Cane Creek State Park, AR

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Jess Riddle
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Cane Creek State Park, AR

Post by Jess Riddle » Mon Mar 10, 2014 9:48 pm

Nts,

In southern Arkansas, the West Gulf Coastal Plain stretches from the Mississippi River embayment to the Oklahoma state line. Rain falls on this region of noticeable but subdued topography in quantities comparably to most of the southeastern United States, but tapers to only about two inches and a half in August when highs average over 90 degrees. Winters still regularly bring hard frosts. Those climatic differences and less sandy soils than the Atlantic Coastal Plain may account for the absence of some iconic species like southern magnolia, live oak, and longleaf pine. Forestry is the largest industry in the region. Not surprisingly, forests cover most of the region, but mature forests are scarce, especially large tracts open to the public. Hence, the 2000 acres of mature forest at Cane Creek State Park represent a significant tract for the region.

The park lies adjacent to the Mississippi embayment on the eastern edge of the West Gulf Coastal Plain in southeastern Arkansas. The whole park tilts gently to the northeast, a plain dissected by several meandering streams that have cut valleys 20 to 30 feet deep. Rounded quartz pebbles in the soil attest to the larger streams that originally laid down the sediments the smaller streams have carved through. The sediments surrounding the quartz pebbles are clay rich, so the plateaus between the streams drain poorly and you still have to watch where you step on the trails a week after the last good rain. About a dozen miles of well-maintained trails wind through the parks forests.
Rustling in the leaves usually means one of these
Rustling in the leaves usually means one of these
Hogs do well with the combination of abundant mast and no hunting too
Hogs do well with the combination of abundant mast and no hunting too
Oaks and pines dominate the plateaus between the streams. The pines usually occur in discrete stands, though they sometimes grow scattered amongst the oaks, and loblolly is far more abundant than shortleaf in most areas. The most common oaks are southern red and post with white oak in better drained areas. White oak also dominates in the smaller ravines while the larger ravines are more mixed with significant sweetgum and cherrybark oak. The alluvial areas also feature a well-developed mistory of hornbeam and hophornbeam, which also occurs in some adjacent upland area. The short slopes that separate the uplands from bottomlands feature also feature a distinct mix of species. Bitternut hickory, black walnut, and shumard oak reach their greatest abundance in that habitat, and chinkapin oak is restricted to the northwest facing slopes along one of the larger streams.
One of the more post oak dominated stands
One of the more post oak dominated stands
While walking through this forest what struck me was the diversity of oaks. Overall tree diversity was fairly high for the region at 49 species, but 12 of them were oaks. I’ve visited sites in Georgia and South Carolina where I’ve seen nine oak species in a day, but never more than that. Cane Creek State Park includes upland oaks like post and southern red and bottomland oaks like willow and swamp chestnut. The oaks also range from nutrient demanding species like shumard to poor soil toleraters like blackjack. The warm and moist but drought prone climate may contribute to oaks thriving on such a variety of sites.
CaneCreekSPMeasurements1.JPG
CaneCreekSPMeasurements1.JPG (58.8 KiB) Viewed 990 times
CaneCreekSPMeasurements2.JPG
CaneCreekSPMeasurements2.JPG (59 KiB) Viewed 990 times
10’7” cbh x 109.9’ loblolly pine
10’7” cbh x 109.9’ loblolly pine
The tallest tree in the park, 131.4’, likely a shumard oak hybrid
The tallest tree in the park, 131.4’, likely a shumard oak hybrid
I measured many of these trees just to have a reference number for Arkansas, and to come up with a Rucker index for the site. Almost all of these trees grow either on the bluffs or bottomland areas. The difference between the Rucker index, 123.24’, and the maximum height for the site, 131.4’, is remarkably small. The id of the basswood as Carolina still needs to be confirmed. I had LiDAR data, so I’m fairly certain I saw the tallest tree and visited the highest canopy areas. However, a broader and wetter bottomland area dominated by sweetgum and cherrybark oak just west of the park reaches slightly greater heights.
The 9’0” cbh  x 119.4’ shagbark hickory is not a vampire
The 9’0” cbh x 119.4’ shagbark hickory is not a vampire
Jess

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