Alum Creek Experimental Forest

The 1,885-ha Alum Creek Experimental Forest was established in the late 1950s in the headwaters of the Saline River near Jessieville, Arkansas. Until the mid-1980s, Alum Creek was used primarily to study the effects of different silvicultural practices on forest hydrology.

Two people standing on a bridge

During this time, 10 small research watersheds (0.4 to 12 ha in size) and 2 weather stations were established to monitor streamflow, water quality, precipitation, air temperature, and other hydrometeorological variables. In 1994, Alum Creek was included within the area used for the landscape-scale Phase III of the Ouachita Mountains Ecosystem Management Research Project. Half of the forest is being used as an unharvested control area and a nearly 607-ha block is being treated with uneven-age reproduction cuttings. Since the early 1990s, research scope and pace has expanded greatly to include a variety of research studies in aquatic ecology, pedology, terrestrial ecology, silviculture, and wildlife biology. Four nested streamflow gauging stations with catchments between 121 and 1,214 ha have been established to supplement the existing hydrometeorological network.

Currently, the forest is managed by the Southern Research Station's unit in Monticello, Arkansas, and is affiliated administratively with the Jessieville and Winona Ranger District of the Ouachita National Forest.


The climate is humid subtropical with hot humid summers and mild winters. Mean daily temperatures range from -1 to 34° C. The mean annual precipitation of 1,321 mm occurs almost entirely as rain and is distributed fairly uniformly throughout the year.


Soils typically fall within the Carnasaw, Townley, or Pirum map units. They are well-drained, moderately deep to deep, gravelly to stony loam soils that occur on undulating to step hillslopes, ridges, and colluvial areas.


Alum Creek is a mosaic of pine-hardwood, predominantly pine, and predominantly hardwood stands. Shortleaf pine is the primary pine species; hardwoods include white and red oaks, and hickories.

Long-term Databases

The 10 small watersheds within Alum Creek have provided hydrometeorological data series ranging from 20 to 40 years. Three stations are still being used for long-term baseline data. A comprehensive vegetation inventory throughout the entire forest and adjacent Phase II research area area a unique data source for tracking floral conditions and changes over time.

Research, Past and Present

Studies at Alum Creek, both past and present, include the following topics:

  • effects of different silvicultural practices on small-basin streamflow yields and water quality
  • erosion and sediment delivery from forest roads
  • nutrient export in streamflow from small watersheds
  • shortleaf pine silviculture
  • aquatic ecosystem processes and response to silvicultural practices
  • effects of different silvicultural practices on landscape-scale streamflow and water-quality characteristics
  • and pedologic effects of forest management for different desired conditions.

Major Research Accomplishments and Effects on Management

Major accomplishments on the Alum Creek include:

  • identification of the magnitude and duration of streamflow and water-quality changes resulting from different silvicultural practices in small watersheds;
  • quantification of forest-road erosion and sediment delivery to adjoining streams;
  • characterization of nutrient status and export from small forest watersheds;
  • characterization of aquatic ecosystem structure, processes, and response patterns to natural and anthropogenic disturbances;
  • compilation of long-term hydrometeorological data series representative small forest watersheds in the Ouachita Mountains.


Collaborating organizations working at Alum Creek include the Ouachita National Forest, Weyerhaeuser Company, University of Arkansas-Monticello, Oklahoma State University, University of Arkansas, Mississippi State University, University of Oklahoma, Texas A&M University, and University of Kentucky.

Research Opportunities

The long-term hydrometeorological data sets, extensive hydrometeorological monitoring network, comprehensive vegetation inventory, year-round access, and existing support facilities mean that tremendous opportunities exist for research in terrestrial forest ecology, hydrology, pedology, geomorphology, aquatic ecology, and silviculture.


Forest Service facilities at Alum Creek consist of a secure storage lot and a work center in Jessieville (~16 km away) that includes an office, shop, storage space, off-road vehicles, and computer facilities.

Lat. 34°47′54″ N, Long. 93°3′17″ W

Contact Information

Alum Creek Experimental Forest
USDA Forest Service
Southern Research Station
P.O. Box 3516, UAM Station
Monticello, AR 71656-3516
Tel: (870) 367-3464

USDA Forest Service
Southern Research Station
4472 Highway 133 South
Crossett, AR 71635
Tel: (870) 364-8730

Related Publications

Summary information presented here was originally published in:

Adams, Mary Beth; Loughry, Linda; Plaugher, Linda, comps. 2004. Experimental Forests and Ranges of the USDA Forest Service. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-321. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station. 178 p.

(Information may have been updated since original publication.)