Stanley Park's National Geographic Tree

Stanley Park's National Geographic Tree 30 years before it fell in a 2007 wind storm.
Photo credit: Jim Wright

Today we are having gale force winds and driving rain on the coast that are making the big trees dance and shake. Such winds can be perilous for large trees, especially if their root area is saturated with rain.

It was the deadly combination of rain-soaked roots and wind that toppled Stanley Park's largest tree back in 2007. Dubbed "The National Geographic Tree" since the magazine visited the city of Vancouver to photograph the monumental Western red-cedar, the death was a blow to park and tree enthusiasts.

The National Geo Tree had its top missing, probably from a lightening strike

This magnificent tree was known to be the largest in Stanley Park, and many believed it was the largest in Canada. The cedar may have been the largest, oldest tree in the park, but it was not the largest or oldest in the country.

Let's see how Stanley Park's Nat. Geo Tree matches up to Vancouver Island's Cheewhat Cedar.

The National Geographic Tree (pre-2007) while it was still standing
In 1978 the Nat. Geo Tree was measured at 13.5 metres in circumference (45 feet), and was 40 metres (133 feet) in height. The tree was estimated to be about 1000 years old.

The Cheewhat Cedar - largest tree in Canada, and estimated to be 3000 years old

The Cheewhat Cedar on the other hand, is estimated to be about 3000 years old. It is 18.5 meters (61 feet) in circumference, and 192 feet tall, making it the largest tree in Canada.

National Geographic Tree on the ground after 2007 storm

In the 1970s photographers from National Geographic Magazine visited the Stanley Park icon for an article. The tree gained its name, and thousands of visitors as a result of the publicity. The tree had been a pilgrimage destination for nature lovers since the 1890s.

Roots of National Geo Tree

After the National Geographic Tree fell, it could be seen that the roots and part of the trunk had been infected with rot, a common condition often responsible for weakening trees that eventually fall to the ground.

The fallen Stanley Park monument will be left to rot in place, and still makes for an interesting visit to witness this stage in the life and death of an old growth tree. It could lay on the forest floor for hundreds of years before being entirely incorporated into the soil.

Stanley Park is in Vancouver, BC

The now horizontal Nat. Geo Tree can be found near the Hollow Tree. To view it, go to the Hollow Tree parking lot and cross the road to the Third Beach Trail. It is located a short distance down the trail.


  1. Wowee, I couldn't help but notice that first photo--because I took it (around 1977) and that's me beside the NGT. I've seen the pic on the web recently, don't know how it could have gotten there because I can't recall ever making a reprint or scanning the print. A mystery!

    Anyways, no worries with you posting it here. I really enjoy your blog, just like I enjoy all-too-rare walks in the old growth.

    1. Jim, Thank you so much for getting in contact with us and filling in more information about this awesome photograph.

      Thank you for granting permission to keep it posted here on VIBT. I have given you credit in the caption.

      Here's hoping you have more old growth walks in the future, and thanks for visiting our blog!

  2. Anonymous14/7/15

    Hi Gregg,

    Just a minor thing I spotted on this post - The little map of Stanley Park isn't correct, it should say that cars, rollerbladers and cyclists move in a counter-clockwise direction, not clockwise. Just in case anyone looking here attempts to drive the wrong way up a one-way road. Stanley Park is mostly one-way, but occasionally there are two way roads around.

    Best regards,


  3. Hi Gregg,

    Thanks for all your great work on this web site!

    I can add to this that the National Geographic Tree did not fall in a wind storm. I remember there were no wind storms that week, and I checked the weather records for the date it came down and was there was no wind storm or significant wind at all on record. I had been visiting this tree regularly at that time. It fell down in October 2007 — because in May 1992 the Park Board cut every single branch off the tree and killed it. I believe this happened because this amazing tree was never recognized in any way by the Park Board, and this anonymity left it unprotected. The newly dead tree is well-illustrated in your second picture and described in an article with Randy Stoltmann on page A45 of the Vancouver Province, May 29, 1992. I know, because this was just after I had emailed Park Board commissioner Spencer Herbert on September 24, 2007 to meet with me so I could propose that this world famous tree, not identified locally at all, could be identified, protected and celebrated by the Vancouver Park Board. Spencer arranged to meet me two weeks later, and by then it was too late, we walked to the tree but it had fallen over. This walk was the beginning of my own efforts to save the nearby Hollow Tree, which the Park Board suddenly announced it was going to cut down with chain saws a few months later. Previously the Park Board had cut down right to the ground the world famous Seven Sisters, a group of seven giant firs and cedars in Stanley Park.

    The 'murder' of National Geographic Tree in May 1992 occurred immediately after a full page picture of it appeared in the April 1992 issue of National Geographic Magazine. The magazine's world wide readership of 50 million had been observing the full page picture of it as a living tree, not realizing it was now dead after living for about 1,000 years. I was hired by National Geographic Magazine to work as an editor on the article, which was the cover story for that issue. I also guided the author of the cover story, who was from the Seattle area, to the then famous but completely unmarked National Geographic Tree. It acquired this name after a full page picture of it appeared in the October 1978 issue of the magazine.

    There are other huge trees in the park, identified and documented by Randy Stoltmann, that are STILL unidentified, unprotected and uncelebrated by the Vancouver Park Board, including even a cedar larger than the Hollow Tree and the National Geographic Tree.

    - Bruce Macdonald, author of Vancouver: A Visual History


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