Standing in front of the Angel Oak is to know you’re in front of an ancient being exuding serenity and sacredness. Situated on John’s Island just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, the Angel Oak is thought to be one of the oldest living trees east of the Mississippi River.
“Although the age of Angel Oak has long been reported to be in excess of 1400 years, the actual age has never been scientifically substantiated. Live oak trees have a tendency toward heart rot, which makes the core samples untestable.”** (Educated guesses estimate the Angel Oak is around 400 years old.)
Visiting the Angel Oak
To truly experience the bucolic landscape containing Angel Oak means a visit. Growing up, I heard many great things about the Angel Oak, but nothing prepares you for your first, or tenth, visit. The first sight of Angel Oak is breathtaking. I’ve been many times, but it never changes. People who never thought they would be a nature lover fall in love and come back year after year.
One of the first things I notice on each visit is the smell of decay and forest. It’s not unpleasant and reminds me of my childhood playing in the wooded areas behind our house. The tree trunk and lower branches of the Angel Oak are so immense they are propped up with stakes and heavy cables. Branches reach in all directions, some driven underground before reaching the surface and spreading out again.
There are signs around the tree telling what you can and cannot do, but that is to protect her so that she may continue to stand strong against the elements. Hurricanes, droughts, earthquakes, hail, construction threats, you name it, the Angel Oak has stood through it all.
How did the Angel Oak get its name? Recorded history traces the ownership of the Angel Oak and the land surrounding it to 1717. Abraham Waight received it as part of a small land grant, eventually passing to Justus Angel and Martha Waight Tucker Angel as part of their marriage settlement.
Lowcountry Gullah/Geechee consider the Angel Oak their home tree. Queen Quet dedicated it as their home tree on TV Nayshun Nyews Episode Number 151 during the Angel Oak Preserve Deed Ceremony:
The Angel Oak is owned by the City of Charleston. In recent years, multiple plans for development nearby the Angel Tree has been fought against by the S.C. Coastal Conservation League. They argued that the development would alter the groundwater flow to the tree and clear nearby forests whose root systems share the underground root/water systems with the Angel Tree.
When planning to visit the Angel Oak, remember, take extra time to enjoy the immenseness of the tree and feel the history beneath your feet. Visit the little shop on site, as you purchase Lowcountry items to help support the Angel Oak, keeping it open and free to visitors. It is an integral part of Lowcountry folklore and a hot Charleston destination.
Things to take:
- Bug spray — the mosquitos look at visitors as tasty snacks
- Comfortable walking shoes
Things you can’t do when visiting:
- Use a tripod
- Climb or play on the Angel Oak
- No high heels are allowed (for safety reasons)
Angel Oak Facts:
Height – 65 Feet
Circumference – 25.5 Feet
Area of Shade – 17,000 Square Feet
Largest Limb – 89 Feet Long, 11.25 Feet Thick
Location: 3688 Angel Oak Rd. Charleston, SC 29455
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Contact Phone: 843-559-3496
Cost: No admission charge