Goose Island Oak

Historical Period: European Exploration (1519-1716)
Historical Topic: Folklore & Legends, Native Americans
Species: Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)
County: Aransas
Public Access: Yes

On the Texas gulf coast, protected from man but not from the elements of nature, is one of the largest live oak trees in Texas. In the 1960s, it was recognized by the organization American Forests as the largest live oak in the United States.

Legend has it that the Goose Island Oak was once a place where the cannibalistic Karankawas held councils and pagan ceremonies in which they devoured their enemies and even members of their own tribe. It is also referred to as a hanging tree and as a rendezvous of the fierce Comanche Indians.

Earlier visitors may have included the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca in 1528 and Sieur de LaSalle in 1684. Governor Alonso de Leon, who came in 1689 to find LaSalle, found instead the ruins of St. Louis and rescued, from the Karankawas, the only three survivors of LaSalle’s colony.

The mammoth live oak is sometimes referred to as the “Bishop’s Tree,” because a Catholic Bishop’s home or chapel stood nearby in the abandoned townsite of Lamar. The name “Lamar Oak” was probably derived from this town, which flourished in the 1830’s. Now the tree is simply known as the "Big Tree."

In 1966 this former National Champion live oak measured 421-1/4 inches in circumference, was 44 feet high and had a crown spread of 89 feet. Its age has never been accurately determined, but estimates place it as much as 1,100 years old.

The "Big Tree" is located at Goose Island State Park near Rockport. Signs inside the park direct visitors to the tree.