The only known tree species with living 100 meter specimens is the coast redwood. There are five other species that exceed the 90 meter mark, but at the moment just coast redwoods have 100 meter class trees.
A few months ago I posted some details on 100 meter trees in Humboldt redwoods and from that inferred the total number of 100 meter redwoods in other parks based on some published information on the number of acres in each park capable of supporting 90 meter redwoods. After further research and analysis, including processing many point cloud data sets, it is evident the number of 100 meter redwoods is around 2,000, not 5,000 as I previously posted.
2 100 Meter Trees in Northern Redwood Parks
Using Michael Taylor’s 2013 and 2015 tree height lists, the number of 105 meter trees in each redwood park can be determined with good accuracy. Then for Humboldt Redwoods I have fairly complete LiDAR sourced information, either through data I processed myself using ArcGIS or via rendered maps. So I used the association between 100 plus and 105 plus meter trees at Humboldt to estimate 100 plus meter trees in the three northern redwood parks.
This results in the following chart. I have added the 100 meter tree data from other areas, with the source noted.
So there are 2,000 or so coast redwoods above 100 meters in height (328 feet).
3 100 Meter vs 100 Yard Redwood Trees
There are many, many redwood trees that exceed 100 yards (300 feet) in height. At least 25,000. So we have a pretty big drop off from 100 yard redwoods to 100 meter redwoods. There are special conditions required for redwood trees to reach 100 meters.
For example, this is from NOAA LiDAR of the north tip of Orick Hill. All the white dots are 300 foot redwoods, there are about 40. But if this is changed to 100 meters (328 feet), there is only one dot left, and it is halfway up the hill toward the south end of this map. What about the location of this tree enables it to get to 330 feet, versus everything downstream is between 300 and 330 feet.
Why this drop off, and what is required for a redwood to grow exceptionally tall? One very interesting contributor is the ebb and flow of the marine fog layer. Where the layer persists in the summer, height is suppressed. Where the layer comes and goes daily in the summer, height is maximized. Where the layer does not reach in the summer, height is again suppressed. I will write more about this in the future.
I spent an enjoyable Sunday in early June 2018 looking through the groves along the Avenue of the Giants, including Bolling, Kent, Federation, and Founders Groves. There were a series of tall trees I wanted to locate in each of these groves and was successful, combining older clues involving groves and tree descriptions with newer information available on Open Topography LiDAR portal. Finding the trees became a test of GPS navigation and inference, with a bit of range finder height measurements to confirm certain tall trees.
The Bolling Grove sits right by the Avenue. The area of tall trees is very small, and the trunks are arranged in a pleasant pattern that recalls a sculpture garden. Three of the four trees in the main grouping are over 100 meters. Here you can see the rendered LiDAR point cloud data, where purple is 105 meters in height and red is 100 meters in height.
Then you can compare the LiDAR with the photo of the tree grouping. The one in front is 100 meters, then the ones to back left (Bolling Stovepipe) and back right have crown points above 105 meters.
The grove is dedicated to Colonel Raynal C. Bolling who was killed in action 100 years ago (March 2018) during World War I.
A little later in the day I hiked the Founders Grove trails. There are many great trees all over this grove, with 200 or so trees in the grove over 100 meters in height.
Here is one of the tall trees in Founders Grove, aptly named Javelin. Sure you can see why.
2 Jedediah Smith Redwoods
A few days later in the same week I did some group hikes in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, near Route 199 in the Walker Road area. There are nice flats in this area with a good number of 100 meter plus redwoods. I believe this area has the northernmost 100 meter coast redwood trees.
The loop trails along Walker Road are really nice. The amount of western hemlock is amazing, they grow everywhere on everything.
Here are a couple tall trees in the area, both well above 100 meters. The bench was built in 1972 as a viewing point to the second tree pictured. Its trail is no longer maintained but still gets a lot of use.
I will post more about this trip later. Thanks for reading.
I use this study for some reference information but what follows are my own independent analyses and ideas.
