USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Sagehen Experimental Forest

For more information

Visit our partners at the University of California, Berkeley:
Sagehen Creek Field Station


In November, 2005, the USDA Forest Service and University of California, Berkeley announced the designation of the Sagehen Experimental Forest under the administration of the USDA Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW) and the Tahoe National Forest. Sagehen is located approximately 10 miles north of Truckee, California, and includes the Sagehen Creek Field Station that has been operated by the University of California, Berkeley under special use permit from the Tahoe National Forest since 1951. The designation of the Sagehen Experimental Forest creates California's 11th experimental forest, and is the first to be created in California since 1962, and the first in the country since 1971.


The Sagehen Experimental Forest has a Mediterranean type climate with cold, wet winters and warm, dry summers. Monthly average maximum temperature ranges from 39°F in December to 79°F in July; monthly average minimum temperature ranges from 14 oF in January to 37 oF in July. Annual precipitation is about 33.35 inches; snowfall accounts for greater than 80 percent of the annual precipitation. The annual total snow fall is 203 inches. The University of California, Berkeley Sagehen Creek Field Station has been collecting weather data since 1953.


Soils of the Sagehen Experimental Forest are mainly Andic and Ultic Haploxeralfs derived from volcanic parent material. Soils in wet montane meadows and fens are of Aquolls and Borolls soil types, which are poorly drained soils. The mixed conifer forest and plantations are on soils composed by varies percentages of Fugawee, Tahoma, and Jorge series. These three soil types are all moderately deep to very deep (A horizon: 20 inches), well drained, and gravelly or stony sandy loams. The true fir forests are found mainly on soils of Jorge, Waca, Meiss, and Tahoma soil series. Waca soils are moderately deep (A horizon: 21 inches), well drained, and formed from andesitic tuff. Meiss soils are of andesitic rock origin, shallow (A horizon: 13 inches, no B horizon), somewhat excessively drained, cobly loam.


Five major vegetation cover types can be found in the experimental forest: grass, shrub, mixed conifer, true fir, and conifer plantation. The grass cover type includes fen, wet montane meadow, and dry montane meadow. Conifer plantations are areas reforested after the Donner and Carpenter Ridge fires in the 1960s. Trees planted are mainly ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) with some Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi).

The shrub vegetation type occurs as both a climax type on soils too poor, rocky, or shallow to support conifer forests and as a post-fire or logging successional stage to mixed conifer forests on deeper, more productive soils. It is dominated primarily by tobacco brush (Ceanothus velutinus), with greenleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula), Squaw-carpet (Ceanothus prostratus), wax currant (Ribes cereum), Bloomer's goldenbush (Ericameria bloomeri), dwarf serviceberry (Amelanchier pumila), and woolly mule-ears (Wyethia mollis).

The mixed conifer vegetation cover type includes lodgepole pine (Pinus murrayana) forest, eastside pine forest, and mixed conifer stands. Lodgepole pine forest type is found along Sagehen Creek and margins of meadows where soil is moist. The eastside pine forest is distributed mainly on south-facing slopes north of Sagehen Creek. It is dominated by Jeffrey pine with some ponderosa pines scattered as individuals or isolated pockets. Mixed conifer stand is a mixture of several co-dominant species including ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine, sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana), white fir (Abies concolor), red fir (Abies magnifica), and incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens). Mixed conifer stands are found in higher elevations, mainly on the slopes south of Sagehen Creek. The true fir forest cover type occurs on northeast- and northwest-facing, high-elevation slopes south of Sagehen Creek in moist soil areas. Red fir is the dominant tree species, growing on deep, moist soils. White fir is the major associated species in lower elevations, while mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) and mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides) are associates at higher elevations. Other associated species are western white pine (Pinus monticola), lodgepole pine, Jeffrey pine, and western juniper.

Long-Term Data Bases1

In over fifty years of research, Sagehen has accumulated massive amounts of data, which contributes to its value for research. Much of this data is digital and available by going to the Sagehen Creek Field Station website clicking on Resources and then data.

Six automated weather stations record a host of meteorological variables along a transect from the Lower Camp to the upper ridgeline, documenting how the basin's weather varies with altitude. At the Lower Camp weather station, daily weather records date back to 1953, which you can buy from the National Centers for Environmental Information. Snow telemetry (SNOTEL) records dating from 1978 are available from an automated remote sensing site on Carpenter Ridge operated by the National Water and Climate Center. [Snow Survey records are also available from the same location from 1937-1994.] Since 2001, Sagehen Creek Field Station has monitored the chemistry of precipitation and dry deposition as part of US EPA's nationwide National Atmospheric Deposition Program. In 2005, Sagehen Creek Field Station installed 2 more snowmelt pans to measure how much precipitation falls as snow above the Lower Camp.

Because Sagehen Creek is part of the Hydrology Benchmark Network, USGS has measured stream flow since October 1953 and water quality since 1968. In 2003, USGS installed a satellite uplink so these data are now available in real time. Water temperature is measured in several sites along Sagehen Creek and its tributaries. Groundwater depth and temperature are also measured in a few places. Other routinely collected data include daily satellite imagery, seismic activity, and three transects of tree sap flow data.

Research, Past and Present

Research will answer important questions about the management of National Forests in the Sierra Nevada. The Tahoe National Forest and UC Berkeley have been working cooperatively for many years and have recently initiated a fireshed analysis for the Sagehen area with the intent of designing a strategic fuel reduction plan to lessen the intensity of a wildfire.

See an extensive list of research publications at the UC Berkeley, Sagehen Creek Field Station website.


Research in the 8,100 acre Sagehen Experimental Forest will be managed collaboratively by the Pacific Southwest Research Station, the Tahoe National Forest and University of California, Berkeley.

Research Opportunities2

Research into all aspects of the natural sciences are welcomed. Historically, fisheries, wildlife, range and forestry studies have predominated, however more recent use has expanded to include hydrology-related efforts.... [Q]ualified researchers from other institutions are welcome to apply to the UC Berkeley, Sagehen Creek Field Station, Station Manager.

There are substantial collections of higher plants, vertebrates, and insects on site and a variety of field and laboratory equipment is available, including extensive environmental monitoring sites throughout the basin.


Access to facilities is arranged through the UC Berkeley, Sagehen Creek Field Station. Camping and a variety of housing are available. "Wired/wireless" lab space, classroom, and office space can be arranged. A communal kitchen is on-site.

Lat. 39°25´46.6" N, long. 120°13´49.1" W

Contact Information

Sagehen Creek Field Station
University of California, Berkeley

Sagehen Experimental Forest
Pacific Southwest Research Station
Sierra Nevada Research Center
2121 Second Street, Suite A-101
Davis, CA 95616

1 From:
Kirchner, Jim; Brown, Jeff; Horne, Amy. 2005. Vision for the University of California, Berkeley, Sagehen Creek Field Station. Sagehen Creek Field Station, University of California, Berkeley. 21 p. (1.3 mb pdf)

2 From:
UC Berkeley, Sagehen Creek Field Station's website