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Manitou Experimental Forest

Scientist in Charge: 

General Description

wintertime photo showing two outbuildings at Manitou Experimental Forest.
Photo of the Manitou Experimental Forest.
Established in 1936, the Manitou Experimental Forest covers 16,700 acres (6,758 ha) in central Colorado. Early research at Manitou focused on range and watershed management, but the scope of research has expanded significantly over time. Today researchers are studying diverse questions related to meteorology, ecology, and biology.

Check out the Manitou Experimental Forest Brochure for more information.

Background Information and History

The Manitou Experimental Forest lies roughly 30 miles (48 km) northwest of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Established in 1936, its 16,700 acres (6,758 ha) straddle the Trout Creek watershed. Trout Creek is a tributary of the South Platte River. Early research at Manitou focused on range and watershed management. Today, researchers are studying meteorological, ecological, and biological questions. Collaborators working with Manitou scientists include the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, Colorado College, Colorado School of Mines, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, University of California, National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Dr. William Bell, an English physician and Colorado pioneer, originally owned the Manitou Park area contained within Manitou Experimental Forest. Bell pursued a number of enterprises on the property, including logging, ranching, resort hotels, and a trout farm. He later gave the remainder of his holdings to Colorado College to establish a school of forestry and to use the land as a forestry field camp. After Colorado College closed its forestry school, the Forest Service created Manitou Experimental Forest in 1936 from donated land, as well as from surrounding National Forest System land and other purchased properties. As a result, the Manitou contains more than 100 private holdings within its borders, including a major housing subdivision occupying more than 702 acres (284 ha).


Historic Timeline

Dates Events


Homestead: This fertile area off the beaten path avoided the Indian raids that were common to Colorado Springs in the 1860's and most of the grasshopper plagues of the late 1860's and early 1870's. The land use for this time was primarily small-scale farming (wheat, oats, barley, radishes, onions, cabbages, and potatoes) and grazing.


Bergen Park: Earliest local name for the area was Bergen Park, after an early settler.


Powell: John Wesley Powell visited Bergen Park while on a trip to collect natural history specimens for museums.


Bell: William A. Bell, physician from London, bought out several homesteaders in the area, acquiring about 11,000 acres in all. For almost 30 years Bell influenced the area with his business ventures which included grazing, farming, logging, fish hatcheries and resort hotels.


Resort: Dr. Bell built a large hotel at the present site of the headquarters of the Manitou Experimental Forest.

Early lodge at Dr. Bell's resort.
Early lodge at Dr. Bell's resort.


Wagon road: Talk of a planned wagon road from Monument to Bergen Park to Fairplay looked certain. This wagon road would have brought much traffic to Bergen Park in the form of tourists, and deliveries of produce, timber and other mining supplies. The road was delayed until 1896. Bell, however, still continued with plans to develop Bergen Park.


Fish ranch: One of the earliest, and most successful, business ventures was a fish ranch. A 45' X 30' fish house was built over a spring that flowed into Trout Creek. In 1874, Bell bought 100,000 eastern brook trout eggs from New York. He sold the fish to the Colorado Springs and Leadville markets. The fishery was expanded and successfully run until at least 1890.


Manitou Park: The name was changed from Bergen Park to Manitou Park to avoid confusion with a similarly named Colorado town and probably to further its impression as a resort tied to the  nearby resort town of Manitou. Manitou Park rivaled Estes Park Colorado for tourism at this time. Many people from the east came to the park for its reputed health benefits. Advertisements from this period tout "the beneficial effects of pine timber upon delicate lungs ..." and the dry air and clear water for ones health.


Wood burning locomotive.
Wood burning locomotive.
Logging: Dr. Bell logs the area's western yellow pine (ponderosa pine) and Douglas fir. It is estimated that 70 million board feet were cut; however, Bell lost money on the venture. No attempt was made, as was common of the time period, to encourage regrowth of the forest. The brush left from the logging created conditions ripe for a forest fire. Luckily none occurred (the only recorded fires since 1880 are building fires).

