The Big Tree – Goose Island State Park

The Big Tree, Rockport

Big Tree of Lamar, Rockport TX

Just northeast of Rockport-Fulton, square in the middle of the Texas Gulf Coast near the community of Lamar, on a peninsula that stretches into the bay, there stands a 1,000-plus year old live oak they call BIG TREE. It’s not a tall tree, but considering its girth, it is the largest and oldest oak tree in Texas, and a favorite place for visitors in the region. The history that unfolded under the shade of this great tree is abundant, sometimes violent and sometimes colorful. Can you imagine, if BIG TREE could talk… it might be saying something like this…

The call me Big Tree, but I have been called many names in many different languages before. After all, I wasn’t always “big” – though it has been long since I was just a sapling. A really, really long time. The men that come from the state to measure me say I could be 1,100 years old. I stopped counting the years many years ago, but I would say they are about right.

This I can say for certain, I have seen many things in my long life, some of the most curious perhaps are the visitors that have come in recent years to gaze upon my weary branches, or to picnic beneath my shade. In fact, more seem to be coming every year; big ones and little ones, old ones and young ones, in their metal wagons, just to look at me. They stop and read the sign that stands in front of me. What it says I do not really know, for it faces away from me! But I have heard others read it, and it too is mostly true.

By the way, oak trees don’t count the same way as men you know. You tend to count the years and we tend to count the seasons. But I can tell you for certain that things have changed greatly since I was but a small oak. The first men I remember seeing were tall, dark-skin hunters that would chase the deer through my underbrush. A few have climbed my branches through the years to keep careful watch on an unsuspecting herd. More than once, I admit, I shook them from my limbs. Foolish men!

But there were others that were much worse than these. There were strange men dressed in shiny metal hats and chest plates, riding horses of all things. Imagine the shame to the horses! I did not care much for these men. They made war on the brown-skinned men, they started fires to cook their game and tended them poorly. I have suffered through more than one fire storm, and it is not a pleasant experience, especially for a tree!

After the Spanish conquistadors, for that is what they called their regal selves, there came others, more timid and soft spoken men. Not far from here I have heard rumored that they built something they call a Mission Church. The logs used to built the church were unknown to me, and I am glad for it. Such is not a fitting end for a tree if you ask me.

Anyway, many seasons later there came yet another group of men. I heard them speak of a distant place called France, and of pirating. Yes, they called themselves pirates of the sea. I have no use for them actually, but they did entertain me with their songs, and the many holes they dug into the earth where they planted their great treasures. Sometimes they would come back and uncover their cache of coin and jewel. Sometimes they didn’t. There’s plenty of it still buried across the fields around my woods, but I can not remember exactly where, so do not even ask me.

The landscape around me has changed drastically down through my years. Mostly because of weather and fire. There have been plenty of deadly floods. And, then, there have been long years without rain when many of my cousins could not survive. Worst of all however, are the storms you humans call hurricanes. How many of those have I endured? The exact number escape me. Perhaps 40 or 50 major hurricanes. More than once I have lost leaves and branches, and many of my friends who lived around me lost their roots and all. I stood trunk high in flood water once for what seemed like a month or more. And don’t ask me about lightning!

But, as I got older it was the plague of men that once again assailed my quiet woods and disturbed my peaceful rest the most. The Spanish and the French gave way to the Mexicans, then the Texians. Battles were fought in the fields not far away and there was more than one group of soldiers that camped beneath my branches. Personally, I favored the Texians if the truth were to be told, because their stories were always the most fun to hear – though their singing was the loudest. I was happy when the Texians won their independence. After that, things were nearly normal again for a while. The soldiers stopped coming and the ranchers would bring cattle to feed on the grasses around my trunk.

I don’t really mind the cattle. Fertilizer, you know. It helps to make the world go around. And they are funny to watch, especially the young ones.

But I waver from my tale. Now that I have arrived at my “golden years”, things are looking up a bit however. Not far from me they have constructed an area they call a state park. Visitors to the park often come to see me. I have been designated a state landmark you know, which means I am guaranteed a certain degree of protection by the Texas law. It’s good to know they won’t use my logs to build a church or cabin. I’d like to keep them as long as I can!

I still have to worry about fire, and the hurricanes though. My branches are not as strong as once they were, and my limbs will not sway with the wind as once they did. But the men from the state seem to have my best interest in mind. They check my condition often and are always concerned about my health.

Well, I am an old tree and tire easily. But next time you are in my neck of the woods, I invite to stop and visit for awhile. I am as amused by you as you are entertained by me, so I really don’t mind. We’ll talk again some time… Rothlynnmrr

Big Tree of Lamar is one of the most famous live oaks in the world. The giant tree is a charter member of the Live Oak Society of America, and has been the subject of one of Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” cartoons. It is measured to be more than 35 feet in circumference, 44 feet in height and has a crown spread of 89 feet. The Texas Forest Service estimates the tree to be over 1,000 years old. The Big Tree is also known as the Lamar Oak, Bishop’s Oak and the Goose Island Oak. It is recognized as the State Champion Coastal live oak.

The Big Tree is located in Goose Island State Park. Take Highway 35 north out of Rockport, cross Copano Causeway, and watch for the sign about half a mile north of the bridge (Park Road 13). Follow the signs, the Big Tree is next to the waterfront.

The Big Tree
1622 12th St, Rockport, TX 78382

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