Historic photo of old growth Bald Cypress grove in Florida.

Sinker Cypress is one of the most stunning and beautiful woods that we at Arc Wood & Timbers have the honor to reclaim and custom mill for our clients. Its rich color ranges from deep honeycomb gold to dark olive green depending on the water regions where the logs are found. Sinker Cypress (also known as Deadhead Cypress, Heart Cypress, or River Recovered Cypress) describes harvested trees that sank as they floated down rivers in log rafts to the nearest sawmill. Historians estimate that anywhere from 10% to 20% of the logged virgin growth Bald Cypress trees met this watery fate. Most of the Sinker Cypress logs that we salvage from the southeastern region of North America have been under water for the past 80 to 130 years. Radiocarbon studies have dated Sinker Cypress logs as old as 30,000 years. These ancient logs likely blew down millenniums ago in gale force hurricanes. This incredible underwater preservation is a testament to the durability and resiliency of this unique lumber. The heartwood of Sinker Cypress contains Cypressene oil. The highest concentrations of Cypressene are found in the old growth Sinker Cypress logs. This oil creates a natural preservative making Sinker Cypress one of the most rot- and insect resistant woods in the world.

Cypress trees were girdled or “ringed” 1 year in advance of logging to drain the water and kill the tree on the stump. This would reduce the weight of the tree so that they would float down the rivers to the mill.

In the words of one of the river loggers we work with, “This stuff doesn’t grow on trees anymore.” And he’s absolutely right. The color and density of grain found in the heartwood of Sinker Cypress cannot be replicated from the younger 2nd or 3rd growth Bald Cypress trees currently harvested in the United States today. As Sinker Cypress logs lay on the swamp and riverbed floors, the wood fiber starts to absorb the minerals and tannins found in the surrounding water to create breathtaking colors. Muddy river bottoms can lend to hues of olive green, while sandy bottoms of water can result in deep, rich reds and golds. Sinker Cypress logs can have 40 to 50 growth rings per inch, creating an extremely dense grain. Many of these old-growth trees were 1,000 to 1,800 years old before they were harvested. This translates to an unparalleled stability in the wood and an appearance that is one-of-a-kind.

110’ long sinker cypress log milled for an Arc Wood & Timbers project in 2013.

Sinker Cypress is an excellent option for interior paneling and ceiling decking, as well as for exterior siding, soffit, trim, doors and windows. It can also be structurally graded for rafters, beam and post applications. The clear “select” grade of Sinker Cypress is ideal for contemporary modern home designs. The #1 or #2 Common grades, which can include knots and light peck, are suitable for more rustic, “mountain” style homes. Highlights of the Sinker Cypress include: • Deep, rich colors ranging from golden honeycomb to dark olive green resulting from underwater aging over the past century. • Clear Vertical Grain “select” grade material is ideal for contemporary modern home interiors and exteriors. • Rich in history and character.

Vertical Grain select boards at the mill highlighting the olive and golden hues found in Sinker Cypress.

A rare grade of Sinker Cypress, called Pecky Cypress, is caused by a fungus while the tree is still alive. This rare fungus acts as an artisan sculptor by producing narrow oval shaped carvings within the tree’s growth rings while it’s growing. When these Pecky Cypress logs are milled, the peck within the wood fiber creates naturally distressed looking lumber. The fungus disappears once the trees are harvested, leaving behind only its life’s work sculpted into the wood. Pecky Cypress produces paneling and ceiling decking for beautifully rustic interior finishes.

Pecky Cypress Wall Paneling

We are continually surprised and captivated by the beauty of this wood and how nature takes its course to preserve and enhance the character and color of Sinker Cypress over time. With every log that we split open, we never know exactly what we are going to find inside as far as grain & color. It’s like unwrapping a present not knowing what you are going to find inside. We find more often than not that our clients choose to finish their Sinker Cypress material with a clear stain or sealer to simply enhance the natural colors of the material. We hope you love Sinker Cypress as much as we do.

Sinker Cypress used for exterior shiplap siding for an Arc Wood & Timbers project in Hawaii.


A native to Northern California, Lance Karnan’s interest in wood started early while working as an apprentice on his Dad’s commercial and residential construction projects.  After graduating from the University of San Diego with a degree in business and marketing, he moved to San Francisco.  For the next 10 years, Lance worked for both Oracle Corporation and Exodus Communications in contract, sales and management roles.  In 2003, Lance left the high-tech world to travel.  During his year abroad, he committed to pursuing a livelihood he could be passionate about.   Lance wanted to grow a company that made something tangible that could be appreciated from the moment it was delivered to the client. When he returned home, he reunited with his close childhood friend David Ferst to rebuild Arc Wood & Timbers.  Lance continues to live in San Francisco with his wife Tammy and their son Luke.  Always on the lookout for rare and cool woods, Lance also enjoys skiing, golfing, mountain biking and paddle boarding.