With trees dating as far back as Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, these majestic old forests are living shrines to the ancient past. We may not be rooted in one place and, sure, we have opposable thumbs with which to operate our smartphones, but trees have the thing we covet most and will never have – mind-boggling longevity! The forests here play home to some of the oldest living things on the planet, some dating back almost 5,000 years.
Tongass National Forest, Alaska
At a whopping 16.8 million acres, this temperate rain forest, pictured above, is almost as big as Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts combined! This qualifies Tongass as the largest national forest in America, as well as largest intact coastal temperate rain forest in the world. Parts of the forest are estimated to be thousands of years old, with many living trees over 800 years old. National Geographic describes Tongass as an “exceptionally rich ecosystem that holds more organic matter—more biomass—per acre than any other, including tropical jungles. And that’s not counting the equally lush forests of seaweed added to Tongass shores whenever the tide goes out.” As Tongass represents nearly a third of all old-growth temperate rain forests remaining on the planet, it also plays home to a staggering array of fish and wildlife, including all five species of Pacific salmon, grizzly bears, wolves, Sitka black-tailed deer, Northern Goshawks, and marbled Murrelets.
Waipoua Forest, New Zealand
Like many a forest that lived more-or-less unmolested for ages by the people who lived in harmony with the land, Waipoua Forest began its adventures in exploitation with the arrival of European settlers in the 19th century. Young kauri trees – the mainstay of this North Island wilderness, were toppled in the thousands to make ship masts and spars. In 1952, Waipoua and the nearby forests of Mataraua and Waima, were declared sanctuaries and now the forests can continue doing what they’ve been doing for millennia. But fortunately, many of the ancient kauri trees survived the tools of mankind! The area is rich with rare New Zealand flora and fauna, and especially the kauri, a coniferous tree with incredible longevity.