The Oldest Canyon Live Oak in Humboldt?

This is the largest Canyon Live Oak I’ve ever seen which probably means it’s the oldest.  I don’t know how to measure it.  My husband says about 6 feet in diameter but that is only if you don’t measure those branches which come out of the base.

The largest Canyon Live Oak is in Southern California.  Go here to see it.  You have to (no, scratch that) you GET to scroll through some of the most magnificent portraits of the biggest, oldest, strongest trees you’ve ever seen photographed lovingly in all their glory in order to find it–well worth the 15 seconds it takes.  Ours, here is Humboldt looks close in size to my untrained eye.  The oldest is supposedly 11 feet in diameter.

Even at 6 feet, ours is in the upper limits of age at around 300 years old.

According to the National forest service:

Canyon live oak was one of the woods most commonly used by early California settlers for farm implements, shipbuilding, furniture, and fuel. The common name maul oak came from its use as a splitting maul. Canyon live oak has been considered a non-manageable hardwood; however, its high caloric value and rapid sprout growth make it an excellent source of fuelwood. Manufactured into paneling, the wood makes an attractive multicolored interior wall covering. [We have some in our house and it is spectacular.  People comment on its beauty constantly.]

… The ability of canyon live oak to grow on steep, rocky, moving slopes makes it an excellent stabilizer of soils on steep slopes…. The acorns are an important source of food for scrub and Steller’s jays, acorn woodpecker, band-tailed pigeon, wild turkey, mountain quail, ground squirrel, woodrat, black bear, and mule deer. Deer also use the foliage as food.

Just an idea but I’d love to see folk send in photos of the biggest/oldest trees in their areas with rough measurements.  Surely I’m not the only one in love with these trees that have stretched their roots into Humboldt dirt before there were white settlers in the area.


My email is

  • Laytonville Rock


  • Do they grow on the coast?

  • I don’t have a photo, but there is a huge old Maple tree that grows at the Wolf ranch on the Ettersberg road. At the top of the hill, right beside the road. And of course, we all miss the Council Madrone.

    My quintessential tree was the Dyerville Giant. It succumbed to what all redwoods will succumb to, if they live long enough. The weight of the tree crushed it’s roots and a small tree blown against it in a wind storm knocked it over. I feel very privileged to have seen it standing. The last time that I saw it, it was leaning badly. I was caused to wonder at the time how much longer it could hold out without toppling. It was short time thereafter that it fell.

    • That maple is huge and driving by the Wolf Ranch you can’t miss it. Not to mention our redwood trees which are so huge and impressive. We are so lucky to live in Humboldt County!

  • We have a big Tan Oak in our meadow acorn orchard, that is pre-European contact age, that I have been fertilizing with wood ash and doing some thinning and light burns around in hopes of keeping it healthy and sudden oak death free. What a spectacular place we live in. I was fortunate to visit the worlds largest living madrone in Bluff Creek a few years ago while helping to burn the forest for basket materials at a Fire Symposium held in Panamnic (Orleans) in Northern Humboldt County. I also got emailed a copy of a Doctoral Thesis concerning our fire culture in Humboldt County, from a European academic perspective. So neat having our local cultures and people in Humboldt County studied by foreign academics and seeing their impressions of Americans that call Humboldt County home.

  • jonathan- a similar evergreen oak species may be found on the coast in the southern part of the county, Quercus agrifolia, the Coast Live Oak.

    The National Register of Big Trees recognizes the largest trees in the United States and accepts nominations:

  • Interesting stuff. We have a madrone that is so big that a grown man can lie down in its hollow center. I will have to take measurements and get new photos.

  • Beel, Thank you. I had no idea that organization existed.

    Mark, Someday, I would love to see that!

  • Kym,

    When I first stumbled upon that massive Canyon Live Oak that you photographed I was overwhelmed with emotion. It really hit me how amazing it is that something so enormous and full of grandeur could come from a single tiny acorn. One acorn that found the perfect condition, threw it’s root deep down into the soil, survived fires, droughts, storms and earthquakes and was still standing on that steep rocky slope and soaking in the suns energy. Hundreds of years of stored sunshine embodied in it’s carbon built body and still providing food for deer, squirrels, acorn woodpeckers and a whole host of other wildlife. The tiny acorns of the Canyon Live Oak are a favorite food for Band-Tailed Pigeons. They eat them whole and gorge themselves in the Fall. Scrub Jays are one of the key animals that have formed a mutually beneficial relationship with the oaks. During the fall and winter months they hide thousands of the nutrient dense acorns under ground in secret hiding places tucked under rocks, and buried shallow near prominent landmarks (prominent to a jay). Of course they forget many of them and thus perpetuate their co-evolved relationship by the reciprocal act of sharing planting rights for feasting rights.
    There is another tree on the west side of Elk ridge that I’d like to share with you and the Salmon Creek school kids. It’s the largest Bay Laurel tree that I have seen in the county so far. Technically it’s in the Mattole watershed. Their is also one of the largest Madrone trees that I have seen besides the Council Madrone on a south facing slope near BLM land on the Mattole side. The access for it is here in Salmon Creek. I hiked in there this Spring and it was still standing. I hadn’t visited it for 13 years.
    Like Harry said, “What a beautiful place we live in.” I appreciate the stories of “place” that are being passed along by Ernie and others. It makes me feel confident in the community presence of deep feelings for special things like elder trees.


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