Battle Creek Research Natural Area

A view of the North Branch Oconto River from the Battle Creek RNA 2021. Photo by Steve Janke, USDA Forest Service.

Battle Creek Research Natural Area contains high quality northern mesic forest with large white pine and eastern hemlock bordering a half-mile (0.8 km) stretch of the North Branch of the Oconto River. This community grades into an ecologically significant northern wet-mesic forest. The super-canopy pines provide habitat for numerous wood warblers and the state-protected bald eagle (Haliaetus leucocephalus), which uses the site. This stand is a relatively rich habitat with a diverse herbaceous layer and sparse mid-story. The RNA also contains a spring-fed, closed canopy stream containing course woody debris, and it is bordered by northern wet-mesic forest dominated by white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) with lesser amounts of yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) and black ash (Fraxinus nigra).

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
The Lakewood 3 NE weather station (station no. 474523) is 5 miles east of the RNA.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
Annual precipitation averages 33.1 inches (84.1 cm). Average seasonal snowfall is 64.7 inches (164 cm).
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
Temperatures average 58°F between April and September and between October and March temperatures average 25°F. Daily maximum temperatures average 53°F and daily minimum temperatures average 30°F.
Elevations range from 1,180 feet (360 meters) to 1,220 feet (372 meters) above sea level.
Geology and Soils:
Bedrock of the RNA is igneous, metamorphic, and volcanic rock and between 100 feet and 50 feet of the land surface. Geomorphologic processes were glacial meltwater and till deposition. The majority of the area contains very deep somewhat excessively drained soils, which are shallow to stratified sandy outwash (Pence series). Permeability is moderate or moderately rapid in the loamy part of the solum; moderately rapid to very rapid in the sandy part of the solum; and rapid or very rapid in the substratum. Slopes range from 0 to 45 percent.
The RNA also has a small area of well-drained fine sandy loam soils (Padus series) on 6-15 percent slope. These soils formed mostly in loamy alluvium and are underlain by stratified sandy outwash on glacial lake plains, outwash plains, stream terraces, eskers, kames, and moraines. In addition, the RNA has a small area of Menahga sands on slopes of 0-6 percent adjacent to the North Branch of the Oconto River. The Menahga series consists of very deep, excessively drained to well drained soils that formed in sandy glacial outwash sediments on outwash plains, valley trains, and some moraines and drumlins.
Aquatic Features:
The adjacent Oconto River is fast-moving and clear with exposed bedrock and boulders; is a high quality hard-water stream having slightly alkaline water. The entire stream is classed as trout water with brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), brown trout (Salmo trutta), and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) inhabiting the waters. Combined with the large trees of the RNA, it is very scenic. The RNA also protects a quarter mile segment of Battle Creek,  a spring-fed, closed canopy stream containing course woody debris.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Northern Great Lakes (212T)
Green Bay Lobe Stagnation Moraine (212Ta)
Land Type Association(s):
Lakewood Plains and Moraines (Ta01)
Plant Communities:

Curtis Community Type

Kotar Habitat Types

Dominant Species initial US National Vegetation Classification

Northern mesic forest

eastern hemlock, white pine


Tsuga canadensis - (Betula alleghaniensis) Forest; CEGL002598

Northern wet-mesic forest

eastern hemlock


Tsuga canadensis - Betula alleghaniensis Saturated Forest; CEGL005003

Northern wet-mesic forest

northern white cedar, black ash


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

Northern wet forest

black spruce, tamarack

not defined

Picea mariana - (Larix laricina) / Ledum groenlandicum / Sphagnum spp. Forest; CEGL005271

Shrub carr (creek corridor)


not defined

Alnus incana Swamp Shrubland; CEGL002381

Stream: fast, hard, cold

not inventoried


Not defined

Complete Plant List

Common Shrub Species:
The RNA has a very sparse mid-story and shrub layer. Understory shrubs include American fly honeysuckle (Lonicera Canadensis) and hazel (Corylus spp) species.
Common Herbaceous Species:
The RNA has a relatively diverse herbaceous layer including downy yellow violet (Viola pubescens), large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), baneberry (Actaea spp), rosy twisted stalk (Streptopus lanceolatus v. longipes), and fancy wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia).
Common Fauna:
Numerous wood warblers (family Parulidae) are found in this general area and the state special concern, protected bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is known to use the RNA.
Potential Research Topics:
Because of its old-growth character, Battle Creek RNA will serve as a reference area for study of forest succession, and management techniques used elsewhere. Possible topics include: old-growth forest, carbon storage and dynamics, climate reconstructions, bats, bryophytes, cold-water stream studies, and riparian ecology under forest canopy.

Related link: Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Battle Creek

Related Reports and Publications

Brzeskiewicz, Marjory.  2014.  Establishment Record for Battle Creek Research Natural Area.  Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Lakewood-Laona District, Oconto County, Wisconsin.    38 pp.

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.

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