PDX TREES – Some Notable & Tallest Trees of Portland, Oregon Metro

Google earth urban forestry height assessment of Portland Metropolitan area based on Photogrammetric renderings. Using my own measurements of some standing trees via Suunto Inclinometer, and comparing them to these digital renderings, I’d say the accuracy in Google earth is greater than 90 -95+%  in most cases — with the exception of very skinny tree tops. Actual height of trees are likely to be a couple or several feet higher than these numbers listed below, and trees on steep slopes likely to be less accurate. Update: 11/16/14 Note: Having read a recent post to my link on Reddit, I am happy to report that New 2014 Aerial Imagery has been added to Google Earth with crisper, sharper graphics in the 3D mode. Tree heights have increased 3 to as much as 20 feet on some of these listed specimens, due in part to new tree growth in the past 4 or 5 years, but also for better quality imagery which renders sharper and narrower tree tops. For instance, the previous 2010 Google Earth photogrammetric  imagery often was not able to render church steeples, and cell towers 3 or 4 ft diameter. This new 2014 imagery does! I find the 2014 imagery to be 95-99% accurate, and even then the heights are conservative, as still the very top 1-3 ft of a tree may not render completely if it is a mere twig some inch in diameter. I still have lots of work to do on this amateur project, and there are many very tall trees in the Portland Metropolitan. More tall trees exist in Portland’s metro region than Seattle Metro based on my analysis, thanks largely to places like Forest Park. I will add more data to more Portland Parks, and if you want to know the heights of trees in a certain park, log into Google, or comment below and I’ll give you my estimate.  *Note To climbers, and avid outdoors-men/women and the vertically inclined: Many of these trees are on private property. Ascend at your own risk….


*Note, per 11/16/2014 A.D. : 420 was an elevation marker I forgot to unmark in my database. Not a tree height! The tallest Douglas fir in the greater Portland Metro are out towards Gresham, and the Mt Hood National forest, up to 275 and 300 feet or so tall and 8-9 ft diameter. There may once have been a 420 ft Douglas fir in the N.W. Read my post on historic reports of long gone Douglas fir: https://rephaim23.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/tallest-douglas-fir-and-redwood-in-america/ Even the tallest tree in Portland today at 242′ is a mere shrimp compared to those former Arboreal Nephilim!

S.E. Portland Laurelhurst Park: Douglas fir 171 ft tall,  45°31’16.91″N & 122°37’24.92″W *Update 11/16/14, due to new Google Earth Imagery, I have calculated this tree is actually closer to 180 ft tall. Image Image Sellwood Park: 171 ft Douglas fir,  45°28’3.47″N & 122°39’38.87″W * Update, new aerial imagery from 2014 has been uploaded for this area in Google earth’s 3D function. Tree is actually about 178 ft tall. A combination of sharper imagery, and new height growth of these old Douglas fir (6″ to over 12″ per year) may also have contributed to these increased values. Former 3D imagery was from aerial survey in 2010. Image Mt Tabor Park.  Plenty of 140 – 185 ft Douglas fir: Image Kelly Butte, Some 150 – 190 ft Douglas fir. Image Powell Butte: Many 170 – 205 foot Douglas fir. Image At the north end of Powell Butte a wall of 170 – 200 foot Douglas fir forms the boundary of the park right next to a neighborhood: Powell Butte Giants Same neighborhood — wall of giants: Powell Butte giants2Lents Park, One 150 ft Douglas fir: Image Mt Scott Park. 100 – 150 ft Douglas fir. Image Mt Scott Park. 30 meter (100 ft) canopy: Image Church Campgrounds on S.E. Duke street. 100 – 140 ft Douglas fir. Image Woodstock Park, Douglas fir up to 143 ft. *Update per 11/16/14, tree is now 146 ft tall. — thanks to 3 ft of growth in 4 years time/ and or sharper resolution imagery uploaded to Google Earth. Image Tallest in Eastmoreland — near Reed College. Three 130 – 140 ft tall Giant Sequoias.* Note: 11/16/14, Tallest of these 3 trees is actually 147 ft. per new sharper 2014 Google Earth 3D imagery.  Update 6/24/15, Tallest is actually 150 feet high according to Google earth Imagery — I applied 45 meter canopy to these 3 trees and found that the tallest is almost 46 meters. However, actual measurement in person with inclinometer suggests this tree may be 153 to 154 feet tall, as the top 3 or 4 feet may not render completely in Google Earth. Real world measurement is generally higher than these renderings. The 147 ft estimate was derived from subtracting the tree’s crown ht (323 ft above ground) from the base elevation (176 ft) in Google earth’s 2d function. In the 3D function base elevation is actually about 173 ft.Image East Moreland Sequoias

*Eastmoreland – 6/24/15 – Update: These 3 giant Sequoias are slated to be cut down per a new development being built. A tentative deal was struck that will delay the cutting for 60 days: http://www.katu.com/news/local/Neighbors-rally-to-save-redwoods-eastmoreland-309409281.html?mobile=y

*UPDATE: 6/28/15.Neighbors and citizens of Portland have started an official Go Fund Me page to help donate to Save these 3 giant trees: http://www.gofundme.com/SaveTheGiants

My most recent Google Earth estimates for the tallest of these 3 trees was 147 feet, and now 150 feet.  Today I measured it in person using an inclinometer, from 4 different angles, and I now estimate the tallest at 153 – 154 feet. These are possibly the tallest trees for a mile radius within Portland, and the tallest in Eastmoreland. There is a nother Sequoia in Eastmoreland that is at least 143 feet tall, possibly even taller, and a 151+ ft Douglas fir in Crystal springs.. But no taller trees exist in all of inner S.E. Portland’s Eastmoreland, Woodstock, and Brentwood neighborhoods as far as I can tell.

