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Pike Bay Experimental Forest

Chippewa National Forest, Minnesota

Pike Bay Experimental Forest is located on the Chippewa National Forest just east of Cass Lake, Minnesota. Research began on the forest in the late 1920s before it was officially designated an experimental forest in 1932. Pike Bay is adjacent to the “ten-sections” area of the original Chippewa National Forest. Only dead trees have been removed from the area.


The climate at Pike Bay is continental. Maximum summer temperatures are 32 °C with high humidity (80 percent) and minimum winter temperatures descend to -35 °C. Growing season length is 100 to 120 days. Average annual precipitation is 50 to 65 cm. Snow depths average ~1 m. Although prolonged summer droughts occur, there usually is adequate rainfall in the growing season.


Although variable, the soils have developed mainly in the Guthrie till plain deposits covered to varying depth by a silt loam loess cap. The soil type is the Warba soil series.


Much of the forest is dominated by mature to overmature aspen (60 to 80 years old). These are among the most productive (site index 75 and higher at base age 50 years) aspen sites in northern Minnesota. Pike Bay once supported large white pines and northern hardwoods and examples of each remain.

Pike Bay is noted for its abundance of small seasonal wetlands. These vary greatly in the depth of water and duration of flooding during the growing season. Black ash is the most common tree species in seasonal wetlands. Generally, these wetlands are 0.25 ha or less in size.

The eastern edge of the Pike Bay is adjacent to the Bemidji Sand Plain, an area where fires (assumed to be related to burning by Native Americans) occurred more frequently. At least historically, the eastern side of the forest is believed to have had species more tolerant to burning (for example more white and red pines). In the interior and western parts of the forest, fire was less common and vegetation is more sensitive to fire. Fire has generally been eliminated as a disturbance agent and the differentiation between these areas is not as obvious in present-day vegetation.

Research, Past and Present

Research began in the 1930s, and plantations established then have provided important areas for studying and comparing forest and soil development in aspen, red pine, and spruce growing on the same soils. Aspen research has been the most common at Pike Bay. Beginning in the 1940s, aspen research has included thinning in young stands, prescribed burning, and effects of clearcutting on soil and stand productivity. Currently, the most active work is related to the Long-Term Soil Productivity Study (LTSP), one of three aspen LTSP sites in the Lakes States (others are in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan). There is a small amount of published work on white and red pine.

Major Research Accomplishments and Effects on Management

Aspen research over the years has been important in helping develop and refine silvicultural prescriptions for management. Long-term research on soil productivity is important for predicting impacts on aspen productivity from compaction and organic matter removal. Work on thinning in white pine is the oldest research available in Minnesota for this forest type.


Collaborators have come from the Chippewa National Forest.

Research Opportunities

Aspen research remains a major focus and there are significant opportunities for continuing the ongoing work and beginning new research on other aspects of aspen silviculture and stand development. The forest also provides opportunites for research on ecology and silviculture of northern hardwoods and mixtures of northern hardwoods and aspen/birch-white-pine.


There are no on-site facilities, but the closest town, Cass Lake, is several miles to the west. The nearest larger town is Bemidji, about a 1-hour drive west of Grand Rapids on Highway 2. There is a well-developed system of roads within the forest, but travel is difficult in wet weather.

Lat. 47°20′ N, long. 94°40′ W

Contact Information

Pike Bay Experimental Forest
USDA Forest Service
Northern Research Station
1831 Hwy. 169 E
Grand Rapids, MN 55744

Tel: (218) 326-7116

Related Publications

Alban, D.H., 1985. Volume comparison of pine, spruce, and aspen growing side by side. USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station, St. Paul, Minnesota, Research  Note, NC-327.

Alban, D.H., 1988. Nutrient accumulation in planted red and jack pine. USDA Forest Service, St. Paul, Minnesota, Research  Paper,  NC-282.

Alban, D.H., Perala, D.A., Jurgensen, M.F., Ostry, M.E.,Probst, J.R., 1991. Aspen ecosystem properties in the Upper Great Lakes. USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station, St. Paul, Minnesota, Research Paper, NC-300.

Anderson, P.D., Zasada, J.C., Erickson, G.W., Zasada, Z.A., 2002. Thinning in mature eastern white pine: 43-year case study. The Forestry Chronicle 78, 539-549.

Erickson, G., 1996. Growth and yield of a 59-year-old red pine plantation (Plot 99) in Northern Minnesota. USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station, St. Paul, Minnesota, Research Note, NC-369.

Kienzler, M., Alban, D.H.,Perala, D.A., 1986. Soil invertebrate and microbial populations under three tree species on the same soil type. USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station, St. Paul, Minnesota, Research Note, NC-337.

Perala, D.A., 1974.  Repeated Prescribed Burning in Aspen. USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station, St. Paul, Minnesota, Research Paper, NC-171.

Perala, D.A., 1995. Quaking aspen productivity recovers after repeated prescribed fire. USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station, St. Paul, Minnesota, Research Paper,  NC-324.

Perala, D.A.,Alban, D.H.,  1994. Allometric biomass estimators for aspen-dominated ecosystems in the upper Great Lakes. USDA Forest Service, North Central Station, St. Paul, Minnesota, Research Paper, NC-314.

Perala, D.A.,Alban, D.H., 1982. Rates of forest floor decomposition and nutrient turnover in aspen, pine, and spruce stands on two soils. USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station, St. Paul, Minnesota, Research Paper, NC-227.

Fleming, Robert, L.; Powers, Robert F.; Foster, Neil, W.; Kranabetter, J., Marty; Scott, D., Andrew; Ponder, Felix, Jr.; Berch, Shannon; Chapman, William, K.; Kabzems, Richard, D.; Ludovici, Kim, H.; Morris, David, M.; Page-Dumroese, Deborah, S.; Sanborn, Paul, T.; Sanchez, Felipe, G.; Stone, Douglas, M.; Tiarks, Allan, E.  2006.  Effects of organic matter removal, soil compaction, and vegetation control on 5-year seedlings performance: a regional comparison of long-term soil productivity sites.  Canadian Journal of Forest Research 36: 529-550.

Page-Dumroese, Deborah, S.; Jurgensen, Martin, F.; Tiarks, Allan, E.; Ponder, Felix, Jr.; Sanchez, Felipe, G.; Fleming, Robert, L.; Kranabetter, J., Marty; Powers, Robert F.; Stone, Douglas, M.; Elioff, John, D.; Scott, D., Andrew.  2006.  Soil physical property changes at the North American long-term soil productivity study sites: 1 and 5 years after compaction.  Canadian Journal of Forest Research 36: 551-564.

Powers, R.F., Andrew Scott, D., Sanchez, F.G., Voldseth, R.A., Page-Dumroese, D., Elioff, J.D., Stone, D.M., 2005 The North American long-term soil productivity experiment: Findings from the first decade of research. Forest Ecology and Management 220: 31-50.

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: 05/31/2012