The magnificent Angel Oak Tree is one of the oldest live oak trees east of the Mississippi.
Paying a visit to the iconic Angel Oak Tree on Johns Island, South Carolina feels very much like making a pilgrimage. People travel from many miles away—sometimes from other states—to visit the three-acre park that sits beside an unpaved road. The park itself is totally ordinary except that it houses one of the most amazing trees you will ever see, the Angel Oak.
A southern live oak (genus: Quercus virginiana), this magnificent tree is thought to be one of the oldest east of the Mississippi. While no one is sure of its precise age, it is estimated to be at least 400 years old. Some claim it is more than 1500 years old. A testimony to resilience, the tree has been ravaged by nature over the centuries, including Hurricane Hugo in 1989, but still manages to survive.
After parking your car, approaching the Angel Oak by foot is humbling due to its gargantuan size.
- It is 65 feet tall with a circumference of more than 25 feet.
- Its largest limb is more than 89 feet long, so heavy that it rests along the ground along with many other large limbs.
- The canopy creates more than 17,000 square feet of shade.
Almost like a centenarian, the Angel Oak tree needs supports just to maintain its balance. But the various beams, rods and braces that prop it up don’t detract from its grace and beauty.
Young children run around the massive tree and between its heavy limbs while everyone else snaps photographs and selfies that use humans as props to put the tree’s size in perspective.
Now owned by the City of Charleston, the legendary tree is named after the original owners of the property, Martha and Justis Angel. Its care is overseen by the Charleston Parks Conservancy.
Earlier this month (September 2018), Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas, bringing strong winds and heavy rains that devastated many coastal areas of North Carolina. Although the entire South Carolina coastline was placed under a mandatory evacuation order, that state fared far better than its neighbor to the north (although some areas in South Carolina are still threatened with flooding).
My friend who lives on Johns Island near the Angel Oak Tree told me that neither Johns Island or the Angel Oak Tree were harmed by Hurricane Florence.
The tree did get some publicity, however, which may attract more tourists to take a look. Allstate Insurance ran TV advertisements to raise funds for Hurricane Florence Recovery efforts featuring the Angel Oak Tree as a symbol of resilience. Some Reddit users took offense to the use of the iconic South Caroline tree for this purpose since it didn’t actually suffer any damage from this hurricane.
IF YOU GO
- Located at 3688 Angel Oak Road on Johns Island, the Angel Oak Tree at Angel Oak Park is about one-half hour (around 12 miles) from downtown Charleston.
- The park is open Monday-Saturday from 9-5 and 1-5 on Sunday. There is no charge for admission and parking is free. A small gift shop, picnic area and several outhouses are nearby on the park grounds.
- While your visit is bound to be memorable, a half hour is more than sufficient time to spend at the park because aside from the tree, there isn’t much else to see. With the area receiving an average of 75 days of rain a year, the grounds and small parking area are often muddy. Although you’ll be eager to take photos, the DO NOT TOUCH signs placed all around the tree aren’t especially photogenic.
- Don’t expect peace and solitude. Whenever you go, you are likely to encounter other pilgrims.
THE ANGEL OAK TREE IN PHOTOSPHERE (Use buttons on the right for a 360-degree rotation)