Railroad: Eight to nine miles of narrow gauge rail was laid for use in the logging venture.  A wood burning D. & R. G. locomotive, hauled up Ute Pass by mule teams, ran on the rails. The remains of part of the cross-ties for the railroad were found in 1980, 3 feet below the soil surface of the Trout Creek flood plain. 



Thornton: Horace G. Thornton takes over management of the Park. Thornton adds on to the tourist accommodations.


Cottages on Dr. Bell's property.
Cottages on Dr. Bell's property.
First fire: Fire destroys the hotel and new dinning room. The surrounding cottages are spared and tourism use continues.


Rebuilt: A new hotel was built of local timber, and the tourism trade continued to be strong.


Mining: Manitou Park Mining District announced with plans to mine gold ore in the area. Previously it is believed that the area saw some prospecting and that about 25 mine shafts had been dug in 1859. Due to a fire in a newly built ore mill and floods by Trout Creek, once in the 1890's and twice in 1932, the Park escapes heavy mining and its associated dumps and smelter fumes.


Torrington: The Town of Torrington is filed by Bell in the Recorder's office. Bell planned the town on the East side of a lake he made by damming Trout Creek south of the Hotel. The town had a post office, saloon, general store, carpentry shop, and livery.


Second fire: The hotel burns along with all the recent improvements, including a casino with a billiard room, bowling alley, and amusement hall. The resort continues to operate using the surrounding cottages, which accommodated as many as 100 guests.


Gold rush: The Town of Torrington was vacated by the Torrington Town Company due to people moving on to Cripple Creek Colorado for its gold rush. The remaining portion of the Town was vacated by Colorado College in 1909.


Selling the park: Bell tries to unload his Colorado real estate and move back to England. After already having unsuccessfully tried to sell Manitou Park in 1885 (after his failed logging operation) and in 1889 (after the first hotel burnt down) he tries once again to sell the Park.


Colorado College: General Palmer, a neighboring land holder, and Bell deed a total of 10,635.64 acres to the Colorado College. Palmer's interest in forestry and concern about the area's western yellow pine bark beetle are the impetus for the creation of the Colorado School of Forestry under the Colorado College. It becomes the fifth school of forestry in the United States.


U.S. Forest Service: The U.S. Forest Service began administering the site as the Manitou Experimental Forest to study management of natural resources of the Colorado Front Range ponderosa pine zone.


New buildings: Works Progress Administration built the six building complex currently at the Manitou Experimental Forest using local sandstone from the Missouri Gulch quarry just north of Manitou Park


Civilian Conservation Corps: The CCC established camp along Trout Creek and plant 525,000 young trees from their Monument Nursery. Many of these trees survive today.


Historic Places: Manitou Experimental Station, with its six buildings, was named into the National Register of Historic Places.



