Giant Western Red Cedar


On Tuesday, May 25th, 2010, I rode my BMW F800GS from home to find the tree in the photo above, a trip of about 270 miles, there and back. It is claimed to be the largest tree in North America east of the Cascade/Sierra range. Mexico claims to have the largest tree in the world, but most would claim the "General Sherman" Giant Sequoia in Northern California is the largest (in volume, and incidentally almost 100' taller than this giant Cedar). Whatever — this is one huge old tree!

On the subject of big trees, there is a Quaking Aspen grove in Utah (nicknamed Prando), which consisist of 106 acres of genetically identical trees connected by a single underground root system. Some experts call it the largest organism in the world.

Sign says 18' diameter at "breast height", 177' tall, and about 3,000 years old.

As close as you can ride/drive to the tree, on a very remote dirt road that even the locals didn't seem too sure about directions to. For your GPS, try N 46.888° by W 116.122°. Start by heading NE out of Elk River, then take the "upper basin" branch of the road and just stay on the "main" road. There is a sign reading "Giant Cedar" at the last critical Y-intersection about 10 miles from Elk River. The tree is another mile from there.

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Elk creek, which is fairly fast flowing but very serene at this particular spot. It becomes Elk River and drops over Elk River Falls a few miles from the town of Elk River, ID (population: less than 200 people). Elk River Falls is the highest waterfall in northern Idaho at 300' (actually a closely connected series of waterfalls totalling about 300').

Fortunately, someone with a chainsaw in the back of their truck probably bucked this small tree which had fallen over the road. I had to duck as I rode through to avoid the branches overhead.

This part of the Idaho Panhandle is gorgeous, particularly in late Spring.

A small meadow filled with Camas flowers, the onion-like bulb of which was a major food source for the Native Americans of the region. The harvest was done when the flowers started to fade and shrivel up. There are several varieties of Camas, and a white flowered version is apparently poisonous — thus making harvesting challanging when the faded blossoms were all mostly the same dried up color.

There are hundreds of acres of these plants visible from the highway on the route from St. Maries to Elk River. This meadow was on the side road to Emerald Creek.

Close-up of a Camas flower (the edible kind). There are lots of other flowers that can fill a meadow with this same color, like Lupin and Rocky Mountain Iris (the roots of which were reportedly sometimes used to treat toothaches by the native peoples).

Copyright © 2010, by H. Marc Lewis. All rights reserved.