About Field Sites
West St. Louis Creek (WLOU) is an aquatic site within the 93 km2 (23,000 acre) Fraser Experimental Forest near Winter Park, Colorado. It is a high elevation mountain stream at around 2902 m (9521 ft.) just west of the Continental Divide. The streams drains a 4.9 km2 (1210 acre) watershed and the forest is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. A water diversion feature is present just downstream of WLOU, and aids in bring water from Saint Louis and Vasquez Creeks to the City of Denver. WLOU is part of NEON's Southern Rockies and Colorado Plateau Domain (D13). D13 has one other aquatic site and two terrestrial sites. WLOU is not colocated with a terrestrial site.   
WLOU is located in the Southern Rockies, which, due to elevational changes, have a climate characterized by dramatic differences in precipitation and temperature over very short distances. In general, precipitation decreases and temperature increases with a decrease in elevation. Summers at WLOU are generally cool, while winters are long and cold. Snowfall and temperature are highly dependent on local elevation, and the site stays fairly humid. Average annual temperature is 1.5°C (34.7°F). Precipitation averages annually at 655 mm (25.8 in.). Roughly two-thirds of this occurs as snow from October to May.   
The geology at this site is characterized by schist, migmatite, and biotitic gneiss. 
Gravel and stone soils are typical of Fraser Experimental Forest owing to the rocky parent material. 
WLOU is a high elevation, wadeable stream with pools and some channelization. Stream substrate consists of boulders, cobbles, pebbles, and woody debris. Where the NEON sensors are located, bank width varies from 2.3 m to 2.8 m, and bank height varies from 1.2 m to 1.8 m. The hydrology of the site is dominated by snowmelt. 
Vegetation communities in the Fraser Experimental Forest separate out according to elevation. Upper elevations are characterized by alpine tundra. Below the timberline, subapline fir (Abies lasiocarpa) and Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) dominate, while lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) is commonly seen at lower elevations. Understory herbaceous vegetation is sparse but contains various forb, sedge, and grass species. There are two endemic alpine species: purple-leaf groundsel (Ligularia soldanella) and Rocky Mountain nailwort (Paronchyia pulvinata), plus one lower elevation endemic, wood-rush (Luzula subcapitata).  
At WLOU, NEON collects data on the following fauna groups: benthic microbes, fish, aquatic macroinvertebrates, and zooplankton. Notable species include the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and a multitude of EPT (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera) indicator insect taxa.
Past Land Management and Use
The forest around WLOU has history of disturbance. In 1685 there was a massive, stand-reducing fire. In the 1950s, much of the forest was clearcut for timber. The Fraser Experimental Forest has a robust research history of studying the effects of disturbances like these and is noted as one of the few sites in the Rocky Mountains with a continued history of ecological monitoring. Research from 1940-1985 focused on timber management, tree physiology, harvesting forest products, watershed management and soils, fire and atmospheric sciences, water yield, sediments and soils, measurement techniques and instrumentation, wildlife habitat management, range management, and forest disease. The forest was also a member of the Man and the Biosphere Program from 1976-2017. This UNESCO program recognizes sites that promote and protect cultural and ecological diversity. The forest, along with many others worldwide, voluntarily withdrew from the program in 2017 when stipulations made it such that people needed to live within the preserve. The Fraser Experimental Forest does not have residents, but continues to be an important site for ecological research.   
Current Land Management and Use
The Fraser Experimental Forest is owned and operated by the U.S. Forest Service. Management actions serve two purposes: to maintain public-used hiking trails and to facilitate the hundreds of ongoing research projects taking place at this site. 
NEON Site Establishment
Initial site characterization at WLOU was completed June 2016. A Sampling Readiness Review was completed May 2017. Initial operations capability/capacity review was completed September 2017 for AOS, and again October 2017 for AIS. Transition to full operations was complete by November 2017.
1] Vance, J. 2015. Aquatic Instrument System (AIS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 13. NEON.DOC.002068vB.
 Fraser Experimental Forest. Retrieved from: https://www.fs.usda.gov/rmrs/experimental-forests-and-ranges/fraser-exp….
 U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia. https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mrds/
 PRISM Climate Group., Oregon State University, http://prism.oregonstate.edu, created 4 Feb 2004.
 Alexander, Robert R.; Troendle, Charles A.; Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Shepperd, Wayne D.; Crouch, Glenn L.; Watkins, Ross K. 1985. The Fraser Experimental Forest, Colorado: Research program and published research 1937-1985. General Technical Report RM-118. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 46 p.
 Popovich, Steve J.; Shepperd, Wayne D.; Reichert, Donald W.; Cone, Michael A. 1993. Flora of the Fraser Experimental Forest, Colorado. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-233. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 62 p.
 Designation of Biosphere Reserves. retrieved from: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/ecological-sc…
Remote sensing surveys of this field site collect lidar, spectrometer and high-resolution RGB camera data.
This site has one meteorological station located in the riparian area. The met station is outfitted with a subset of the same sensors used at terrestrial sites. Measurements include wind speed and direction, air temperature, barometric pressure, relative humidity, shortwave radiation, and PAR.
A phenocam is pointed toward the land-water interface of the site. Here we show the images from the most recent hour. The full collection of images can be viewed on the Phenocam Gallery - click on the image below.
Field Site Data
US Forest Service
Site Access Allowed
Site Access Details
Researchers should coordinate directly with the US Forest Service for permitting and approval.
NEON Field Operations Office
Domain 10/13 Support Facility
NEON Field Operations Address
1685 38th Street, Suite 100
Boulder, CO 80301
NEON Field Operations Phone
Mean Annual Temperature
Mean Annual Precipitation
Dominant NLCD Classes
USGS Geology Unit
USGS Geology Name
Biotitic gneiss, schist, and migmatite
USGS Lithologic Constituents
Biotitic gneiss, schist, and migmatite
USGS Geology Age
Related Field Sites
Other Domain D13 Field Sites
Other Field Sites in CO