Swayze, Neal C. ; Tinkham, Wade T. ; Vogeler, Jody C. ; Hudak, Andrew T. , 2021
Keane II, Robert E. ; Holsinger, Lisa M. ; Smith, Helen Y. ; Sikkink, Pamela G. , 2020
Brown, Peter M. ; Gannon, Benjamin ; Battaglia, Mike A. ; Fornwalt, Paula J. ; Huckaby, Laurie Kay Stroh ; Cheng, Antony S. ; Baggett, Scott , 2019
Battaglia, Mike A. ; Gannon, Benjamin ; Brown, Peter M. ; Fornwalt, Paula J. ; Cheng, Antony S. ; Huckaby, Laurie Kay Stroh , 2018
Heinsch, Faith Ann ; Sikkink, Pamela G. ; Smith, Helen Y. ; Retzlaff, Molly L. , 2018
Cannon, Jeffery B. ; Barrett, Kevin J. ; Gannon, Benjamin M. ; Addington, Robert N. ; Battaglia, Mike A. ; Fornwalt, Paula J. ; Aplet, Gregory H. ; Cheng, Antony S. ; Underhill, Jeffrey L. ; Briggs, Jennifer S. ; Brown, Peter M. , 2018
Addington, Robert N. ; Aplet, Gregory H. ; Battaglia, Mike A. ; Briggs, Jennifer S. ; Brown, Peter M. ; Cheng, Antony S. ; Dickinson, Yvette ; Feinstein, Jonas A. ; Pelz, Kristen A. ; Regan, Claudia M. ; Thinnes, Jim ; Truex, Rick ; Fornwalt, Paula J. ; Gannon, Benjamin ; Julian, Chad W. ; Underhill, Jeffrey L. ; Wolk, Brett , 2018
Sikkink, Pamela G. ; Jain, Terrie B. ; Reardon, James ; Heinsch, Faith Ann ; Keane II, Robert E. ; Butler, Bret W. ; Baggett, L. Scott. , 2017
Fornwalt, Paula J. ; Rocca, Monique E. ; Battaglia, Mike A. ; Rhoades, Charles C. ; Ryan, Michael G. , 2017
Smits, Kathleen M. ; Kirby, Elizabeth ; Massman , William J. , Jr ; Baggett, Scott , 2016
Chambers, Marin E. ; Fornwalt, Paula J. ; Malone, Sparkle L. ; Battaglia, Mike A. , 2016
Ortega, J. ; Turnipseed, A. ; Guenther, A. B. ; Karl, T. G. ; Day, D. A. ; Gochis, D. ; Huffman, J. A. ; Prenni, A. J. ; Levin, E. J. T. ; Kreidenweis, S. M. ; DeMott, P. J. ; Tobo, Y. ; Patton, E. G. ; Hodzic, A. ; Cui, Y. Y. ; Harley, P. C. ; Hornbrook, R. S. ; Apel, E. C. ; Monson, R. K. ; Eller, A. S. D. ; Greenberg, J. P. ; Barth, M. C. ; Campuzano-Jost, P. ; Palm, B. B. ; Jimenez, J. L. ; Aiken, A. C. ; Dubey, M. K. ; Geron, C. ; Offenberg, J. ; Ryan, Michael G. ; Fornwalt, Paula J. ; Pryor, S. C. ; Keutsch, F. N. ; DiGangi, J. P. ; Chan, A. W. H. ; Goldstein, A. H. ; Wolfe, G. M. ; Kim, S. ; Kaser, L. ; Schnitzhofer, R. ; Hansel, A. ; Cantrell, C. A. ; Mauldin, R. L. ; Smith, J. N. , 2014
Rhoades, Charles C. ; Battaglia, Mike A. ; Rocca, M. E. ; Ryan, Michael G. , 2012
Massman , William J. , Jr ; Frank, John M. ; Mooney, Sacha J. , 2010
Weimer, Carl ; Ramond, Tanya , 2010
Graham, Russell T. ; Jain, Terrie B. ; Matthews, Susan , 2010
Battaglia, Mike A. ; Rocca, Monique E. ; Rhoades, Charles C. ; Ryan, Michael G. , 2010
Esquilín, Aida E. Jiménez ; Stromberger, Mary E. ; Shepperd, Wayne D. , 2008
Esquilin, Aida E. Jimenez ; Stromberger, Mary E. ; Massman , William J. , Jr ; Frank, John M. ; Shepperd, Wayne D. , 2007
Linkhart, Brian D. ; Reynolds, Richard T. , 2006
Mooney, Kailen A. ; Geils, Brian W. ; Linhart, Yan B. , 2006
Massman , William J. , Jr ; Frank, J. M. ; Jimenez Esquilin, A. E. ; Stromberger, M. E. ; Shepperd, W. D. , 2006
