You are here: NRS Home / Experimental Forests / Locations / Kaskaskia

Kaskaskia Experimental Forest

Shawnee National Forest, Illinois

Formal establishment of Kaskaskia Experimental Forest on the Elizabethtown Ranger District of the Shawnee National Forest was completed in 1942. Boundaries included about 526 ha reserved for experimental purposes and 16 ha purchased in 1934 for the administrative site. The Kaskaskia was administered from Columbus, Ohio, until 1946 when administration was transferred to the newly established research center in Carbondale, Illinois. By 1961, the boundaries of the forest enclosed 4,047 ha, of which 1,335 were in federal ownership. In 1972, when the research mission turned to hardwood plantations culture, 465 ha of federal land not currently part of the active research studies were returned to the Shawnee National Forest, with a new boundary enclosing only 870 ha of federal and privately owned lands. More than 30 research studies were established within the Kaskaskia; however, only the study documenting long-term changes in an old-growth natural area remains active.


The average length of the growing season (frost-free period) is 190 days. The average date of the last killing frost of spring is April 16; the first killing frost of autumn is September 24. Annual average temperature is 13 °C and regional annual rainfall is 1,098 mm distributed equally throughout the year; prolonged dry periods during the growing seasons are not unusual. The Rosiclare_5_NW weather station (site 117487) in Hardin County compiled the following averages from 1971 to 2000: winter average minimum temperature; 4 °C, maximum temperature 7 °C, summer average minimum temperature, 18 °C; maximum temperature, 30 °C, average annual rainfall, 99 cm; snowfall 25 cm.


The soils on the Kaskaskia are primarily Alford silt loam (fine-silty, mixed, mesic, Typic Hapludalfs), Grantsburg silt loam, and Clarksville cherty silt loam. In many areas, nearly the entire loessial mantle has been lost, leaving a surface covered with chert. St. Louis and St. Genevieve limestones underlie these soils. A narrow belt of fine sandy loam runs along Goose Creek, Hogthief Creek, and Big Creek. These belts are an alluvial formation, fairly fertile, and subject to frequent overflow. The Kaskaskia is located on an extensive anticline known as Hicks Dome, which was formed during an explosive phase of igneous activity during Permian times. Erosion has removed much of the original sedimentary formations, leaving Devonian limestone outcroppings in some areas that are remnants of the Ozark uplift that occurred about 200 million years ago. Subsequent action by wind and water from glaciers north of the area cut into the exposed rock, producing areas of deep glacial till through this area of gently to steeply sloping hills. Elevation ranges from 120 to 200 m above sea level.


The following SAF forest types are documented on the Kaskaskia: SAF40 (post oak-black oak), SAF52 (white oak-red oak-hickory), SAF 53 (white oak), SAF59, and SAF64 (sassafras-persimmon). About 40 percent of the area is mixed hardwood forests found on the lower and middle north and east slopes. Coves and stream bottoms are dominated by yellow-poplar, northern red oak, white oak, black oak, several hickory species, black gum, elm, American beech, and maples. About 50 percent of the area is of the oak-hickory type found along south- and upper north-facing slopes and on the ridgetops dominated by black, white, post, scarlet, southern red, and black jack oak, and a mix of hickories. There is also a small disjunct stand of chestnut oak. Long-Term Data Bases Only one long-term data base is currently being maintained on the Kaskaskia. Data are available on survival, d.b.h., and ingrowth of individual trees in eight permanent plots within the Kaskaskia Woods, a 7.7-ha remnant of largely undisturbed old-growth forests identified in 1935. The plots have been remeasured periodically at nominally 10-year intervals. The natural area is composed equally of mesic upland forest and drymesic upland forest communities. Although now inactive, the small-group-opening study was also remeasured repeatedly.
Paper files are archived at the research laboratory in Columbia, Missouri, for several of the other studies initiated on the Kaskaskia. Most notable are detailed records from 1948 to 1968 documenting harvesting activities within the compartment study. Thirty-eight 6- to 16-ha compartments were established on mixed hardwood and oak-hickory sites to follow long-term impacts of commercial-type forest management practices for one sawtimber rotation under uneven-age silviculture. Experimental design included various combinations of logging methods, silvicultural systems, cutting cycles, rotation length, and management intensity. The study did not include a no-management option. This study occupies the majority of the experimental forest remaining after the boundaries were redrawn in 1972.

Research, Past and Present

Several of the more interesting research projects include a compartment study with 40 plots treated with various cutting methods, cutting cycles, rotation lengths, and management intensities using uneven-age silviculture. Additional topics include conversion of farm woodlands to managed forests, chestnut and cottonwood provenance progeny tests, regeneration and growth following small group-selection cutting, and documenting natural succession on upland oak-hickory forests.

Major Research Accomplishments and Effects on Management

At the Kaskaskia, the following studies were considered
• Maple succession without disturbance of upland
old-growth oak-hickory forests
• Effect of small group opening on light, soil
moisture, and natural regeneration

• Development of a tree-quality index for
hardwood trees
• Processing and utilization of oak and hickory for


Collaborators included the Shawnee National Forest, Southern Illinois University, University of Arkansas- Fayetteville, and Auburn University.

Research Opportunities

The compartment study provides an opportunity to evaluate long-term changes in vegetation subjected to a range of cutting methods and cycles to implement an uneven-age silvicultural system. Only the 8-ha Kaskaskia Woods is currently part of an active research study. Most areas on the Kaskaskia are available for cooperative research subject to approval by the North Central Research Station and the Shawnee National Forest.


No buildings are being maintained on the Kaskaskia following abandonment of the administrative site in 1988. The nearest town is Golconda, Illinois. Neighboring towns include Glendale, Simpson, Robbs, and Elizabethtown.

Lat. 37°32′ N, long. 88°21′ W

Contact Information

Kaskaskia Experimental Forest
USDA Forest Service
Northern Research Station
202 Natural Resources Building
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211
Tel: (573) 875-5341

Summary information presented here was originally published in:

Adams, Mary Beth; Loughry, Linda; Plaugher, Linda, comps. 2004. Experimental Forests and Ranges of the USDA Forest Service. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-321. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station. 178 p.

Information has been updated since original publication.

Related Publications

Caraway, Cleo. 1976. A forestry sciences laboratory…and how it grew [Kaskaskia Experimental Forest] [Unnumbered publication]. St. Paul, MN: North Central Forest Experiment Station. 77 p. (7 mb - This document is in PDF format. You may obtain a free PDF reader from Adobe.)

Minckler, Leon S. 1989. Intensive group selection silviculture in central hardwoods. In: Rink, George; Budelsky, Carl A., eds. Proceedings of the 7th central hardwood conference; 1989 March 5-8; Carbondale, IL. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-132. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station: 35-39.

Schlesinger, Richard C. 1989. Dynamics of the sugar maple component of a white oak-yellow-poplar community. In: Rink, George; Budelsky, Carl A., eds. Proceedings of the 7th central hardwood conference; 1989 March 5-8; Carbondale, IL. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-132. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station: 35-39.

Entire site This section
Refine Search Search Tips
Browse by Audience
Browse by Subject
Contact Information

Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9318
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD