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.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park can certainly be described as Crescent City’s forest. When viewed in Google Earth the start of the park is very abrupt, with farm land, commercial land, and housing immediately to the west of the park’s border. As an example the Boy Scout Tree redwood is less than three miles from the Crescent City Walmart.
But don’t be fooled, there is a lot of remoteness for much of JSRSP. There is an especially big patch of redwoods south of Highway 199 and north of the Boy Scout Tree trail that is pretty much free of trails and roads. On a Saturday in August Mario and I did some exploration in this forest. Not to any known giant trees, but just to look around. This area has a wrinkled landscape and receives a lot of rain. Therefore there are many creeks, generally flowing either north toward Smith River or south toward Jordan Creek and the Pacific ocean. In one valley the water may flow north, then crossing to the next valley, at the same latitude, the water may flow south.
We took our time, looking over a small portion of the area, and found some really interesting “stuff”.
2 Big and Small Redwoods
We found this big whopper redwood with one of the nicest crowns you’ll ever want to see.
Then this is a classic nursery log, with a line of ten or so young redwoods growing out of the log. That’s Mario along the log.
Here’s a nice cluster of big redwoods, maybe they can be called the Crescent City Towers. Occupants are flying squirrels and marbled murrelets. Mario’s in lower right for scale.
3 The Elk Herd
Just above one creek sits this redwood grouping. We gave it the name Elk Herd as there are elk sign in this area, lots of hoof prints and nibbled off vegetation from earlier in the summer. It would be quite a picture to get a herd of elk surrounding this herd of redwood trees.
Mario has a good picture of this grouping on his website where you can discern the impressive size more clearly. But let me just say, at 4.5 feet above the ground, there is 35 feet of pure redwood diameter, no spacing. The big one in the middle is over 20 feet diameter.
4 Chill Down
That evening Mario organized a FB meetup at a brew pub in Crescent City. He got a good turnout, both people interested in redwood photography and redwood hiking. About 25 in all, everyone had a good time.
Harper Flat contains about 30 redwoods over 350 feet in height in an area no larger than 400 yards X 300 yards. That’s quite a tight grouping of tall trees. It sits on the south side of Bull Creek a little bit east of Giant Tree. The Bull Creek south side trail goes right through a section of Harper Flat.
Over the last few years I’ve been through Harper Flat a few times, and have seen every tall tree in that area. But I didn’t know which was which. The trees themselves are on some published lists with heights and diameters. But height is difficult to determine in the forest and there are many similar diameters and fusions in the area.
Recently I collaborated with an expert tree seeker, combining some clues we had with some new technology, and we were able to come up with a pretty good layout associating specific crowns with specific trees in Harper Flat (any in many other areas).
2 Harper Flat Transect
In May it was time to put the technical findings in action and do a transect of Harper Flat. We had GPS, range finders, D-Tapes, and some custom created maps to assist in the effort.
Working generally southwest to northeast we identified with high probability all the tallest trees in Harper Flat, including the notable trees Valentine, Apex, Alice Rhodes, Mother and Daughter, Pyramid Giant, and Randy Stoltmann (the order listed here is random).
There are many large fallen logs in Harper Flat which makes getting from point A to point B circuitous. Then also some of the notable trees are tucked in areas with the logs and brush, so care must be taken. There was also quite a bit of bear poop in Harper Flat, a bear or maybe a bear and cub must be accessing Bull Creek through this area.
To be honest the most scenic and impressive trees I saw in Harper Flat were none of the trees noted above, but instead a couple named Big Log (Brutus) and Bushy Toe. Both are over 350 feet and have large diameters.
Big log 361 feet tall, 15.5 foot diameter.
Bushy Toe 351 feet, 17 foot diameter. This tree is just north of the Bull Creek south side trail.
Then also it should be mentioned there are two spectacular signed trees nearby. On the south side of Bull Creek is Giant Tree, 354 feet, 17 foot diameter, while nearby on the north side of Bull Creek stands the stately Rockefeller Redwood, 366 feet, 15 foot diameter.
3 An Encounter Along the Trail
We saw quite a few people in the area on this day, even off trail. Almost all had a friendly hello and we chatted for a bit about hiking and redwoods. However when we were rounding a bend in the trail we met two guys going in the other direction who ducked down and started tying their shoes. It was clearly avoidance behavior, not wanting to be seen. They had nice cameras and tripods. Anyhow we said a brief cursory hello and moved on.
I suppose this all sounds strange to some, but there is intrigue in the redwoods, some people have gone rogue and put out GPS, hiking directions and very nice photos for a bunch of specific trees, even some way off trail. Now this is contrary to the current status quo, very contrary. And the people doing this have chosen to remain anonymous.
I think these people would be more effective in their endeavors if they took credit for what they have built and made their case for the site content.
I agree for some trees right by trails it is pretty silly to keep them a “secret”. But then for others, way off trail, it is pretty risky to send people over hill and dale to get to the trees. Then there is a lot of ground in between.