Binkley, Dan ; Kashian, Daniel M. ; Boyden, Suzanne ; Kaye, Margot W. ; Bradford, John B. ; Arthur, Mary A. ; Fornwalt, Paula J. ; Ryan, Michael G. , 2006
Battaglia, Mike A. ; Dodson, Jonathan M. ; Shepperd, Wayne D. ; Platten, Mark J. ; Tallmadge, Owen M. , 2005
Mooney, Kailen A. ; Haloin, Jon R. , 2005
Mooney, Kailen A. ; Tillberg, Chadwick V , 2005
Graham, Russell T. ; McCaffrey, Sarah M. ; Jain, Terrie B. , 2004
Finney, Mark A. ; Bartlette, Roberta ; Bradshaw, Larry S. ; Close, Kelly ; Collins, Brandon M. ; Gleason, Paul ; Hao, Wei Min ; Langowski, Paul ; McGinely, John ; McHugh, Charles W. ; Martinson, Erik ; Omi, Phillip N. ; Shepperd, Wayne ; Zeller, Karl , 2003
Bradshaw, Larry S. ; Bartlette, Roberta ; McGinely, John ; Zeller, Karl , 2003
Finney, Mark A. ; McHugh, Charles W. ; Bartlette, Roberta ; Close, Kelly ; Langowski, Paul , 2003
MacDonald, Lee H. ; Stednick, John D. , 2003
Graham, Russell T. , 2003
Massman , William J. , Jr ; Frank, John M. ; Shepperd, W. D. ; Platten, M. J. , 2003
Massman , William J. , Jr ; Frank, J. M. ; Massman, S. M. ; Shepperd, W. D. , 2003
Kent, Brian ; Shepperd, Wayne D. ; Shields, Deborah J. , 2000
Robertson, Philip A. ; Bowser, Yvonne Hall. , 1999
Linkhart, Brian D. ; Reynolds, Richard T. ; Ryder, Ronald A. , 1998
Linkhart, Brain D. ; Reynolds, Richard T. , 1994
Peterson, David L. ; Arbaugh, Michael J. ; Robinson, Lindsay J. , 1993
Reynolds, Richard T. ; Linkhart, Brian D. , 1990
Reynolds, Richard T. ; Linkhart, Brian D. , 1990
Linkhart, Brian D. ; Reynolds, Richard T. , 1987
Reynolds, Richard T. ; Linkhart, Brian D. , 1984
Canton, Steven P. ; Cline, Leo D. ; Short, Roberta A. ; Ward, James V , 1984
Gary, Howard L. ; Johnson, Steven R. ; Ponce, Stanley L. , 1983
Hudler, George W. ; Oshima, Nagyoshi ; Hawksworth, F. G. , 1979
Morris, Meredith J. ; Reld, Vincent H. ; Pillmore, Richard E. ; Hammer, Mary C. , 1977
Currie, P. O. ; Reichert, D. W. ; Malechek, J. C. ; Wallmo, O. C. , 1977
Francis, Richard E. ; Driscoll, Richard S. , 1976
Neal, Donald L. ; Currie, Pat O. ; Morris, Meredith J. , 1976
Driscoll, Richard S. ; Reppert, Jack N. ; Heller, Robert C. , 1974
Driscoll, R. S. ; Currie, P. O. ; Morris, M. J. , 1972
Driscoll, Richard S. ; Reppert, Jack N. ; Heller, Robert C. ; Carneggie, David M. , 1970
Currie, Pat O. , 1969
Currie, Pat O. , 1967
Heede, Burchard H. , 1967
Malechek, John C. , 1966
Currie, Pat O. , 1966
Currie, Pat O. ; Hammer, F. L. , 1965
Schuster, J. L. ; Wasser, C. H. , 1964
Love, L. D. , 1959
Johnson, W. M. ; Reid, Elbert H. , 1958
Price, Raymond ; Hoover, M. D. ; Martinelli, M. Jr. ; Horton, Jerome S. ; Goodell, B. C. ; Rich, L. R. ; Orr, Howard ; Brown, H. E. ; Dortignac, E. J. ; Palpant, E. H. ; Decker, J. P. ; Kovner, Jacob L. ; Frank, Bernard ; Osborne, J. G. ; Sims, I. H. , 1957
Hull, A. C. Jr. ; Johnson, W. M. , 1955
Hervey, D. F. ; Johnson, W. M. , 1954
Johnson, Wallace M. , 1954
Johnson W. M., , 1951
Johnson, W. M. ; Dunford, E. G. ; Hansen, T. W. , 1948
Klipple, G. E. , 1946

