Photograph Ohio! – National Champion Tree

National Champion Eastern Cottonwood, Alum Creek State Park, Ohio
National Champion Eastern Cottonwood, Alum Creek State Park, Ohio

Location:In a woodland near the intersection of Africa Road and Cheshire Road (County Road 72) just east of Alum Creek Lake in Alum Creek State Park, 9 miles southeast of Delaware and 25 miles north of Columbus, just west of Interstate 71 in Delaware County. The tree is opposite the offices of veterinarian Dr. Don R. Mann, a few yards into the woods, and is unmistakeable because of its enormous size.

GPS: 40.239013N 82.961554W

If you enjoy photographing the natural landscape in Ohio, you soon realize that many, if not most, of your scenic vistas include trees. The Buckeye State is home to more than 275 species of trees, and for ten of them Ohio has the largest examples of their kind in the United States. Two Ohio trees are enormous, an American sycamore near Jeromesville in Ashland County, and the tree pictured above, a huge eastern cottonwood tree in Alum Creek State Park. I’ll be revisiting the American sycamore in Ashland County during the next few weeks, but today’s blog is devoted to the Alum Creek tree, which is the national champion eastern cottonwood.

When you stand next to this giant tree and look up, the huge size of the main and subsidiary trunks takes your breath away. The tree has a circumference of 370 inches (that’s about 31 feet), a height of 136 feet and a crown spread of 135 feet, giving it a points ranking of 540, only a few points less than the Jeromesville American sycamore, which scores 577 points on the national “big tree” scale. The Jeromesville sycamore has stopped growing and is deteriorating within, but the Alum Creek cottonwood is vigorous and still growing,  and gains a couple of inches in circumference each year. In a few years, this tree will overtake the Jeromesville sycamore and reign supreme as Ohio’s largest tree.

This tree is photogenic at any time of year, and offers a variety of views as you walk around the base of the main trunk. My favorite image, looking up the main trunk from the west side of the tree, as shown above, was made using my full-frame 35mm Sony Alpha 850 camera and a 16-35mm zoom lens at the 16mm setting – you’ll need a very wide-angle lens to capture the entire trunk of this enormous tree. As always, I used a tripod, plus a polarizing filter to darken the blue sky. The sun was partly behind the tree, so the main trunk was in shadow, and I needed to shoot several bracketed exposures and combine them later using Photomatix HDR software to hold detail in the dark trunk and the sky and other lighter areas of the image. It’s important to use a sturdy tripod so that there is no camera movement during the multiple exposures, and you need to wait until the foliage stops moving or some of the leaves will be blurred in the final composite image.

Later this spring, I’ll post a photograph of the national champion American sycamore near Jeromesville in Ashland County.

You can find more information on Ohio’s champion trees at this website:





This Post Has One Comment

  1. Great photo! Trees are a lot more difficult to photograph than lay people may think, aren’t they. Kudos to you for beautifully and majestically capturing such a fine specimen.


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