Wind River Experimental Forest

Forest research in the Wind River area, just north of the Columbia River in Washington, dates back to the early years of the Forest Service. In 1908, Thornton T. Munger was assigned to the Forest Service's new North Pacific District in Portland, Oregon. Almost immediately, Munger began detailed studies of the Douglas fir trees found in the western Cascades, establishing research plots in the Wind River area of the Columbia National Forest (renamed the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in 1949). During these same years another forester from the Portland office, Julius Kummel, began planning a nursery in the area. Kummel chose a spot near the Hemlock Ranger Station on the Columbia National Forest and established nursery operations. Further expanding his own research operations, Munger established the Wind River Arboretum in 1912. The arboretum was established to test the suitability of exotic trees to the specific climate and conditions of the Pacific Northwest.

The amount of research work taking place at Wind River, along with the existing nursery and arboretum, made the area a natural fit for a permanent Forest Service research site. Having established the first experiment station in Arizona in 1908, the agency was interested in a similar site for the Pacific Northwest. In 1913, the Wind River Experiment Station was officially designated by the Forest Service, and J. V. Hofmann was hired to be its director.

Wind River Nursery, October 1937.
Wind River Nursery, October 1937.

The Wind River Experiment Station was replaced by the Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station in 1924, with Thornton Munger now as director. Research continued at Wind River, and in 1932 the area was officially designated as part of the Wind River Experimental Forest.

Wind River has maintained its position as an influential forest research site. Early studies of Douglas fir forest management have evolved into important research on old-growth forests, wildlife, biological diversity, and global carbon cycling. Munger’s pioneering research legacy at Wind River was permanently honored following his death, when the Thornton T. Munger Research Natural Area was officially designated on the Wind River Forest in 1977.

Additional Resources:

Herring, Margaret and Sarah Greene. "Forest of Time: Research at the Wind River Experimental Forest 1908-1919," from Forest History Today, Spring/Fall 2001.

Silen, Roy R. and Leonard R. Woike. "The Wind River Arboretum 1912-1956," USFS Research Paper 33, October 1959.

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