Publications (Non RMRS)

Stine, Peter A. 2016. Forest Service Research and Development: strategic vision for the experimental forests and ranges network. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-935. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 198 p.

Adams, Mary Beth; Loughry, Linda; Plaugher, Linda, comps. 2008. Experimental Forests and Ranges of the USDA Forest Service. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-321 Revised. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station. 178 p. [CD ROM]

Adams, Mary Beth; Loughry, Linda; Plaugher, Linda, comps. 2008. Manitou Experimental Forest (Colorado). In: Experimental forests and ranges of the USDA Forest Service. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-321, revised. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station. p. 131-133.

Shepperd, Wayne D.; Edminster, Carleton B. 1997. The value of long-term silvicultural research studies. In: Communicating the role of silviculture in managing the national forests: Proceedings of the National Silviculture Workshop. 1997 May 19-22; Warren, PA.: Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-238. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 110-114.

Heller, Robert C., technical coordinator. 1975. Evaluation of ERTS-1 data for forest and rangeland surveys. Res. Pap. PSW-RP-112. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 67 p

Ecological Information

The dry climate usually receives 70 percent of its average annual 15.6 inches (39.6 centimeters) of precipitation in the growing season (April through August). Winters are cold and dryer than the growing season, with snow possible from late September to late May.

Soils come from the weakly structured Pikes Peak granite and are highly erodible. Most soils are poor, with little organic matter except in riparian areas.

Manitou includes grassland parks, willow fields along streams, sagebrush, and oak brush areas. The experimental forest is representative of the montane ponderosa pine zone in the Front Range, which extends from southern Wyoming to northern New Mexico. Ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, and aspen grow above roughly 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) in elevation. Lodgepole pine grows at higher elevations on the eastern boundary of the forest.  Englemann spruce and blue spruce grow in the wetter areas.

Research – Historical and Present

Land managers and others learn about the research conducted at Manitou during a field trip.
Land managers and others learn about the research conducted at Manitou during a field trip.
Today, research at Manitou explores ponderosa pine ecosystems, the disturbance regimes active within them, and ways to best manage these urban-interface forests. Researchers are evaluating forest management techniques to restore fire-dependent forests to a healthy condition. Studies also include fire history, fuels assessment, quantifying soil heat fluxes during prescribed burning under a spectrum of fuel loadings, insect and bird biology, dwarf mistletoe ecology, and a major effort to assess human values and preferences in urban-wildland interface forests.

Manitou hosts several research initiatives:

  • Meteorological Research
  • Forest Ecology Research
    • Precipitation manipulation studies
    • Ecological effects of fuels treatments
    • Long-term silviculture study
    • Hayman Fire hydrology
    • Recovery of understory vegetation after the Hayman Fire
  • Wildlife Biology Research
    • Long-Term Flammulated Owl Study: Brian Linkhart,  a professor at Colorado College, manages a long-term study of flammulated owls in the Manitou Experimental Forest and the Colorado Front Range.
    • Long-term pollinator study
    • Foodweb studies

See An annotated bibliography of scientific literature on research and management activities conducted in Manitou Experimental Forest for more details on Manitou EF research.

Long-term Monitoring and Data

  • There are temperature and precipitation records for the headquarters weather station since 1937. Continuous hourly temperature, precipitation, and wind and soil temperature data have been available in electronic format since 1998.

  • A National Atmospheric Deposition Program collection site has been on the Manitou for more than 20 years and a NOAA satellite weather station has been located at headquarters for a number of years.

  • Streamflow and water-quality data for Trout Creek were recorded and published for some years.

  • Long-term (30-year) growth records for ponderosa pine plots thinned to various stocking levels are also available. Seedfall records from shelterwood and seed-tree overstory plots, natural seedling germination and survival, and growth and survival data for planted trees are available from 1981 to 2001. Unfortunately, this study burned in the Hayman Fire of June 2002.

  • A population of flammulated owls has been monitored on the Manitou since 1978.

