Last June, the Oregon Heritage Tree Program announced that the Giant Spruce of Cape Perpetua had been designated an Oregon Heritage Tree. The Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) is more than 185 feet tall with a circumference of 40 feet. It is easily accessed by hiking 1 mile along the Spruce Trail from the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, which is just off Highway 101, 3 miles south of Yachats.
The dedication ceremony will take place at the site of the Giant Spruce in either late April or early May—check the Cape Perpetua Web site for exact date and time.
Two Yachats residents, Sally Lockyear and Joanne Kittel, led the campaign for Heritage Tree designation through 6 months of research and interviews to develop the required documentation.
They learned that almost 600 years ago, the Sitka spruce began life nourished by a nurse log near Cape Creek. Many years later, in 1908, the area became part of the Siuslaw National Forest. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps established a camp at Cape Perpetua, and they built the first trail to the Giant Spruce.
It’s a wonder the tree is still standing. It survived the magnitude 9.0 or more earthquake of January 1700 and the subsequent tsunami that roared up Cape Creek. It survived the coastalfires of the 1850s, 1880s, and 1930s. Except for the top 35 feet, it survived the Columbus Day storm of 1962, where winds were recorded in excess of 160 mph. And it survived the Christmas flood of 1964 that destroyed the trail to the tree and toppled many nearby trees. In 1965, the newly formed Angell Job Corps rebuilt the trail.
“If a visitor wants to see an old-growth forest, the Spruce Trail is an ideal way to access it,” says James Gerdemann, a 25-year resident of Yachats and professor emeritus, botany, University of Illinois. “The walk is climaxed by the Giant Spruce that to this day takes my breath as it stands so majestically among this unique and spectacular forest.”
The Oregon Heritage Tree Program is a registry that recognizes, protects, and promotes trees of historical significance as important to the heritage of Oregon communities.
Heritage Tree Program
Cape Perpetua Regional Scenic Area
Oregon Coast January/Feburary 2007