Hyperion has a very unusual feature versus other very tall redwoods in the study. About 30 meters up on the tree there are two huge branches that grow out from the trunk at near 90 degree angles for a couple meters and then turn straight upwards for twenty or so meters. Both these branches are on the same side of the trunk and together weigh about 5,000 kg.
Hyperion has a volume of 550 cubic meters, of which about 140 cubic meters are above the huge branches growing out from the trunk thirty meters up. The 140 cubic meters of volume has a total weight of about 55,000 kilograms (based on Hyperion’s total mass of 210 Mg and total volume of 550 cubic meters).
Therefore the upper 85 meters of Hyperion can be viewed as a 55,000 kg object with 5,000 kg of weight offset from but connected to the base.
2 Mass Dampers
Mass dampers are used in construction and design to help stabilize vibration from external forces. For example very tall buildings will employ mass dampers to reduce sway so people do not feel sea sick in high winds as the top of the building sways. Dampers are also used in automotive engines to reduce vibration.
Mass dampers add cost and complexity to structure design, and there is a trade off in materials and methods used in vibration dampening versus actual benefit.
As a result typical mass dampers are set up in a counterbalance system where the damper is about 10 percent of the mass of the object being dampened. This then reduces vibration at the radial end of the vibrating object by about forty percent.
For more information see Wikipedia article on Tuned mass dampers.
3 Hyperion And Its Built In Mass Damper
Reviewing the redwood diagrams it is evident Hyperion redwood has very little breakage in its crown for such an old and tall redwood tree (1260 years old, 116 meters height). There is no breakage in the top part of the crown, this is one reason why Hyperion has its great height. Great location, great soil, nightly fog, and tucked into a valley for wind protection.
But Hyperion has something else going for it. Those big side branches 30 meters up, with combined weight at ten percent of the trunk weight above them, serve as tuned mass dampers to reduce crown sway in high winds by about fifty percent. The unique structure of Hyperion has contributed to wind breakage suppression, allowing Hyperion to grow very tall without interruption.
This is a letter I received from Mario Vaden, published with his permission.
Feel free to share this note. It relates to a website that has correctly and incorrectly posted redwood locations, including a few from past research. And I understand that my may be getting some “flack” from people who (incorrectly) imagine you are tied to it. The anonymous site could be illegitimate if a fake name was used to purchase hosting. But either way, it remains anonymous. Anyhow, here are a few thoughts.
There have only been two people (we know of) that I ever thought had the skill set and time to slap together all the content. I never concluded they did it. They had the ability and proximity, but most everything else indicates no involvement, especially their fondness for the finer aspects of nature..
If anyone thinks you were behind it, that’s ridiculous. It would take corrupt logic or emotion to reach that conclusion. Lack of proximity alone means you could not compile that stuff. The photos and redwoods and paragraphs appeared at a pace that required nearly weekly or monthly visits to the parks. You live so far away in Illinois, there’s not a chance you could have done one-tenth of it. The pattern of progress basically proved it was someone along the redwood coast, or in similar driving distance. Anyone who does not realize that aspect alone, has holes in their head like Swiss cheese, to think otherwise.
It wouldn’t even matter whether or not you had skills to tweak code or capture images. You probably don’t but the conversation ended long before that thought. Lack of proximity and access rule-you-out … easily.
Maybe I had an advantage. There’s several I know were not involved, like yourself, Michael, the other Steve, Zane, etc.. But I had a long ongoing relationships and conversations with all of you, for years. And the degree of interaction I had with each of you, none of you had the same with each other. And honestly, out of every one of them (us), I think you put more effort in to unearth who was behind all of it, and hopefully reverse it. Plus, you even donated more than anyone initially toward signs to help the parks diminish wear in the grove of titans. While others were running around in circles reaching no productive conclusion, at least you made tangible progress.
Anyhow, the reason for this, is to express that if anyone thinks you were blabbing locations to the world, that boils down to a lack of thinking and series of brain-farts.
FWIW … I was surprised when one of the “tree community” suspected it was me for a while. The mere mention sounded insane when I first learned. But it became apparent they did not begin, or arrive at the false suspicions on their own. There must be others spreading, sowing or growing confusion for that to happen. And it only happens when people elevate imagination over fact and reason.