Data for Manitou Experimental Forest available through the USFS R&D Data Archive

Facilities Information

Lodge on the Manitou Experimental Forest in the early 1900s (top) and today (bottom).
Lodge on the Manitou Experimental Forest in the early 1900s (top) and today (bottom).
Manitou Experimental Forest is located 28 miles (45 kilometers) northwest of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and covers about 26 square miles (67 square kilometers) in the South Platte River drainage. Elevations range from about 7,500 to 9,300 feet (2,300 to 2,800 meters).

Manitou has excellent facilities. Most of the buildings were constructed in the late 1930s by the Works Progress Administration out of locally quarried stone, and are listed on the National (and Colorado) Register of Historic Places. Buildings include a large lodge for meetings and housing for research field crews (available for a nominal fee), an office/laboratory, manager's residence, and two large garages, one with a shop. Also available are a small bunkhouse and a barn/shed storage area. A concrete pad with RV hookups and an officially designated helipad complete the headquarters facilities.

The lodge can accommodate 45 people for meetings in its grand dining room and parlor. It has a full kitchen and bathrooms, and sleeps 18 people. The bunkhouse also has a small kitchen/living room, private bathroom, and a large bedroom that sleeps 4 people. The nightly room rate is $20 per person.

To stay at the lodge or bunkhouse, reservations must made with Steve Alton.  If you plan a class, conference or meeting, a reservation is required. A person, group, or university planning to begin a research project within the Manitou Experimental Forest must submit requests to Paula Fornwalt, scientist in charge, for approval.


Manitou Experimental Forest
232 County Road 79
Woodland Park, Colorado 80863
(719) 687-3034

Driving Directions

Please check in at the office, which is the building on your left as you enter the headquarters area.

Map from the Springs

Map from Denver

Proximity to 67


Research Opportunities

Manitou Experimental Forest’s location and composition of ownership parcels makes it ideal for studies of wildland-urban interface interactions, recreational values, and land management effects on water quality delivered to urban areas. A major state highway cuts through the experimental forest, and Manitou is close to the Denver and Colorado Springs metropolitan areas. Manitou contains and is adjacent to several picnic and campground areas administered by the Pikes Peak Ranger District. The experimental forest contains several small, private inholdings, as well as a major housing subdivision that occupies more than 700 acres (2.8 square kilometers).

Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists, university partners, and scientists from other agencies conduct research at Manitou. Manitou welcomes collaborative research opportunities that fit within the overall research goals of the Rocky Mountain Research Station and are compatible with other ongoing research at Manitou. All research at Manitou Experimental Forest requires an approved study plan, regardless of type, extent, duration, or impact.

Sharing Data from the EFR

The Experimental Forest and Range Network encourages re-use of the data collected by its members. We also recognize the importance to our participating scientists of receiving proper credit for the contribution their data make to other projects. It is also important to both our scientists and Forest Service Research and Development that we understand who is using the EFR Network data. The scientists use this information in their performance reviews; FS R&D uses it to guide decisions on allocation of resources (e.g., to Web-based access to data, repackaging of Data Products for particular audiences, etc.) and for its performance review with Congress. Therefore, most EFR Network research data are covered by a data use agreement. If you are familiar with the Long-Term Ecological Research network, you will notice that this agreement has been modeled on their agreement. 

Please note that the network does not judge the quality or appropriateness of the data use that you as a potential user of our data describe in the agreement.

If you have conducted a research study on this experimental forest, we would be interested in helping you make these data available to the scientific community and the public. We are available to help with dataset preparation and metadata development.

Benefits to archiving data through the R&D Data Archive:

  1. Long-term preservation of data; and
  2. Assignment of a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), which can be used to track data usage.

Please contact Paula Fornwalt for more information.


The Manitou Experimental Forest has a long history of collaborating with other agencies, museums and universities, as well as nonaffiliated, privately funded researchers.  Our collaborators include:

US Geological Survey

Colorado State University

Colorado College

Colorado School of Mines

University of Colorado

University of California

Denver Museum of Nature and Science