Eric Johanson, Moab City’s assistant engineer, recently measured the largest trees in the area to find out if any of them could compete against the biggest trees in the state for a championship title.
The Utah Register of Big Trees is maintained by the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, according to the Utah Community Forest Council’s website. The registry keeps track of the largest trees from each species throughout the state.
All of the trees that Johanson measured were Fremont cottonwood trees. They included specimens located in Castle Valley and Moonflower Canyon, as well as several within the city limits.
Olsen said several different measurements are taken of each tree in order to qualify for a state champion designation. Those measurements include height, width of the foliage, and girth of the trunk. The tree is then assigned a point rating based on those measurements.
Olsen said the Castle Valley cottonwood was the largest, based on the point system.
“It was only off the state record by about 40 points,” Olsen said.
The Castle Valley tree was measured at 70 feet tall. The circumference of its trunk was nearly 37 feet, and the spread of the foliage was measured at 107 feet.
Olsen said each of the measured trees has its own unique features. The tree at Moonflower Canyon was particularly hard to measure due to the fact that the trunk splits almost immediately, he said.
“It almost looks like three trees put together,” Olsen said. While it wasn’t quite as large as the one in Castle Valley, its foliage spread spans 125 feet.
Johanson also measured a tree located on property owned by Adrien Taylor. Olsen said one of the interesting things about the Taylor tree is the shape of the trunk. “It looks pregnant,” he said.
The circumference of that tree’s trunk measures anywhere from 32 feet to 39 feet depending on where the measurement is taken, Olsen said.
“It’s a big tree,” he said. “It swallows the power lines.”
Even though none of the trees beat the current state record, some of them were not far off. “They’re pretty significant trees,” Olsen said.
Utah is currently home to eight national champion trees, including a limber pine located in the Uinta National Forest, a blue spruce located in the Ashley National Forest, and a Rocky Mountain juniper located in the Cache National Forest. The largest Fremont cottonwood tree is located at Brigham Young University in Provo, according to the Utah Register of Big Trees.