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Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest
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Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest

Aerial view of Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest
Aerial view of Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest

The Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest encompasses 9,125 acres of the headwaters of Tenderfoot Creek in the Little Belt Mountains on the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Tenderfoot Creek is a major tributary of the Smith and Missouri Rivers, thus providing an important hydrologic resource for much of central Montana. Lodgepole pine and mixed lodgepole pine with Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir stands occupy about 8,681 acres, wet meadows cover 311 acres, and drier grass and scree slopes make up another 133 acres. Elevations range from 6,035 to 7,941 feet.

The Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest is representative of the vast expanses of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) found east of the Continental Divide in Montana and is typical of fire-prone forests at moderate to high altitudes in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Forest stands are classified as 1-aged (47% of the forested area) and 2-aged (53% of the forested area) which were created by past stand replacement and mixed severity fires (see Fire History of Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest). Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) grows in the area's sparse but species-rich wetlands, subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) is found in older stands throughout the forest and whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) graces the higher ridge tops. Several naturally occurring open meadows, rich in herbaceous plants, exist throughout the experimental forest.