With trees dating as far back as Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, these majestic old forests are living shrines to the ancient past.
I love people, but we sure are an arrogant species – we think we're better than trees, but if trees could laugh at us, they probably would (between curses, of course). We may not be rooted to 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 on the following pages play home to some of the oldest living things on the planet, some dating back almost 5,000 years. Respect to the trees, they win.
1. 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 rainforests 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.