STEPHENS STATE FOREST
The flora of the region consists of the tallgrass prairie association and the oak-hickory and bottomland hardwood timber types and their transition zones. Since the forest area is located mainly on soils which have been formed under forest vegetation, the plants of the prairie are not as common. However, big and little bluestem, switchgrass, Indian grass, prairie cordgrass and various prairie forbs such as purple coneflower, round-headed bush clover, lead plant and other prairie plants do occur on the area.
On the better upland sites, white oak, red oak and hickory are common. The oak-hickory timber type, usually found on the less fertile upland sites consists mostly of black oak, bur oak, shingle oak and hickory. The bottomland timber type on the forest includes red and white elm, cottonwood, hackberry, green ash, silver maple and black walnut.
Many areas have been planted to coniferous trees and some broad-leaved trees which are not native to the area. These include a variety of pines as well as Douglas fir, spruce, black locust, Osage orange and tulip poplar.
The forest is the home of the white tailed deer, which is abundant on the area and the largest of the fauna. Here also are fox and gray squirrels, raccoon, cottontail rabbits, woodchuck, muskrat, skunk, red and gray fox, coyote, beaver, opossum and other small animals.
Nonpoisonous snakes are common but the two poisonous species, the rattlesnake and copperhead are very rare.
There is a variety of birds native to the woodland and its borders. Numerous species of songbirds utilize the extremely varied habitat. Game birds include pheasant, numerous quail and wild turkey. The woodcock is a seasonal visitor to the area. The wild turkey stocking program, begun in 1968, was so successful that the first hunting season in modern times was held in 1974.
The forest's original and most important function is to serve as an example of forest management for Iowa's citizens. It was a base of operations for the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) demonstration plantings of hardwoods and conifers. Over the years, plantations have continued to be established. Since 1972, commercial sales of sawtimber and other products have been made. Ongoing cultural practices improve the forest for production of forest products, wildlife habitat, erosion control and watershed protection. People from a wide area use the forest as a place to hunt, fish, camp, picnic, study nature and enjoy the out-of-doors.