The History of the Angel Oak Tree

When picturing the beauty of Charleston, SC one of the first things that comes to mind for many are are the southern live oaks, with their graceful sweeping branches draped with Spanish moss. Native to the Southeast, these trees decorate the landscape of the Lowcountry with elegance. Many of these live oaks are very old, dating back hundreds of years, and perhaps the oldest and most well-known of them all is the Angel Oak Tree.

Located on Johns Island, about 20 minutes from downtown Charleston, SC, the Angel Oak is figured to be one of the oldest living southern live oaks in the region, with an estimated age off somewhere between 400 and 500 years.

In addition to being one of the oldest trees in the southeast, Charleston’s Angel Oak Tree is also one of the largest. It measures up to 65 feet tall at its peak, with its branches reaching a circumference of over 26 feet, with a shaded area covering over 17,000 square feet.

This breathtaking natural beauty draws over 400,000 visitors per year, ranging from tourists hailing from all over the world to locals who have called Charleston home for their entire lives.

The land where the Angel Oak Tree stands was originally part of the land granted by the government to colonist Abraham Waight in 1717. He had a daughter named Martha who married a man named Justus Angel in 1810, and the Angel family and their descendants owned the property until the mid 1900s. The Angel Estate is where the Angel Oak Tree gets its name.

In 1991, the land was officially purchased by the City of Charleston, who now operate the area as a public park. This includes a gift shop, bathrooms, and fairly strict set of rules that are mainly in place to help preserve the tree’s natural beauty. The Angel Oak Tree is also a popular spot for couples to take engagement photos, and the city even grants permits to get married on the property.

Photo by Mike Norton.

Maintaining the Angel Oak Tree is a hefty task, because while the tree is blessed with the strength of age, its branches are heavy and touch the ground in many places. They have been supported by posts and steel wires in the more stress prone areas.

There is also a conservation effort spearheaded by Lowcountry Land Trust that is dedicated to protecting the 36 acres of forestry surrounding the Angel Oak, as it is a hot area of interest for developers looking to build on the property.

In a city that has so much to offer in terms of natural beauty, from beaches to stunning marsh views, the Angel Oak stands as one of the most amazing sights in all of Charleston. It is certainly worth seeing, though I would recommend going during an off time as the park can get crowded on the weekends.

As of my writing this, Angel Oak Park is open 9am to 5pm every day except for Wednesday. Find it at 3688 Angel Oak Rd, Johns Island, SC. Check out the official Charleston County Parks website for more info.

Trippy artists rendition of the Angel Oak Tree. Artist unknown.
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