Station 14: Columbus Tree
This ponderosa pine was killed by western pine beetles in 1974. It was more than 480 years old and probably the second oldest tree on Mineral Ridge. The tree was alive when Columbus sailed to North America and was nicknamed the Columbus Tree. For several years, it stood as a dead tree, or snag. Snags provide valuable habitat for many wildlife species. For small animals, such as insects, snags serve as cover and places for feeding and homes. Insects, in turn, provide food for other animals. Snags are used for feeding, nesting, roosting and perching by a variety of bird species. Some birds use existing cavities in the snags for their nests while others excavate and create nesting cavities in the soft wood. The importance of snags for perching is exemplified by how bald eagles use snags on Mineral Ridge. Each winter, eagles visit this area to feed on kokanee salmon. Eagles perch on snags along the shoreline watching for salmon. Snags are easier to fly from and land on than living trees. Mammals also use cavities in snags for dens or as resting or escape cover. Areas under loose bark are used by bats for roosting.
In October 1991, the area experienced unusually high winds exceeding 60 miles per hour. Many trees, including the Columbus Tree, were blown over. Several fell across powerlines igniting fires that were driven by the extreme winds into huge fire-storms. Ironically, the high winds that toppled the Columbus Tree occurred just a few days after Columbus Day on October 12.