|Giant Douglas-fir trees in Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island|
The east coast of Vancouver Island, along with the Gulf Islands lie in the Dry Coastal Douglas-fir ecozone. Because of the rain shadow created by Washington's Olympic Range, and the Vancouver Island Range, this area is much dryer than the rest of the coast. This creates prime conditions for growing a tree among the tallest trees on Earth - the Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii).
Vancouver Island sports the largest Douglas-fir in the world. The Red Creek Fir, near Port Renfrew, is a massive 800 year old tree with a 12.5 meter (41 foot) circumference. The top is broken off, and the tree is currently about 74 meters (242 feet) tall.
One of the most accessible places to see large Douglas-fir is in Cathedral Grove, on the highway between Port Alberni and Pacific Rim National Park.
Cathedral Grove contains a fine stand of sky scraping trees, including one Douglas-fir that soars to 70 meters (230 feet) with a 10 meter (33 foot) circumference. It is the second biggest Douglas-fir in Canada.
The Nimpkish River Valley is 200 km north of Victoria. An Ecological Reserve was established here in 1988 to protect a small patch of a formerly spectacular, and ancient Douglas-fir forest. The tallest trees in the reserve grow to 84 meters (275 feet) and up to 2.5 meters (8 feet) in diameter.
|Nimpkish Valley, Vancouver Island|
Historically, Douglas-fir reached such spectacular heights that today it is hard to believe. Indeed, there have been people interviewed who personally witnessed Douglas-fir over 122 meters (400 feet) tall, including one near present day Vancouver that was measured after it was cut down.
Imagine a tree as high, or higher, than a 40 floor building. Of 42 buildings in Vancouver that are taller than 30 floors, only fifteen are taller than 40. The original forest would cover all of downtown - only these 15 buildings would poke up out of the trees.
Such incredible trees do not exist any more (that we know of), and may never exist again. These big trees have been the primary target of logging interests over the past 150 years. The unbroken extensive forests, and the 122 meter (400 foot) plus trees are now part of the tragic history of deforestation in this globally unique ecosystem. But large, tall, old, and impressive Douglas-fir persist in places.
Currently the tallest Douglas-fir in the world is not on Vancouver Island, or in Canada. The champion tree can be found in Coos County, Oregon. It is just over 100 meters (325 feet) tall, and can be seen 56 km (35 miles) southeast of Coos Bay in the Sitkum area.