Map 1

Eastmoreland, at SE 28th and Tolman a giant deciduous tree (species?) a monolithic 137 ft! Among the top dozen trees in that area. A recent windstorm late sept. 2013 brought down a few big Elm trees, or parts of them, in this neighborhood. Image Crystal Springs has some respectable Dougli in the 130 ft – 140 ft + range. Update: 11/16/14. Located the new tallest tree in Eastmoreland, a 151 ft tall Douglas fir in Crystal Springs at  45°28’37.48″N & 122°38’9.34″W. Image east moreland tallest tree 151 ft DF Kenilworth park has some 140 – 160 foot Doug fir. Image Ross Island’s tallest trees; Black Cottonwoods 159 ft and 161 ft. Government Island has some up to 166 ft. Ross Island Downtown, across the street from Multnomah Co. Court house. 8 ft diameter 135+ ft Giant Sequoia. Note: * Update, per 11/16/2014. Tree is actually 156 feet tall! New imagery from 2014 contains sharper photography, and hence a better rendering of the top 20 feet of this conically endowed specimen of the Sequoiadendron race. Giant Sequoia Downtown PDX Courthouse Seuoia Forest Park.  Along the canyon at Balch creek in Macleay park are the oldest and tallest trees in the city. Douglas fir 200 – 300 years old 6 ft diameter reaching 200 to about 250 ft tall!  I found dozens of 190 – 240 footers clustered in the deep valleys. There are likely to be taller ones. Balch Creek forest Balch creek Tryon Creek State Park, in Lake Oswego a number of 200 – 224 ft Douglas fir nestled in the hills above Tryon creek.Tryon creek giants Happy Valley, near Sunnyside on private property near Hood View Park at 45°25’5.44″N & 122°30’3.46″W some 200 – 217 ft Douglas fir nestled in a gulch along Rock Creek. Land may be logged and turned into housing at some point. Brand new Neighborhoods are popping up in this area! Happy Valley giants Per Request: Columbia Park, Portland. Some rather tall 130 – 165 ft Douglas fir. Tallest I could find was a Douglas fir 165 ft tall at 45°34’45.52″N and 122°42’39.14″W located on the edge of the football field straight between and behind the western goal posts. Some other tall trees in the 150 – 160 ft range are located deep in the stand of forest west of the main field.

columbia park

A canopy filter of 40 meters , or 131 feet. As you can see, dozens of Douglas fir trees exceed this height in the park.

Columbia park 2

Per request from BigTreeGuy. Pacific Spirit Regional Park, Vancouver B.C. I barely scratched the surface of this 1,200 + acre park, but found some Douglas fir in the 200 to 230 feet tall range (60 to 70 meters) tall. I think some trees exceeding 70 or 75 meters could well exist! I will continue to survey this park and see what else I might find! Next in line is Stanley Park! 100 years ago some gigantic fir trees measuring 300 to 320 feet tall and 8 – 10 ft diameter were reported to have fallen over in Windstorms at Stanley park, so I hope to be excited with possible new giants there.

Pacific Spirit Regional Park

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18 Responses to PDX TREES – Some Notable & Tallest Trees of Portland, Oregon Metro

  1. Tad says:

    Any data on Columbia park trees?

    • rephaim23 says:

      Yes! I just searched that park using Google Earth, and found the tallest tree in the park is a Douglas fir over 165 feet tall (50.5 meters) at 45°34’45.52″N and 122°42’39.14″W located on the edge of the football/ soccer field straight between and behind the west goal posts. There are a number of 150 -160 ft fir trees in the park.

  2. bigtreeguy says:

    Very interesting project and website you have here. The images are exceptional! I have experimented a bit with Google Earth 3-d trees in the Vancouver, BC area. I appreciate knowing that it has been very accurate for you. Also, I am curious how accuracy compares in flat vs steep or irregular topography. Have you had any observation in that regard? I am interested to locate the tallest tree in the second-growth portion of Pacific Spirit Regional Park. I have measured one noticeaby large tree to be 194.7 feet (59m). However, in the dense forest it would be very difficult to determine the tallest one from worms eye view! It is a very interesting area of forest. I have written about it here: http://vancouversbigtrees.com/ubcs-forests-and-big-trees/

    • Darvel Lloyd says:

      Excellent work on the big trees in Vancouver, Ira Sutherland! That’s a huge grand fir you measured, and a very impressive big leaf maple! – I’ll post your website on my Facebook site.
      Micah, have you discovered any notable big trees lately?

