HORT travels

Exploring the horticultural beauty in every adventure.

One Park, Two Champion Trees Susquehanna State Park


Susquehanna State Park Sign

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”
― William Blake

Susquehanna State Park in Havre de Grace, MD is home to two Maryland champion trees.  In addition to waterfalls and wildflowers I am always on the hunt for large trees.  I mean I planned a road trip and vacation solely to visit a large tree. So on this weekend camping trip we happened to set up the evening’s nylon shelter in a park with some big trees. We honestly didn’t realize it until we read the trail map.

While 15 miles of trails wind their way through the forested 2,753 acres, you need only to take one of them to see these two enormous trees.

Hop on the Deer Creek Trail and follow the green blazes. The well-worn trail will lead you to the trees.

White Oak (Quercus alba)

228″ in circumference, 99′ spread, 94.5′ tall


Are you able to resist hugging a giant tree? Or reaching out to touch a special tree? I am not. Besides being able to walk right up to these trees and marvel in their magnificence, access to these tree also provides the opportunity to reflect on all of the American history they have been a part of.

It’s fascinating to see the size of this tree in comparison to all of the forest around it. It indicates, along with the Beech below, that these trees were solo specimens in a field at some point. This accounts also for the width of the trees. Competition in a forest situation forces trees to grow upwards towards sunlight resulting in narrow trees. Trees out in the open can grow wide without the competition for sunlight.

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

190″ circumference, 108.5′ wide, 97′ tall


Carvings Kill

A nice feature near these trees is the signage they have for the trees. While there is no other educational signage along the trail, these two trees are well interpreted.  I especially appreciated the signage explaining why people should not carve into the tree bark. Beeches seem to be especially vulnerable to this with their smooth gray bark acting as canvas for so many tree maulers.


Both of these trees are in decline. The white oak has evidence of a lightning strike and the Beech appears to be struggling as well. But for now, they are here in their magnificence, continuing to provide ecological services and continuing to inspire and instill awe.

As you work way to or from these massive specimens, you will also find yourself traipsing through a large patch of Pawpaws (Asimina triloba) They were in bloom while we were there and the grove we were walking through went on for as far as the eye could see.

Pawpaw Flowers and new leaves

Pawpaw flowers and new leaves

I never know just what I will encounter when venturing into a new park or forest or garden. The trick is to keep the eyes and the mind open, keep wandering and keep wondering.

6 thoughts on “One Park, Two Champion Trees Susquehanna State Park

  1. Great post. Oh yes I am a tree lover.

  2. Kathy, trees are one of my loves too. I connected with this blog on a few notes. One is the white oak. I grew up in a neighborhood where we had white oaks that were over 200 years old. Second is looking for Champion trees. On our property now, we have a large hemlock tree and a large hackberry tree. They are not Champions but are unusual to see in our area. Third, on our trip to Ireland last spring we learned that most of the trees were cleared for farming – how sad. Luckily, Killarney National Park is trying to preserve some specimen trees and we found one huge declining white? pine. By the way, the gardens there had the largest rhododendrons I have ever seen.


    • Hi Pam. Thanks for reading and for sharing your comments. Funny I’d like to visit Ireland some day but never thought of trees as one of the reasons to visit (it’s one of the reasons I visit most other places I choose to go!) I’ll have to make sure to keep that park in mind. Don’t know if you watch CBS Sunday morning but they had a segment on the civil war witness trees that was fascinating and made me want to head on down and check them out. So happy my writing resonated with you. Best.

  3. As big as the white oaks are, they are not as big as our white oaks, which are more commonly known as valley oaks. Sadly, the valley oaks live in . . . valleys, which are the more usable areas here. Valleys were agricultural areas a long time ago, and are now urban areas. The valley oaks are very sensitive to root damage, so there are not many left in developed areas.

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