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Deception Creek Experimental Forest

Scientist in Charge: 
Ecological Region: Temperate Steppe Mountains

General Description

Deception Creek Experimental Forest, located 20 miles east of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is found in one of the Rocky Mountains’ most productive forest areas. Because it features the western white pine forest type, Deception Creek enables researchers to study the ecology and management practices of this tree and its associated species.

Background Information and History

Photo of Deception Creek Experimental Forest.
Photo of Deception Creek Experimental Forest.
Deception Creek Experimental Forest is located 20 miles (32 km) east of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, in one of the most productive forests of the Rocky Mountains. When the experimental forest was established in 1933, people valued mature western white pine to produce matches, toothpicks, and other wood products. Deception Creek is located in the heart of the western white pine forest type, which allows researchers to study the ecology and tree management practices of western white pine and other species that grow with them. The forest includes the entire drainage of Deception Creek, a tributary of the Little North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River in northern Idaho. The area encompasses 3,521 acres (1425 ha), with elevations ranging from 2,788 to 4,600 feet (850 to 1402 m). The creek dissects the experimental forest from west to east, and many small side drainages also cut through the landscape. The topography contains predominantly north- and south-facing slopes, with slope angles ranging from 35 to 80 percent.

Ecological Information

Maritime climate from the Pacific Coast influences weather in Deception Creek. Summers are short; autumn and winters are cloudy, with precipitation averaging 5 ft (1,400 mm). Annual snowfall averages 13 ft (4,060 mm) or 25 percent of total precipitation.

Soils are primarily Typic Vitrandepts, which are volcanic ash (0.9 to 6 feet [0.3 to 2 m] deep) above Beltian metasediments.

Western hemlock and queen cup beadlilly vegetation type dominates the forest, with the grand fir and queen cup beadlilly type also frequently growing within Deception Creek. Mixed stands containing grand fir, western hemlock, Douglas-fir, western larch, and western white pine range in age from 20 to more than 250 years old. Lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine, subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, and western redcedar grow in small amounts across the forest. The 292-acre (118-ha) Montford Creek Research Natural Area lies within the forest. 

Research – Historical and Present

Researchers at Deception Creek Experimental Forest, which originally was established as a center for conducting silviculture studies, have explored regeneration methods and subsequent effects on the establishment, composition, and growth of naturally and artificially regenerating western white pine. Studies at the site focused on western white pine and also included many other species found in this forest type.

Deception Creek also hosts an abundance of research on insects and diseases, long-term soil productivity, and fire. Using growth and yield plots on the forest, researchers monitor forest productivity and changes in species composition. Genetic studies of rust-resistant western white pine began in the mid-1950s and continue today.

Currently, research on the forest looks at ways that forest management affects ecosystem structures and functions. Because clearcut harvesting will probably be used much less in future forest management, researchers are studying both even-age and uneven-age tree management systems. Other studies on the forest include fire effects on sedimentation and soil nutrients, management effects on overstory and understory species composition, growth and yield, forest genetics, and root disease.

Research Accomplishments

Research at Deception Creek has yielded valuable knowledge of the ecology and management of western white pine. Basic research provided the foundation for understanding moist, northern Rocky Mountain forests, and changed the ways that people manage coarse woody debris throughout the Rocky Mountains. Deception Creek research also made important contributions to the development of western white pine trees that are resistant to the blister rust pathogen. In addition, long-term forest-growth records provided information that was integral in developing Prognosis, a forest vegetation simulator. 

Research Opportunities

Deception Creek provides conditions for research requiring mixed stands ranging in age from 20 to more than 250 years. Because it is one of the most heavily roaded drainages in Idaho, the forest offers excellent opportunities for studying road abandonment and rehabilitation. It also offers moist forest conditions found nowhere else in the West except on the Pacific Coast. 

Long-term Monitoring and Data

Available databases include forest growth (1935–present), weather (1935–1965), and western white pine genetic trials (1955–present). 

Facilities Information

There are no facilities at Deception Creek.