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Coulee Experimental Forest

LaCrosse County, Wisconsin

The Coulee Experimental Forest, located in west central LaCrosse County, Wisconsin, was formally dedicated in 1960. The forest is owned and administered by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The Coulee is 1,214 ha of upland oak forests, experimental tree plantings, ridgetop open fields, rock outcroppings, and several small “goat prairies” on steep topography.


The average annual temperature at Coulee is 6.7 °C, with summer maximum temperatures occasionally exceeding 38 °C and winter minimums as low as -40 °C. Average annual precipitation is 864 mm, with the highest rainfall usually occurring during the growing season. Average annual snowfall is 1,118 mm. Average length of the growing season is 138 days.


On the ridgetops, soils have up to 1 m of loess over clayey pedisediment. The bedrock is generally more than 2 m deep on these summits and shoulders. The soils are formed in silty slope alluvium over loamy skeletal materials with some bedrock at 1 to 2 m. The footslope soils are formed in silty slope alluvium with occasional rock fragments but no bedrock within 2 m.


The ridgetops of the Coulee, formerly used for agricultural crops, are now planted to pines, spruces, larches, and mixed hardwoods. Species and seed source experimentation were part of the reforestation projects here. Some open land remains and is currently rented by neighboring farmers. Natural and established prairie sites are managed for native plants and wildlife habitat. The forest is predominantly an oak-hickory type with red and white oak, shagbark hickory, basswood, and elm providing the major volume. The steeper slopes are productive because they were never used for agriculture as fields or pasture.

Research, Past and Present

Past research topics include forests and erosion in the driftless area, reforestation, and land disposal of sewage effluent.

Major Research Accomplishments and Effects on Management

The primary mission of the research initiated on the Coulee was to study the effect of land use and steep land management on floods, soil erosion, and stream sedimentation. A secondary mission was to study the adaptability of various tree species and classes of planting stock to different sites to guide landowners in their treeplanting programs. Many reports have been published on the following subject areas:
• Land use and effects on soil properties, runoff, and erosion
• Soil freezing
• Spring flow and groundwater
• Evapotranspiration
• Climate
• Reforestation
• Research instruments and techniques


Collaborators include the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and several research units of the USDA Forest Service. Past collaborators include: the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, Wild Turkey Federation, Ruffed Grouse Society, Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Audubon Society, and Whitetails Unlimited.


Lat. 43°48′ N, long. 91° W

Contact Information

Coulee Experimental Forest
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
3550 Mormon Coulee Road SOB
La Crosse WI 54601
Tel: (608) 785-9007

Related Websites

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources State Experimental Forests - Coulee

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: 02/07/2017