Stagg Lives, Waterfall Perishes
by Sue Cag
The Stagg Tree, the 5th largest tree in the world, was not impacted by the SQF Complex / Castle Fire. It was simply dumb luck that the fire missed this amazing tree. Despite erroneous reports circulating on the Internet, no one saved the Stagg Tree. No firefighters were there when the fire swept through. Nothing at all was done to stop the fire from burning Alder Creek Grove and killing countless giant sequoias. No one came in after the fire to put the sequoias out either. Nearly all of the giants that perished in the fire could have been saved anytime after the main burn on September 13th, but neither Save the Redwoods (owner of much of Alder Creek Grove) nor the Forest Service care enough to save them. This was not a beneficial fire, but a horrible, severe, wind-driven fire that killed an unbelievably large number of sequoias.
The famous Waterfall Tree (pictured above, before and after the fire), located just northeast of Stagg, didn’t make it. It’s the only giant I could see in this particular section that perished. The fire must have just clipped this section before ripping apart the entire western portion of the grove. It was a terrible surprise to turn the corner and find Waterfall’s grand peace sign top lopped off, almost as though it was singled out. Waterfall’s branches are scattered about the ground. Its top fell off in pieces and now rests below in Alder Creek.
The following is an excerpt about (the subsequently named) Waterfall Tree from Wendell Flint’s book To Find the Biggest Tree (2002):
There is an unnamed tree a few hundred yards north of the Stagg, on the south edge of the South Fork of Alder Creek (#2 AC). This tree has a truly immense base due to a very large basal buttress that extends to the steep bank of the creek. It is almost a vertical drop from this buttress to the creek below. In 1977, I was able to put a tape around the tree at ground level, and to get two base diameters. By the way, do NOT try to walk around this tree. ‘Tain’t safe. Some hiking friends of mine, Bob and Paula Graham, both with a weakness for climbing things, did it a few years ago. It took them a half hour! There is no trail to the tree. It can be reached by clambering through the brush starting at the Stagg Tree, being careful not to get into the watershed to the east.
When I first saw the tree there was a shingle nailed high on the trunk with a name on it, but I couldn’t read it. Maybe it was the original Day Tree (see the Stagg Tree). The tree sits on steep ground, has a dead snag for a top, and does not look too imposing from the uphill side. But from the downhill side – wow! It is an amazing 155 feet around on the ground, about 20 feet in diameter at breast height (a guess), which is perhaps at the 20 foot level above the downhill side. It is 57 feet across the buttresses on the level and it is 43.6 feet measuring up the slope, which is steep. We have considered measuring it since there is an outside chance it has a trunk volume around 30,000 feet.
Note: There is an old logging road right along the upslope side of the tree. There are logging roads everywhere in Alder Creek Grove.
All photos by Sue Cag. All Rights Reserved. Photos may not be used without permission.