The vigorous growth of the tree indicates it is still in its prime, especially when you consider bur oaks can reach 300-400 years of age.
The size of this tree makes it a stand out when looking at bur oaks. Having its upper branches reaching over 70 feet high and spreading over 90 feet across puts this tree in a unique class of the largest bur oaks in Wisconsin. However, with a trunk that measures about 4 feet wide, it is rather slender if you compare it to the champions that have trunks 6-7 feet wide!
This large tree and its smaller hickory companion, stand prominently in the City of Waukesha’s Fox River Parkway north park. It is a photogenic tree that dwarfs climbers amongst its branches. It is an incredible experience to spend time in its branches.
Once you climb over 20 feet, you are able to peer over the shrubs and small trees that border the park and obscure the distant views for people back on the ground.
The park is surrounded by the Fox River wetlands, with fields of reeds and grasses stretching to the south. While you enjoy a quiet and peaceful rest in the branches, you can watch the river flow gently by on its way to the Illinois River, 200 miles away.
Being able to climb over 60 feet is a neat experience for seasoned climbers. There are also plenty of large branches to lay your head on and stare skyward.
Often times when we climb trees, we look down to appreciate the height we are sitting at. But it’s also really cool to look UP, and really appreciate the scope of the tree. It’s structure and size. It’s sprawling branches forming somewhat randomly. Knowing that this large, living thing grew from just a tiny acorn.
This is one of the largest trees we climb in our Rec Climb programs. We’ll return to its branches on Friday, July 13th. You can join us by registering through the Waukesha Recreation Department.
State Bur Oak Champ:
The current known champion bur oak in Wisconsin grows outside of Dousman. Standing nearly 65 feet tall, it is just shy of the Fox River Parkway oak’s height. However, the tree’s double forked trunk measures an impressive 7 feet across!
Two of the most amazing trees you could ever hope to meet are General Sherman and Methuselah. In the same day, you can visit both the largest tree and the oldest tree on the planet.
The General Sherman tree stands prominently in the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. Methuselah grows about 70 miles to the north, in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.
General Sherman is a 2,000 year old sequoia that reaches 275’ towards the sky.. It is the largest known tree on the planet, measured by volume. You may find it difficult to reach the first branch, given it emerges at 130’ above the ground.
To put this in perspective, there are only a few trees in Wisconsin which surpass 150’ in height. It is very likely every tree you have come across in Wisconsin would not even reach the General Sherman tree’s lowest branch.
With a trunk diameter of 36' across, the footprint of its trunk covers almost 1,000 square feet. How does that compare to the size of your house?
Methuselah is about 4,850 years old, yet stands less than 50’ tall. The other measurements don’t mean much when you allow its age to sink in. The Pyramids of Giza were built around the time Methuselah was turning 500 years old.
What’s more, there is another bristlecone pine recently found to be about 5,060 years old.
I have spent most my life visiting and interacting with trees, but the time I spent in the midst of particular trees is an experience I will never forget. These trees are in a class all to themselves. It’s as if they come from a different world and another time.
There are other impressive trees to meet around the world, but we are fortunate to have incredible trees that are a little more accessible to us.
Trees of Wisconsin
The trees and forests of Wisconsin were cleared for agriculture or heavily logged in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Trees and forests are also removed for development and growing population. This means that the vast majority of the trees we come across today are less than 150 years old.
For that reason, it is a pleasure to enjoy trees which pre-date European settlement. Some of our more notable trees reach heights over 150’ and ages near 450 years.
Ancient and big trees tend to capture the imagination of many people. Because of this, the Department of Natural Resources keeps a list of Wisconsin Champion Trees, keeping track of the largest trees in our state. The list is searchable by species or County.
I enjoy searching out these large trees. Calling attention to large and notable trees is important and plays a role in helping raise awareness and appreciation for the value of trees. In the end however, a tree’s measurements are only one aspect of its overall personality.
What Makes a Tree Great?
What is your favorite tree? Is there a tree that holds significance to you? Picture this tree in your mind.
Is it a sugar maple your grandparents planted in their backyard? Do you pass this tree on your daily commute? Does it shade your house? Did you plant the tree in honor of a loved one?
When I travel around Wisconsin, I consider the changes a tree has witnessed over the years. Some of the oaks we climb have been growing for 250-300 years. These trees were friends of the Menominee, Sauk, Ojibwe and other Native American tribes. They witnessed population growth as European immigrants continued to move into the area, and saw the territory achieve statehood in 1848.
Do you enjoy any one of the numerous lone bur oaks across Wisconsin, with sprawling branches and rising from a field of corn? Have you looked up the trunk of an eastern cottonwood shooting towards the clouds like skyscraper?
There are many majestic trees in the forests, fields and cities throughout Wisconsin.
Connecting with trees gives me a feeling of place within history and time. With the future in mind, I plant trees to celebrate certain people and events in my life. They are a symbol of future growth and prosperity. They are a tribute to the legacy of my loved ones and connect me to future generations.
Most trees will keep their stories to themselves. Those who take time to listen and observe, can draw upon the wisdom a tree has gathered during its time rooted in soil.
We may not be able to run out to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest this weekend, nor stroll through the Giant Forest after lunch; but, we have plenty of amazing trees in our Wisconsin landscapes that are awaiting your visit.
I encourage you to spend time in a tree’s shade, whether during a hike or pausing beneath on a sunny day, and take time to listen and imagine the tales it could tell.
At Treetop Explorer, we are fortunate to get up close and personal with some amazing trees. Check out our climb schedule and we’d love to introduce you!
As a G.O.T.C. Recognized Master Instructor & Facilitator, I.S.A. Board Certified Master Arborist, and T.C.I.A. Certified Treecare Safety Professional, Curt has spent over 30 years dedicated to the study and care of trees.