    • rephaim23 says:

      Hey, Thank you!
      Yeah with relatively flat terrain I have had very high accuracy measuring trees, whole acreage of forests to within 95 -99% accuracy of most tall trees. Some really tall and skinny tree tops don’t render completely, but as new and sharper 3-D imagery becomes available, the trees seem to increase several feet on average , and some of this could also be new growth as well.

      On steep terrain, the issue is rather tough. I have not yet found an easy or simple way to create canopy filters on steep slopes, because the 3D-polygon filter does not completely reach ground level on these extreme slopes. For instance, Balch canyon in Portland’s Forest Park contains some juicy 200 to 250 foot tall (70 – 75 meter) plus Douglas fir, but the steep slope makes it very difficult to measure these in one wide sweeping canopy filter — so in these cases I have to manually measure each 3-D polyogonal tree, and subtract the top leader of the crown elevation using my mouse key, from the standard Google Earth ground topography — But I have found that accuracy still is 95 -99% in these trees, as clusters of 200 , 225 – 240 foot trees I have measured in this same creek bottom — and this matches the real world measurements to within a few feet. I think it is highly accurate.

      Unfortunately, most of the 3-D world function is only available in large city metropolis areas, and settlements or national and state forest lands have not yet been mapped in this way. The premise behind this 3-D function is simple, it is based on photogrammetry — an idea over a century old– basically aerial survey taken from 4 or 5 different angles and stitched together into a 3D formula.

      There are other remote ways of estimating tree size, spread, and height from flat aerial images, but it is more difficult and time consuming.

      LiDAR remains the golden standard for researchers, but the technology is expensive and is as yet difficult to get access to in an easy and user friendly way like Google Earth. I am hopeful though, that this may change soon!

      I will check out the park you mentioned, and see if I can attempt to find the tallest tree in the park! Thank you for your link, I will check it out!


      • Darvel Lloyd says:

        Oh yes, I read that interesting exchange of comments last week on your website! Thanks, Micah!


      • rephaim23 says:

        Thanks Darvel! I think I found some tall trees the gentleman was looking for in the park he was telling me about.

        To Big Tree Guy:

        At Lat. 49°14’33.17″N and Long 123°12’40.95″W there is a Douglas fir about 70 meters tall (229 ft), around this tree are a cluster of others in the 200 – 229 ft tall range, (60 -69 meters). I haven’t yet explored the entire park, as it is around 1,200 + acres, or a fourth the size of Forest Park in Portland! But this tree is about the tallest I could locate so far. I think there could be some over 70 or 75 meters tall, 230 or 240 feet tall. Maybe even taller! I will do some more surveying of the park and let you know what I find. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: Tallest Trees in Eastmoreland could be cut down ; Three 150 foot Sequoias | rephaim23

  4. bigtreeguy says:

    Hi Micah, Thanks for scanning Pacific Spirit Park! I just checked back in and see that now. If you send me a .kml file I can try to go out and ground truth some of these tall trees you’ve identified (mountainira@gmail.com). A few of them are right beside campus. Would be a piece of cake. The cluster that you have identified in the south would be more of a mission, but a fun one.

  5. bigtreeguy says:

    For your interest, a conversation has opened up among researchers regarding the possibilities for measuring trees using Google Earth.


    I am not sure if you are able to access it or not without an account? (my apologies if that is the case). If you are able to access it, I think it would be interesting if you added some insights of the method you are using.

    • rephaim23 says:

      Very interesting! I have tried using methods to calculate tree height from the Google Street view as well, but it is challenging because there is some image distortion in the street view photos, which tends to exaggerate real world sizes. One way would be to estimate distance from the observation point to the tree or object itself, and then calculate the percent of the sky taken up by the tree, from eye level to the upper seem of the camera. I have had some mixed results using this method, but I do think trigonometry could figure out a solution for extrapolating actual heights of objects from the Google street view 360 degrees function. That would be really epic if Google Earth listed degrees or precent of slope on the side bar, as you tilt the camera up or down.

      I will play around and see if I can find a simple solution to this problem! All in all, the 3D function and canopy filtration method, I sort of played around with in the summer of 2013, and opened a discussion in Google’s forum: https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/gec-open-forum/rsf8Ul4NPGo

      But I highly doubt I am the first to play around with this function, maybe the first to post about online is possible. Overall, I had had favorable results in the field. In fact, most trees tend to be slightly taller than the 3D trees in GE– probably a combination of new height growth, and spindly tops not rendering completely in Google Earth. On slopes and steep hills, I think heights could be exaggerated, but I have yet to confirm that. Most have tended to be very accurate, like in the 95%+ accuracy range. A poor man’s LiDAR…

    • rephaim23 says:

      I am late responding sorry! I did find a way to measure tree height with decent accuracy in Street View. You need to first be in standard google earth view, and add a placemark next to the tree or object you wish to measure, preferablt right at the trunk, save the placemark, and then swicth back into Street view, and re-open the placemark and adjust the height in meters, to the height of the tree. It’s 95% accurate or more, on flat terrain. I havent tried it in steep areas yet. I will post a follow up on my blog. Thanks!

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