St. Peter's Dome Research Natural Area

The prominence known as St Peters Dome as seen in spring from the north, rises 400 feet (120 m) above Morgan Creek visible in the lower right of the photo. Photo by Steven G. Spickerman 1995, USDA Forest Service.

Great Divide
The 2,268-acre (918 hectares) St. Peter's Dome RNA features a large block of un-fragmented, contiguous northern mesic forest dominated by sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and basswood (Tilia americana) with significant inclusions of old-growth forest. Extensive areas of exposed bedrock form vertical shaded and open cliffs, narrow stream gorges with waterfalls, and a granite dome that rises 1,000 feet above nearby Lake Superior. The RNA harbors scattered populations of rare plants and core habitat for the state-endangered American marten (Martes americana).

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
Ashland Experimental Farm (station no. 470349) about 15 miles (24 km) north of the RNA.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
Annual precipitation averages 30 inches (76 cm), 67% of which falls between April and September. Average seasonal snowfall is 58 inches (147 cm).
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
Daily summertime temperatures average 57.0° F; average daily maximum temperatures average 51.3° F. Average temperature in the winter is 24.0° F; average daily minimum temperatures average 29.7° F.
Elevations range from 1,160 feet (354 m) to 1,560 feet (476 m) MSL.
Geology and Soils:
Bedrock of the RNA includes igneous, metamorphic, and volcanic rock.  Bedrock is between 50 and 5 feet of the land surface.  Geomorphologic processes include till deposition and glacial meltwater deposition.
The majority of soils within the RNA fall into the Gogebic-Michigamme-Rock series. The Gogebic series consists of undulating soils that are well to excessively drained. 
Aquatic Features:
This RNA is located in the Lake Superior basin and the Marengo River Sub-watershed.  The RNA contains creeks and a lake. Morgan Creek is a spring feeder stream flowing west then north into the Marengo River.  Several un-named perennial and ephemeral streams flow through this boulder area of the RNA. Long Lake (20-acre [8-ha]) is a soft-water seepage lake that consists of cattail, sedges, water lilies, and watershield.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Southern Superior (212J)
Penokee/Gogebic Iron Range (Jb)
Landtype Association:
Penokee/Gogebic Iron Range (Jb01)
Plant Communities:

Curtis Community Type

Kotar Habitat Types

Dominant Species initial US National Vegetation Classification

Northern mesic forest


sugar maple, basswood

Acer saccharum - Tilia americana / Ostrya virginiana / Lonicera canadensis Forest; CEGL002458
or: Acer saccharum - Betula alleghaniensis - (Tilia americana) Forest; CEGL002457

Northern mesic forest


hemlock, yellow birch, sugar maple

Tsuga canadensis - Acer saccharum - Betula alleghaniensis Forest; CEGL005044

Northern wet-mesic forest


hemlock, white cedar, white pine

Pinus strobus - Tsuga canadensis Great Lakes Forest; CEGL002590

Northern dry-mesic forest
on bedrock


white pine, red pine, white cedar

not immediately recognizable

Northern hardwood swamp


black ash, red maple, yellow birch

Fraxinus nigra - Mixed Hardwoods - Conifers / Cornus sericea / Carex spp. Forest; CEGL002105

Shaded cliff


hemlock, white cedar, Dryopteris sp

Thuja occidentalis - Betula alleghaniensis Forest; CEGL002450

Open cliff


bearberry, Woodsia sp

Igneous - Metamorphic Northern Dry Cliff Sparse Vegetation; CEGL002300

Stream: fast, soft, cold (Morgan Creek) spring fed




Lake: shallow, soft seepage (Long Lake)


cattail, sedges, water lilies, water-shield

Nymphaea odorata - Nuphar Herbaceous Vegetation; CEGL002562

Lake: shallow, soft seepage (Long Lake)


cattail, sedges, water lilies, water-shield

Nymphaea odorata - Nuphar Herbaceous Vegetation; CEGL002562

Open bog small pockets



Chamaedaphne calyculata - Ledum groenlandicum - Kalmia polifolia Bog Dwarf-shrubland; CEGL005278

Northern sedge meadow


Bluejoint grass, sedges

Calamagrostis canadensis - Eupatorium maculatum Herbaceous Vegetation; CEGL005174

Ephemeral ponds




Complete Plant List

Common Shrub Species:
Common shrubs include mountain maple (Acer spicatum), alternate-leaved dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), leatherwood (Dirca palustris), and American fly-honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis).
Common Herbaceous Species:
Herbaceous species common throughout the northern mesic forest include Carolina spring-beauty (Claytonia caroliniana), large-flowered (Trillium grandiflorum) and nodding (T. cernuum) trillium, bellwort (Uvularia sp.), rosy twisted-stalk (Streptopus lanceolatus v. longipes), trout-lily (Erythronium americanum), wild leek (Allium tricoccum), wild ginger (Asarum canadense), red baneberry (Actaea rubra), and blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)
Common Fauna:
Fish of Morgan Creek include brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and brown trout (Salmo trutta).  A number of reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds have been observed in the RNA.
Potential Research Topics:
Topics for study include areas with low deer browsing pressure, bedrock-controlled communities, climate change, peatlands, rare plants, amphibians, bryophytes, and insects. 

Related link: Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program St. Peter's Dome

Related Reports and Publications

Brzeskiewicz, Marjory.  2014.  Establishment Record for St Peters Dome Research Natural Area.  Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Eagle River Ranger District, Forest County, Wisconsin.   47 pp.

Cook, James. Study on: Change associated with the CNNF vegetation monitoring network, and comparisons of managed and unmanaged forests. no publication as of 2013. Preliminary data available from CNNF RNA coordinator at Park Falls Office.

Crow, T.R.; Cleland, D.T.; Donner-Wright, D.M.; Gustafson, E.J.; Lytle, D.E.; Parker, L.R.; Probst, J.; Schulte, L.A.; Sturtevant, B.R.; Zollner, P.A. 2006. Managing Midwestern landscapes using ecological principles. In Chen, J, Saunders, S.C., Brosofske, K.D., and Crow, T.R. eds. Linking ecology to landscape hierarchies. Nova Sciences Publishers, New York. p. 251-281.

Curtis, J. T.  1959.  Vegetation of Wisconsin.  University of Wisconsin Press, Madison WI.

Kotar, J.; Kovach, J.; Burger, T.  2002.  A Guide to Forest Communities and Habitats of Northern Wisconsin (2nd edition).  Madison: University of Wisconsin, Department of Forest Ecology and Management.

NGDC. National Geographic Data Committee. 2012. National Vegetation Classification Standard (NVCS). Available online: Accessed 2012.

Smith, W.; Meyer, T. 1986. Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Research Natural Area Evaluation Report: Morgan Falls, Unpublished reports on file in Park Falls Chequamegon-Nicolet Office.

Spickerman, S. 1996. Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Biological Survey Report: St. Peter’s Dome/Morgan Falls. Unpublished reports on file in Park Falls Headquarters.

Vora, R. S. 1997. Developing programs to monitor ecosystem health and effectiveness of management practices on Lakes States National Forests, USA. Biol. Conserv. 80:289-302.

Last Modified: August 20, 2021