Little Waiska Basin Research Natural Area

[photo:] Forest at Little Waiska RNA. USDAForest Service Photo by Sally Sanderson, 2021.07.13

Sault Ste. Marie
This RNA represents a high-quality example of mesic northern forest dominated by red maple and a rich conifer swamp dominated by Northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis), Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), and other lowland conifers. The soils are composed primarily of clay and loam, which is unusual in the eastern Upper Peninsula; Little Waiska Basin is one of the few large, forested areas on moderately well drained clay soils. The Little Waiska Basin is a prime example of northern mesic forest transitioning to rich conifer swamp, encompassed by steep clay ravines, warm headwater stream systems, and flat clay lake plains interspersed with steeper topographic features. Small stream systems traverse the RNA and a small lake is located along its southern boundary.

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
is Sault Ste. Marie Sanderson Field (station no.207364, latitude 46°29’N, -84°24’W longitude). The station is about 16miles due northeast of the RNA.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
Annual rainfall averages 34.6inches (877.6cm). Average seasonal snowfall is 108.4inches (2753.4cm).
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
Daily summertime temperatures average 51° F;average daily maximum temperatures average 51° F. Average temperature in the winter is 31° F; average daily minimum temperatures average 30° F.
Elevations range from 681 feet (207.5 meters) to 761 feet (231.9 meters) MSL.
Geology and Soils:
Bedrock of the area includes Black River, Trenton, and Prairie du Chein groupswith surficial geology of lacustrine sand and gravel, lacustrine clay and silt, and glacial outwash sand and gravel.
The majority of Little Waiska Basin RNA soils are grouped into Gaastra silt loam and Biscuit very fine sandy loam complexes. The Gaastra silt loam is very deep, somewhat poorly drained, nearly level soil on broadplains and in depressions. Permeability is moderately slow, and water capacity is high. Surface runoff is slow, and the seasonal highwater table is at a depth of 1 to 2 feet from late fall to late spring. The Biscuit very fine sandy loam is very deep, somewhat poorly drained, nearly level soil on low plains and knolls. Permeability is moderate in the loamy upper part and very slow in the clayey lower part. Water capacity is moderateand surface runoff is slow. Soil has a perched seasonal highwater table at a depth of 0.5 feet to 1.5 feet from late fall to late spring.
Aquatic Features:
Little Waiska Basin contains headwater stream systems with warm waters. These stream systems occur over clay and loam substrates and are important to aquatic systems in the surrounding area. Designation of Little Waiska Basin as an RNA will help to protect the waters of the area and ensure the health and vitality of wildlife and plant communities.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, 212REastern Upper Peninsula
212Rd, in the Rudyard Silty Lake Plain
Landtype Association
212Rd08, Sand-Clay Transition-North
Plant Communities:
Class Forest and Woodland
Subclass Temperate Forest
Formation Cool Temperate Forest
Division Eastern North American Cool Temperate Forest
Macrogroup Northern Mesic Hardwood and Conifer Forest
Group Northern Hardwood-Eastern hemlock-Eastern white pine Forest
Association *Betula alleghaniensis-Acer rubrum-Osmunda cinnamomea Forest (CEG006380)

View or download Complete Plant List (pdf)

MI Natural Community Types:
Based on the Michigan Natural Features Inventory natural community types, Little Waiska Basin RNA is composed primarily of Red Maple (wet site) (382.1 ac. [154.6 ha]). Lesser amounts of northern white cedar, mixed conifer swamp, eastern hemlock, red maple (dry site), quaking aspen and open types occur throughout.
Common Herbaceous Species:
Typical ground cover species include Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern), Caltah palustirs marsh marigold), Adenocaulon bicolor (trail-plant), Coptis trifolia (goldthread), and Clintonia borealis (bluebead lily).
Potential Research Topics:
Little Waiska Basin RNA provides opportunity to study red maple. This cover type, atypical of the original forest composition, is a remnant of 19th century logging practices. In addition, the RNA lends itself to forest succession studies.

Related Reports and Publications


Last Modified: August 19, 2021