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Lower Peninsula Experimental Forest

Wexford and Newaygo Counties, Michigan

The 1,376-ha Lower Peninsula Experimental Forest, made up of the Pine River and Newaygo Units, was formally established in 1954. The forest was initially used for silvicultural research, studies of chemical release of overstory hardwoods in pine plantations, and growth and yield of northern hardwoods under different stocking levels. The Pine River Unit, located in the southwest corner of Wexford County, contains 1,117 ha. The Newaygo Unit, located in Newaygo County, contains 260 ha.


In the Pine River Unit, the Wexford County portion of the Lower Peninsula, the average temperature in January (NOAA climate summary 1995) ranged from -12 to -4 °C; in July, it ranged from 13 to 26 °C. The average rainfall was 79 cm; snowfall was 180 cm. There were 5 days when temperatures were above 32 °C and 23 days when they were below -18 °C. In the Newaygo County Unit of the Lower Peninsula, the average temperature in Junuary (NOAA climate summary 1995) ranged from -12 to -2 °C; in July, it ranged from 13 to 28 °C. The average annual rainfall was 81 cm; snowfall was 180 cm. There were 8 days when temperatures were above 32 °C and 16 days when they were below -18 °C.


The Pine River Unit of the Lower Peninsula is located in the northern highlands division of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. This region is covered with a thick layer of glacial drift deposited by the Lake Michigan ice lobe during the most recent glaciation. The principal soil types encountered are Rubicon, Grayling, Roselawn, and Emmet sands. There are some differences in the texture and moisture-holding capacities of these soils. This is reflected by differences in forest types and growth. In general, the soils are deep, well-drained, slightly acid spodosols. The Newaygo Unit is located in the glaciated central uplands division of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. These uplands have a thick layer of glacial drift and probably were covered by the Lake Michigan ice lobe during the most recent glaciation. The principal soils are Sparta loamy sand and Plainfield sand. Both sands are dry and well drained, and they occur in nearly level plains. The top layer of Sparta loamy sand is a mixture sand and fine organic matter. Plainfield sand has a thin layer of loamy sand mixed with a moderate amount of organic matter. Within the Plainfield sand sites there are small wind-eroded areas where the surface sand has largely been removed. The surfaces of these dish-shaped spots are several feel below the surface of surrounding noneroded areas and are frequently gravelly. There is little or no organic matter in these so-called sandblows.


Three natural forest types prevail in the Pine River Unit: oak, aspen (ranging from pure stands to mixtures with oak and maple), and second-growth northern hardwoods. The oaks are mainly pin, white, northern red, and black oak. Considerable areas of pine, including red, jack, and eastern white, have been planted. Mixed white pine-oak type is the principal forest type of the Newaygo Unit. This unit also contains about 65 ha of plantations, most of which are red pine, with several acres of jack and white pines.

Research, Past and Present

In the Pine River Unit, herbicide release of pine plantations, growth and yield of northern hardwoods, and municipal sewage sludge fertilization of aspen sprouts and pine plantations have been studied. In the Newaygo Unit, research evaluated prairie restoration and removal of red pine stands planted on prairie sites, as well as changes in insects and vegetation as the prairie comes back, with emphasis on the endangered Karner blue butterfly.

Major Research Accomplishments and Effects on Management

Silvicultural studies included outplanting of genetically selected white and jack pines and white spruce varieties; growth and yield of bigtooth aspen; soil moisture availability under hardwoods and conifers; and growth of pine-plantations and aspen-sprout forests treated with sewage sludge. The Lower Peninsula was also the site of forest studies on streambank erosion and stabilization, groundwater quality in forests fertilized with sewage, and measurements of understory growth and chemical quality.


Collaborators include the Huron-Manistee National Forest.

Research Opportunities

No studies have been installed on the Lower Peninsula since 1981, and the Newaygo tract has not been used for research purposes since 1965. All older studies have been measured, reported, and discontinued. Except for the administrative site, there are no plans to use the forest for research purposes in the future.


The Lower Peninsula has only one administrative site. In Wexford County, Michigan, this 12-ha site is commonly called the Wellston Field Laboratory. This laboratory consists of an 80-m2 building, a shop and garage, and a flammables storage building. A National Atmospheric Deposition collection site is located here. Also on the site is a 0.8-ha cleared area enclosed with a deer-proof fence.

Lat. 43°25′ N, long. 85°40′ W

Contact Information

Lower Peninsula Experimental Forest
USDA Forest Service
Northern Research Station
3101 Discovery Dr., Suite F
Lansing, MI 48910
Tel: (517) 355- 7740

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 may have been updated since original publication.

Last Modified: 05/05/2016