So … on that note, looking forward to another great hike or bushwhack next June of July.
Reply to Mario from Mark Graham
I myself have pointed a finger at others, incorrectly as it turns out, so I guess it was my turn under the microscope.
I don’t have any association with the web site of concern, and have posted a sworn statement on this web site to affirm.
What sets coast redwoods apart from other tree species is their great height. It is the only species with extant trees over 100 meters in height, and there are 3,000 – 5,000 such redwood trees. And around 1,000 of these trees are in Humboldt Redwoods State Park (HRSP).
The 100 meter redwoods in HRSP are of course concentrated along Bull Creek and nearby Eel River groves. But surprisingly there are 100 meter redwoods in many areas of Humboldt, from the very northernmost area to the very southernmost area.
A 2014 Eel River LiDAR survey generated point cloud data which can be used to determine tree height by subtracting ground heights from first return heights. There is existing software with built in functions to do the heavy lifting. The point cloud data was recently put on the Open Topography Portal. I went ahead and downloaded twenty of so subsections of this point cloud data and reviewed tree height in the groves along the Eel River and Eel River south fork.
As part of the review derivative maps were created which profile the canopy by height. For example, this is the road going into Founders Grove from the Avenue of the Giants. The purple indicates 100-105 meters in height. You can see there is a 100 + meter tree at the entrance, then another taller one on the right side of the road right where the parking lot starts. So this level of specificity can be reviewed throughout the park.
This table is a tall tree recap of the areas of Humboldt Redwoods included in the 2014 LiDAR survey. Most have 100 meter trees, some quite a few. I also included a column for the number of trees between 90 and 100 meters. To do this work I just counted crowns by height band on the derivative height maps I created. The counts are approximately right but I am sure could be off by a little bit (but not by much).
Rather than showing the derivative maps I made four overview maps of Humboldt Redwoods. I hope you enjoy them, they provide a good general overview of where the tall trees are.
2 North End – Pepperwood Area
The Pepperwood area has a few 100 meter trees, including one that is quite tall.
3 Core Area
Most of the tall trees in Humboldt are along Bull Creek or in the river groves near the Bull Creek outflow. Although Bull Creek was not included in the 2014 LiDAR survey, there are other sources for that area with partial information. So the counts for Bull Creek are estimates. There are also quite a few tall trees along the river south of Bull Creek. Then Founders Grove, Rockefeller Loop, and Federation Grove have many tall trees.
4 Burlington to Canoe Creek to Great Peninsula
Here there is a large cluster of tall trees along the Canoe Creek bend and along Canoe Creek itself
5 Phillipsville Area
Here way at the south end of the Avenue there are still a few tall trees. Also not shown is the Redway area, where there is one 100 meter plus tree.
Doing these maps has me interested in visiting some areas of Humboldt I have not been to. One trail in particular is the River Trail from Bull Creek south to the Garden Club Grove. It is supposed to be very scenic.
I made my first visit to the coast redwoods parks in 2014. I was always interested in the tall redwoods but really didn’t feel an urge to visit the parks until the point in time the tallest redwood tree was named but its location was kept secret. The treasure hunt, if you will, intrigued me.
The book The Wild Trees, with its descriptions of the known and secret redwood trees and groves, certainly added interest as did the web sites and forums hinting about the location of Hyperion and the Atlas Grove and the Grove of Titans.
To be honest if the location of Hyperion was on a web site in 2014, I would not have traveled to the redwood parks. Maybe I would have made it to the redwoods at some point in time in the same way I still want to visit Yosemite or the Giant Sequoia Groves or Yellowstone or the Little Big Horn area but maybe not. It was the secrecy, the puzzle, and the treasure hunt that got me there.
This is a sworn statement by Mark Edward Graham, as made on February 14, 2018.
I, Mark Edward Graham, have no current or past association or affiliation with the owners and contributors to the web site famousrewoods.com, and I have not knowingly provided any tree locations, photography, or data to the owners and contributors to the web site famousredwoods.com.
I, Mark Edward Graham, certify under penalty of perjury in any state of the United States, including Illinois and California, that the information provided herein is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.
For trees, a 100 meter height is very unusual. In the recent past the coast redwood, Douglas fir, Austral eucalyps, and possibly some tropical hardwoods had extant trees over 100 meters. However in the present day all documented living trees over 100 meters in height are coast redwoods.
For coast redwoods, a 100 meter height is uncommon but not rare. Humboldt Redwoods State Park contains the greatest number of very tall trees, concentrated along the Eel River south fork and Bull Creek. There is good public information on the height of individual tree crowns in this area, originating in LiDAR point cloud data. In HRSP there are about 300 hectares with demonstrated 100 meter redwoods, with an average density of about four 100 meter trees per hectare. So that results in about 1,200 redwood trees in HRSP above 100 meters in height.
Then each of the other redwood parks with many tall trees (Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park) likely have a similar number of 100 meter redwood trees, but there isn’t enough public data to develop definitive counts.
So among the four large parks, then adding in trees from Montgomery Woods and a few other locations, there are likely around 5,000 coast redwood trees with heights above 100 meters, and 0 trees that are not coast redwoods with heights above 100 meters.
2 Tallest Coast Redwoods
Based on extensive measurement and point cloud analysis it was determined a nice round number to differentiate the tallest redwoods is 350 feet (106.7 meters), with about 225 trees above this height cutoff. That’s a pretty big drop from the 5,000 or more redwood trees over 100 meters in height.
Although there are many 100 meter trees in Prairie Creek and Jedediah Smith, the 350 foot (106.7 meter) redwood trees are concentrated in Humboldt Redwoods and Redwood National Park (from Michael Taylor 2013 list):
Humboldt Redwood State Park: 160 trees 350+
Redwood National Park: 36 trees 350+
Montgomery Redwoods State Reserve: 17 trees 350+
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park: 9 trees 350+
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park: 3 trees 350+
Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park: 1 tree 350+
The redwoods above 350 feet continue to be measured for height changes. Some are measured annually versus others might be measured every ten years.
There are a few new 350 foot trees found each year, as the “349 footers” grow into 350 feet or a new LiDAR flyover identifies some trees that were missed previously.
3 350 Foot Trees – Height Changes and Group Substitution Rate
There is a published Tall Trees list from 2000, and then these same trees can be compared to the 2013 list, to see the 13 year growth rates among the trees. All the trees on the 2000 list are also on the 2013 list, though three of these trees have fallen since 2013.
For trees on 2000 list, height change to 2013:
Gained height – 110 trees, average height increase 3.0 inches per year
Lost Height – 12 trees, average height loss 1.3 inches per year
In the past year three trees from the 2000 list fell (all in Humboldt).
Looking at the LiDAR data for Humboldt redwoods, there are about 42 trees in 2013 that were between 347 and 350 feet in height. Based on the 2000 – 2013 results 4 or so of these trees will lose height over the next decade, versus 38 or so will increase height, at a rate of 3 inches per year. That allows a calculation for the new 350 foot “grow in” trees for Humboldt each year:
38 trees above 347 feet growing to 350 feet
Assuming heights are uniformly distributed, this results in 12.7 height bands (38 trees, 3 inches per year per tree).
Then taking the 38 trees divided by the 12.7 height bands that results in 3 new 350 foot trees in Humboldt each year based on height growth.
Then based on the ratio of tall trees between parks there would be one additional 350 foot tree each year in another redwood park, likely in Redwood National Park.
The 350 foot list grow in rate appears to be above the loss rate from height reduction and tree fall but time will tell. For sure there likely will be three to four new 350 foot trees each year.
July 1 2006 did not dawn clear along California’s far northern coast, contrary to what you may have read about Helios’ discovery. In the summer, it is never sunny in the morning in Eureka, Arcata, Orick, Klamath, and Crescent City. Instead a marine layer of fog settles in, as the interior of California is very hot in the summer, and that temperature contrast versus the Alaska current induced cool Pacific Ocean creates convective forces that lead to fog development.
