Eldorado National Forest

Desolation Wilderness, Eldorado National Forest
Desolation Wilderness, Eldorado National Forest (US Geological Survey)

The gross area of the Forest is 786,994 acres. This total contains 190,270 acres of other ownership. A complicated ownership pattern exists. The parcels of other ownership are mostly isolated and surrounded on all sides by government land. An opposite pattern occurs outside the Forest boundary where several small scattered pieces of National Forest lands are separated from the main body and surrounded by lands of other ownership.

The Eldorado National Forest ranges in elevation from 1,000 feet in the foothills to more than 10,000 feet above sea level along the Sierra crest. This mountainous topography is broken by steep canyons of the Mokelumne, Cosumnes, American, and Rubicon rivers. Plateaus of generally moderate relief are located between these steep canyons.

The principle vegetative types found on the Forest are woodland, chaparral, mixed conifer, true fir, and subalpine. The major commercial Forest species are white fir, red fir, ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine, sugar pine, Douglas-fir, and incense cedar. A wide variety of hardwoods, brush, grasses, and fortes are mixed in with each of these Forest types.

The extremely diverse soils of the Eldorado National Forest are the result of a variety of soil-forming factors. These factors include climate, vegetation, topography, geology, temperature, and time. Principle landforms occurring within the Forest fall within the three categories of canyonland, upland, and glaciated mountain slopes.

Four broad classes of geologic materials (metamorphic, volcanic, granitic, and glacial deposits) add to the diversity of the soils. Soil suitability for tree growth can change rapidly within very short distances due to these various combinations of soil-forming factors and resulting soil patterns.

Water is a major resource of the Eldorado National Forest. The average acre on the Forest receives about 56 inches of precipitation annually. Average annual runoff is about 29 inches. This is roughly equal to a yield of 2.4 acre-feet of water per acre of land per year; therefore, National Forest lands yield an estimated 1,444,000 acre-feet annually. Surface waters of the Eldorado are of excellent quality year-round.

Water flowing from the forest is used for hydroelectric power production as well as municipal, industrial, and agricultural purposes. There are six mayor hydroelectric projects in operation on the Forest. Four of them are licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and two are Bureau of Reclamation projects. Approximately 75 percent of the surface acres of water within the Forest are man-made impoundments.

Approximately 4,085 cattle graze under permit in the Forest for a 3-1/2 month period during the summer and fall. This grazing provides 12,000 animal unit months (AUMS) of summer-fall range for 24 permittees whose home ranches are located in the foothills to the west of the Forest. The Eldorado administers an additional 4,750 AUMS on waived private land.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 12 Oct 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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