Visiting Avatar Grove

By Roy L Hales

Though it is no longer a secret, relatively few North Americans have visited one of the continent’s oldest extant stands of giant old-growth red cedar and Douglas fir. The site was slated to be clearcut, when T J Watt spotted a large cedar close to Route 14 just outside of Port Renfrew, British Columbia, in 2009. Figuring there was likely to be more, he hiked into the forest. The Victoria based Ancient Forest Alliance was born out of the campaign to protect the ten acre site now known as Avatar Grove.

Avatar Grove
Avartar Grove

Thousands of visitors are said to have sought this place out. There were three other cars present when we arrived and that number grew to a half dozen during the next hour. This was in mid October; More would have come during peak season.

Avatar Grove
One of the gnarly trees in the lower section of Avatar Grove – Roy L Hales photo

According to the Sooke to Port Renfrew website:

“The area was recently declared off limits to logging through a new Old-Growth Management Area in February, 2012 after a two year campaign to protect it. It’s now quickly becoming the ‘Cathedral Grove of Port Renfrew’ due to the forest’s massive redcedars with huge twisted and contorted burls which are found in large numbers throughout the stand, including one that’s been dubbed “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree” – a giant red cedar with a huge burl nearly twelve feet in diameter! Rare giant old-growth Douglas-fir trees, of which 99% have been logged from Vancouver Island, are also found scattered throughout the forest.”

Looking up at the gnarliest burl in the Avatar Grove’s gnarliest tree

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