In fact, you can go onto Weather Underground and check the hourly observations at Crescent City’s McNamara Airport for that particular date, there was only a peep of sun in the later afternoon when the fog dissipated. I am sure it was the same in Orick, forty miles to the south.
However, just a little inland, over the first hills or mountains adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, it was assuredly sunny by midday. Redwood Creek flows into the Pacific in the south part of Orick area, and upstream winds its way south between the first ridge adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and the next ridge to the east which Bald Hills Road and the Tall Trees Grove road run along. This positioning allows fog to enter Redwood Creek valley in the evening all summer long, but then since there is some distance and a ridge between the valley and the Pacific Ocean the fog retreats downstream along Redwood Creek by late morning, until it meets up with the persistent marine layer on the bend north of McArthur Creek.
So the trees growing along Redwood Creek and the many creeks that flow into Redwood creek receive a decent dose of fog drip all summer long to support the leaves in their upper canopies. However they also get a lot of sunshine as well since that fog retreats for most of the day.
Redwood Creek and its tributaries have many bends and in some places flow in an orientation that protects trees from the highest winter winds, which are usually from the south. If the tree grows along a creek with an east west orientation, such as the bend in Redwood Creek at Tall Trees Grove or along Tom McDonald Creek, and if the tree has hillside protection, that strong southern wind from the winter “Pineapple Express” storms can whistle along mostly above the tops of the tallest redwoods.
For these reasons – summer fog and sun, wind protection, and also soil condition, the redwood trees along Redwood Creek and its tributaries can get very tall. And not just right along the creeks, but on the terraced steppes above the creeks, on steep hillsides.
2 The Discovery of Helios and Hyperion
Helios and Hyperion were discovered on July 1 and August 25, 2006, respectively. Both trees were found growing on steep hillsides above tributaries of Redwood Creek. Both were found by Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor using a newer technology which involved a hand held laser beam with some internal machine ware that returned distance and angle to reflective target. Using this information geometry can be used to find tree height, as the opposite angle (angle to reflective target) and hypotenuse (distance to reflective target) are used to determine target height (using sine table). Typically the machine ware will also do this calculation.
However it is almost never quite that easy as the top and bottom cannot usually be captured in the same measurement, so a series of incremental measurements are made. Throw in a forest and rough terrain and this becomes pretty tough and exacting work.
Then one other issue is where ground level is on wide hillside trees, where the upslope side of the trunk can be twelve feet higher than the downslope side of the trunk. So the height is calculated as the average of downslope and upslope height.
Helios’ height was measured at 374.3 feet, which was about four feet taller than the previous tallest measured tree, Stratosphere Giant in Humboldt Redwoods, and about three feet taller than Icarus, another tall tree in the Helios area also discovered on July 1, 2006.
Then Hyperion was discovered in August and measured at 379.1 feet in September. That was almost five feet taller than Helios.
Since Hyperion and Helios stood so much further ahead than other trees in height, especially Hyperion, and since so many tributaries of Redwood Creek were logged before being incorporated into Redwood National Park in 1964 and 1978, it is probably true there were other tall trees of similar height that were cut down in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Looking at the winding creeks and Redwood Creek itself, incorporating altitude, soil conditions, distance above creek, and wind protection there were maybe a half dozen redwoods in the area above 375 feet tall in 1960. Hyperion at the time was probably around 370 feet tall. How tall the tallest one was, it will never be known, but it could have been 390-400 feet tall. Maybe it was along Forty Four creek.
3 The Race to Number One
Helios’ height is increasing faster than Hyperion’s. This is probably due to the fact Helios is growing back toward its maximum height. About a hundred years ago the top broke off of Helios and it went from a 400 foot redwood to a 350 redwood in a couple seconds. So Helios’ height growth is based on branch reiterations. Hyperion’s crown does not include reiterated branches, its crown height has to increase as a general push upward of the intertwined canonical canopy. So Hyperion is presently at its historical maximum height.
