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A moose checks out Alaska's national champion Kenai birch, fittingly found in Kenai. The tree was nominated and measured by a group of fourth, fifth and sixth grade students at the Kaleidoscope School of Arts & Sciences. Photo: Don Bertolette

Northwest Native Named National Champion Tree

December 10, 2013

Its canopy expands across the moonlit sky as intertwining branches cast faint, intricate, silhouetted designs upon the earth below. The very tips of its crown reach high into the air as if the sun had been present for hours; but instead, darkness ensues more than half of the day.

Just a few years ago, the champion Kenai birch tree caught the attention of a group of fourth, fifth and sixth grade students from the Kaleidoscope School of Arts & Sciences, a public elementary charter school in the village of Kenai, Alaska, where instructors help develop students' academic and life skills.

Nominating a champion-sized tree is one hands-on experience the students will likely never forget. Now, thanks to their elementary-aged opinions, the impressive Kenai birch tree is famous for its outstanding features and sheer size.

This champion tree's structure, measuring 37 feet from base to tree top and 43 feet across its reaching crown, represents the largest of Kenai birch trees--and stands, fittingly, in Kenai. At 76 inches around, its trunk boasts the stability to support the champion Kenai birch during the region's most severe wintry weather, from chilling temperatures and extreme wind chills to snow accumulation.

Native to Western Canada and Alaska, the Kenai birch thrives at altitudes as low as sea level, particularly in the moist soils it prefers. Although the species harvests close-grained, light, strong wood for fuel and kindling, its unique visual features capture the admiration and attention of natives; the Kenai birch's white bark, slightly tinged orange or brown, differentiates the species among others standing in its presence.

But the special champion Kenai birch tree tells a story unique to all others its ancestors have shared. Located in Kenai, where the world-famous Kenai River meets the Cook Inlet, the champion Kenai birch stands within the heart of Alaskan adventure: Kenai, a place that features something for everyone to explore; "a village with a past, a city with a future."

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