Site Description

Basic Setting: The Fraser Experimental Forest is the source of St. Louis Creek, a northeast-facing basin, which is a tributary of the Fraser River.  The Fraser joins the Colorado River near Granby, about 20 miles north of the town of Fraser.

Climate: Climate varies strongly with elevation, with snow increasing and temperatures decreasing with elevation. Elevation varies from 2680 - 3900 m, and about one-third of the forest is above timberline at 3350 m. Overall, the climate is cool and humid with long, cold winters and short, cool summers. Average annual temperature at Forest headquarters (2745 m) is 0.5 °C, and snowfall and frost can occur any month of the year. At forest headquarters, mean monthly temperature for January is -10 °C and for July, 12.7 °C. Annual precipitation at forest headquarters averages 584 mm (range 430-710 mm), and average annual precipitation over the entire Experimental Forest is 737 mm. Nearly two-thirds of the precipitation falls as snow from October to May.

Soils: Soils are generally derived from gneiss and schist. Typical soils contain angular gravel and stone with very little silt and clay. These soils are very permeable and can store considerable water during snowmelt. At high elevations, especially on the west side, soils are derived from sandstones. These soils are shallow, have large amounts of stone, and have fine sand or sand textures. Alluvial soils occur along main streams, with parent material a mixture of glacial till, glacial outwash, and recent valley fill.

Vegetation types: The St. Louis watershed includes subalpine forests and alpine tundra typical of the central Rocky Mountains. In the forested areas below timberline, Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) are predominant trees at higher elevations, on north-facing slopes, and along streams; lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) is the predominant tree at lower elevations and on drier, south-facing upper slopes. The majority of the forest was initiated (sometimes slowly) after a stand-replacing fire in 1685. Pockets of older trees exist in riparian areas and at higher elevations. The flat, low elevation portion of the forest was logged in the early 1900's.

Wildlife: Elk, deer, moose, black bears and mountain lions are the forest's big game animals. Elk are mainly found in the alpine grassland and high cirque basins in the summer, but winter outside the forest. Mule deer are more common than elk. In the summer they graze in the timbered areas and openings of the forest. In the winter they move to the lower areas. Moose are year round residents. Black bears, unlike the elk and deer, are very shy and rarely seen. Mountain lions are occasional visitors. Many small fur bearing animals are found amongst the park such as marten, mink, badger, musk rats, red and gray fox, coyote, bobcat, lynx, and beaver along the water courses. One can also find snowshoe hares, pine squirrels, mice, gophers, shrews, and voles. Numerous game and non-game birds are found around the forest. Trout are found to occur in some streams, beaver ponds and lakes.