American Chestnuts in Tumwater, Washington

June 7, 2011 at 1:00 am 6 comments

After our wonderful hike at Cougar Mountain, Ryan and I enjoyed a delicious lunch at Yea’s Wok in Newcastle, Washington. Then we headed south to an atypical tourist destination– The Mills and Mills Funeral Home and Memorial Park in Tumwater, Washington.
Tumwater Washington American Chestnuts - Home Sweet Home
Our Tourist Destination

We were led there by a small snippet from a Discover Magazine article, I had read in 2004 entitled “Return of the King of Trees“. This article was my very first exposure to the American chestnut. It’s safe to say the article made an impact on me… and in said article, they just happened to mention “the largest healthy American chestnut in the United States” resided in Tumwater in what used to be called Olympic Memorial Park.

It took a few Google searchs and a phone call to track the trees down, but Ryan and I found them! I think makes us “Tree Stalkers”.

Tumwater Washington American Chestnuts - Discover Magazine Picture With Chestnuts in Background
Successful Tree Stalking Empowered by Android and

At first our visit seemed ill-timed. As soon as we arrived at Mills and Mills, a large rainstorm started. We still got out and took some pictures. Then Ryan suggested we get some hot chocolate at one of the state’s many, many, many Starbucks. By the time we finished indulging, the weather had cleared and we got more pictures.

Tumwater Washington American Chestnuts - Wet Ryan
Wet Ryan Back in the Car

Tumwater Washington American Chestnuts - Ryan and Chestnuts
Ryan and the Chestnuts

Back home in Virginia, our baby chestnuts got their first spring leaves on March 25th and were sporting large leaves when we left for our trip. In Tumwater Washington, however, the leaves were just getting started on May 12th.

Tumwater Washington American Chestnuts - Baby Leaves and Moss in Sun
Baby Leaves

Tumwater Washington American Chestnuts - Blue Sky and Green Baby Leaves
Baby Leaves and the Sky

Although there wasn’t any sign of the chestnut blight, the trees have had their challenges. On February 28, 2001, they would have weathered a 6.5 earthquake that hit the Olympia area. Since the publication of the Discover Magazine article, the larger of the two trees appears to have lost a branch. They also didn’t seem to have grown that much in the last seven years.

Tumwater Washington American Chestnuts - Broken Branch
Broken Branch

Tumwater Chestnuts - Compare
Top: James Balog’s Collage for the May 2004 Discover Magazine
Bottom: Chestnuts on May 12, 2011

One thing I very much enjoyed about these trees is they show the same hospitality to ferns and moss and lichen as do the indigenous Washington state trees. The chestnuts blended right in with their community. When in Rome….

Tumwater Washington American Chestnuts - Chestnut in Rain
The Tumwater Chestnuts are Home to Moss and Ferns

Two weeks earlier, Ryan and I were near where the Chestnut blight was first discovered. That day 3000 miles away in Tumwater, we got to see two trees that escaped the blight’s wrath. It may not be your usual tourist destination when in the Seattle/Tacoma area, but it’s a worhwhile one!

More pictures of the Tumwater American Chestnuts can be found on my Flickr site.


Entry filed under: American Chestnut, Travel, trees, Washington State.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. b. p.  |  June 7, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Tree Stalkers! Ha ha. Thanks for sharing the pics. We found a large Chestnut in Boston–took a picture for you, but haven’t downloaded it yet. Not sure what variety…it was planted in the late 1700’s.

  • 2. geekhiker  |  June 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    LOL – Yeah, you guys are tree stalkers all right. Try to resist the urge to move on to people…

    Okay… I have to ask… I can’t resist… are you gonna name the kid “Chestnut”?

  • 3. Seattle’s Science Fiction “Museum” « TGAW  |  June 9, 2011 at 1:02 am

    […] first day in Washington State was a nature-themed day where we hiked Cougar Mountain and visited American chestnuts. The second day was intended to be a science-themed day. My high school classmate, Brian N, was […]

  • 4. tom @ tall clover farm  |  January 28, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Nice story. 😉
    I’m a huge fan of the American Chestnut, and planted a seedling from Lopez Island in my old yard in Seattle years ago. I drove by the house the other day and the tree resonated strength and beauty at some 20 years old. I fear hundreds of folks pass it by on their way to Green Lake Park every day and have no idea how truly special and rare the tree is.

    • 5. tgaw  |  February 19, 2012 at 11:50 pm

      Tom – Wow!!! Did you get any pictures? I bet you are right– I bet very few people will recognize the significance of that tree.

  • 6. greg  |  July 24, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    I have a maasssive american chestnut in my front yard. my mother in law told me i need to chop it down because its so much work to maintain, but its beautiful.


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