The Tale of a "Grand" Canyon Live Oak Tree

The Tale of a "Grand" Canyon Live Oak Tree

California is no stranger to big trees.

In the land where robust coast redwoods and giant sequoias tower over the earth, another kind of big tree makes an appearance. The national champion canyon live oak tree--also the largest of all oaks listed on the National Register of Big Trees--stands 97 feet tall, spreading 98 feet across.

Assuming this particular canyon live oak, located in Glen Oak, Calif., was the largest of any discovered oak species in the U.S., seven Wildlands Conservancy members photographed and measured the tree in 2012. This resulted in the tree's appearance in the National Register of Big Trees--now comprising 768 champions and sponsored by The Davey Tree Expert Company.

Thriving in Dry Conditions & Easing Erosion

Measuring nearly 500 inches around, the national champion canyon live oak tree demonstrates the species' tendency to thrive in dry, open habitats. Canyon live oaks also contribute to reducing soil loss on steep slopes, which often exist on Californian terrain.

As if it's reflecting the peaks and valleys of its home along West Coast, the national champion canyon live oak boasts a wide, twisted and tangled trunk that's covered in roughly-textured bark. Visitors may not only marvel at its sheer size, but they may also explore the corners and crevices along the specimen's surface. This stunning big tree offers additional visual interest to the mountainous region in which it has resided for many years.

canyon live oak tree
The national champion canyon live oak tree measures 500 inches in circumference!

Living on Protected Public Land

The national champion canyon live oak tree stands within the San Bernardino Mountains of California, which represent a portion of the San Bernardino National Forest, established in 1907. Then designated the San Bernardino Forest Reserve, the now 679,380-acre area had originally received recognition from the president as public land for the conservation of natural resources.

Thanks to the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, regulations dedicated the forest to protecting the trees, water, minerals, livestock ranges, recreation and wildlife within its boundaries. Today, the forest not only provides valuable watershed protection but also serves as Southern California's outdoor, year-round recreation destination.

So, next time you plan a visit to "The Golden State," take a hike off of the beaten path to check out big trees that may otherwise receive little attention in comparison to their famous coastal counterparts.

Do you have a big tree story you'd like to share? Send us your photos and comments to, or post your story in the comment field below!

  • Aaron Henderson February 4, 2015 >Photos from this adventure
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