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They rise up from the rich soil of the alluvial flood plain, soaring above the flat ribbon of concrete that snakes through their realm. Hundreds of giants, each one so large that an all-encompassing hug would require at least three people, line the Three Rivers Greenway.   

Their canopy provides shade in the oppressive heat of summer, their expansive root systems critically hang onto soil during floods, and their limbs and trunks serve as homes for myriad wildlife. In many ways, they are as important as the rivers they border. The Three Rivers Greenway could just as well be  described as the Tree Rivers Greenway.

I have admired them with each hike or bike ride, and I wondered if anyone had done a big-tree inventory of the trail system. Told no such accounting exists, I set out to do my own non-professional research. Official big-tree measurements combine height, trunk circumference, and crown spread. Math and geometry aren’t my strengths, so I didn’t aim to measure height and crown spread. But armed with a tape measure, I could easily check the girth of the largest trunks. I quickly realized the task would take forever if I included every tree 10 feet in circumference or larger (at chest height), so this inventory starts at those 14 feet around.

Instead of big trees, let’s call these the chunky trunks. (And maybe later I’ll come back with an inventory of funky trunks.

My research — more frivolous than scientific — came up with 24 trees that measure 14 feet in circumference or larger. Most are oaks — water oak, cherrybark oak, laurel oak, and swamp chestnut oak if my examination of leaf litter is correct. Two cottonwoods, two pines, two sycamores, and one sweet gum made the list. I didn’t find any large enough to crack the list in the Granby Park and West Columbia Riverwalk sections.

Keep clicking through this presentation to see what I came up with.

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