333-year-old tree gets the ax today

The Ancient Oak in 1941
The Ancient Oak in 1941
Image from "Minneapolis Park System" by Theodore Wirth

It's had a long, good life, and now it's time for the 333-year-old oak at the Mississippi River gorge to go to tree heaven.

Today the City of Minneapolis is taking the top off the tree and giving it to artists, so they can turn it into carving bowls and cups.

The ancient oak, which stands at West River Parkway about two blocks north of the Franklin Avenue Bridge, died earlier this summer. In July, the Park Board held a goodbye ceremony, where people could share music and poetry about the tree. After giving tree-huggers plenty of time to grieve, park board arborists are cutting off the top branches of the tree today.

People love this tree. It's even got its own web site. It has been around since before Minneapolis was a city, before Fort Snelling was built, and possibly before French explorers arrived in 1680.

As it aged, the tree changed shape and size, not always growing up. In 1951, the aged tree stood 58 feet tall, but severe weather and aging knocked it back down to 44 feet. The tree's hollow trunk will remain beside the Mississippi, and the park board will plant a young bur oak beside it soon.

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