Another very tall tree in Humboldt, the Stratosphere Giant, is growing in the Rockefeller Forest just a little ways from Bull Creek in a general area that has supported trees that were possibly 400 foot redwoods before their tops broke off (Giant Tree and Bull Creek Giant). The Humboldt locations are on flats versus on hillsides, with summer nightly fog flowing up the Eel River and into Bull Creek and with good protection from high winds due to Grasshopper Mountain as well as an east-west valley orientation.
Here are some recent actual heights for the tallest redwoods, along with growth rates. As is apparent, barring a wind event or substantial change in relative growth rates, Hyperion will remain the tallest tree on earth for some time.
Growth Rate Inch/Year
Act/Est Height 2017
Est Height 2020
Est Height 2025
Est Height 2030
Est Height 2035
Est Height 2040
Est Height 2050
Est Height 2075
Est Height 2100
Growth Rate Inch/Year
Act/Est Height 2017
Est Height 2020
Est Height 2025
Est Height 2030
Est Height 2035
Est Height 2040
Est Height 2050
Est Height 2075
Est Height 2100
It would be exciting to see a 400 foot redwood, and it will probably happen. But it will take another 50 years for a tree to get there. I would guess that tree will either be Helios or Stratosphere Giant.
But it is amazing enough there is a 380 foot redwood growing in Redwood National Park right now, Hyperion.
The tall trees lists have described the location of a number of tall trees in Redwood National Park as “Redwood Creek tributary”, including Helios. There are a good number of Helios clues, and they all have some degree of helpfulness. But to me, none made a specific location probable for Helios. And on top of that there are no full views of Helios’ trunk on the internet. Just bits and pieces, such as a small area of trunk burn marks and a small section of one side of the trunk. And no canopy photos that show much.
But over the course of three years, with four visits to Redwood National Park searching for the tallest trees and quite a bit of time reading through research papers, viewing photos, and moving around Google Earth and Blue Marble I felt I had a good chance of finding Helios.
2 Hiking to Helios
I did not want to do the Helios hike alone. So I planned the hike with two guys from the U.K, Carl and Phil, who I trust and are excellent redwoods researchers and hikers.
On a Sunday in August 2017 we took on this hike. And it was quite an undertaking, ten hours of hiking in all. And we were successful.
The approach to Helios is just what you would think for a tributary of Redwood Creek. There is a creek and there are steep hillsides. And both are filled with giant logs, some recent falls and many worrisome rotting logs from treefall one or two hundred years ago. So over logs, around logs, under logs, along logs. Logs, logs, logs. Then throw in big ferns and nettles. And rocks, big ones. I fell three times, once off a rotten log, winding up on my back under some brush. I had to wiggle my way uphill while on my back to get out of the thicket. Carl and Phil took some spills as well. One of us had a serious wardrobe malfunction to contend with on the hike back out.
Do not do this hike on your own! Do not do this hike if you cannot tolerate extreme physical exertion!
Here are a couple views of typical redwoods and other trees and plants in the Helios area. Lots of ferns and rhododendrons. Also quite a bit of western hemlock, sitka spruce, and bay laurel. But the majority of the biomass is definitely redwoods.
3 Finding Helios
The three of us had climbed up a hill and were spread out. We noted a strong candidate, Phil got to the tree first and yelled “I think you will be very pleased with this tree” in the typical understated British way. Then Carl had a good pic of the burn marks on his tablet and what we saw lined up exactly in every detail. This was Helios, definitely. And we got it confirmed the next day.
Here are two views of Helios similar to what has been on the internet. The first is a section of the burn marks. The triangle on the left is the official shark tooth. Then the second is me in front of the trunk.
I cannot show any full trunk or crown views of Helios.
4 Helios Height
We did put rangefinders on the top of Helios and got a ballpark height. But we didn’t have prisms and tripods to get a definite height, and also didn’t find a ground level tag on the tree.
But Helios is immensely tall, perhaps as tall as Hyperion. And Helios has a lot of character, lots of interesting and unique features. That is what you would expect from a 2,000 year old tree.