Camp Salmen Nature Park has many large, fine old Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) scattered within its 130-acre boundaries. Their greatest concentration is on the high ground by Bayou Liberty. Well before the Boy Scouts came, even before Joseph Laurent built his trading post on the bayou two hundred years ago, the people who occupied this site enjoyed the tree’s shade and beauty.
We measured and mapped many of the oaks on the ridge and the Parish cleared around some of them to make them more visible. In order to keep track of “where is what” in the park we use the oaks as landmarks and have given some of them names. They probably had names before but since we don’t know what they were we’ve taken the liberty of doing it again:
The Leaning Oak – This tree on the edge the Parade Ground is, by far, the most popular tree in the park and a main attraction in its own right. Something made it lean over years ago and someone was nice enough to prop it up with a couple of heavy iron pipes. The tree has also done an admirable job of helping itself by bulking up its “fore roots.” It presents a gently sloping, humped-back that is too tempting to the thousands of children and adults compelled to climb on it.
Bayou Liberty Oaks – There are several nice oaks in the vicinity of the Salmen Lodge and amphitheater that frame Bayou Liberty nicely and provide a splendid light show every afternoon when the sun in the Western sky glows through the hanging Spanish moss.
The Cathedral Oak – This large, old oak apparently spent its youth growing up and away from a crowd of trees growing from the clay pit Joseph Laurent dug for making bricks across from his trading post. Spending time under its spreading, protective branches is like being in a natural cathedral.
The Broken Oak is the unlucky twin to the large, living tree next to Salmen Lodge. It is impressive how many tons are held in the air by these trees and what is left of this one has split from its massive trunk and is resting on the ground.
The Parking Lot Hat Rack Oak – This lone tree, along with several others in the park, probably grew up out of crowded conditions that allowed it to have a broad crown but no drooping branches.
Mary’s Oaks in the vicinity of her grotto are an impressive grouping that includes another massive broken oak as well as several “hat rack” trees that are next to the park’s the future link to the Tammany Trace bike path.
The Order of the Arrow Oak is the King-Daddy of the park’s oaks by virtue of its great girth and the fact it is the only one registered with Louisiana’s Live Oak Registry. It was named by the Scouts after one of their ceremonies and now resides in the middle of the park’s Nature Garden.