probably a 300 footer once.

    I was recently up near Lake Quinault, WA. last month exploring the forest, going along highway 101. Definitely some 300 foot fir trees still exist up in the north sector of Washington State. The thing that really pissed me off was seeing all the signs in people's front yards, which said VOTE NO on expanding the Olympic forest.


    1. Hey Micah,

      Expanding the Olympic forest? Sounds like a no-brainer to me. Are the 300 footers safe from exploitation? It sure would be nice to protect all of these remaining old trees.


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