Robinson Forest

Robinson Forest, managed for research, teaching and Extension education by the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, is one of the largest research and educational forests in the eastern United States.  Robinson Forest is a collection of eight tracts totaling 14,800 acres, and is located on the Cumberland Plateau in southeastern Kentucky.

The forest was conveyed in trust to the University of Kentucky in 1923 by the E.O.Robinson Mountain Fund for the purposes of agricultural experiment work, teaching, and the demonstration of reforestation.  The virgin timber was logged from Robinson Forest prior to 1923.  However, continued protection from mining, commercial logging, and fire has resulted in a healthy second growth forest.  The plant communities in Robinson Forest are excellent examples of the mixed mesophytic type, which is characterized by high diversity of species and complex structure.  The variable, dissected topography of Robinson Forest contributes to a wide variety of microclimatic conditions of sites and provides a unique outdoor laboratory in which to conduct long-term forest research.

Since the formation of the formal Department of Forestry at the University of Kentucky in 1970, there has been continuous research in several forestry related disciplines:

  • Wood utilization: projects in wood properties and processing characteristics of underutilized hardwoods, the feasibility of solar drying hardwood lumber, and the use of hardwoods for pencil manufacture.
  • Forest ecology: the availability and use of nutrients in the forest relative to harvesting practices and soil characteristics.
  • Silviculture: the effects of previous agricultural land use and thinning patterns on the regeneration and development of second-growth forests.
  • Hydrology: the effects on stream water quantity and quality of various clear-cut harvesting techniques.
  • Additional research: tree physiology, wildlife ecology and management, and Christmas tree production.

A camp site on the Forest, built by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, provides housing for students and research and Extension personnel.  Buildings built mainly from American chestnut lumber, salvaged from the forest after mortality caused by the American chestnut blight, can accommodate about 40 people at a time.  The forest camp is used annually in the summer to house junior forestry students for their eight-week field session, during which they are taught the field basics of dendrology, ecology, measurements, silviculture, wildlife management, and wood utilization.  During the rest of the year, graduate students use the camp as a base for field work related to their theses, and various classes visit for weekend field trips.

The Robinson Forest Camp facilities are open for users and uses that fall under the goals and objectives of the University of Kentucky, further the land grant mission, and are consistent with educational, research, and service opportunities focused on forest, natural resource and conservation subjects. These criteria allow for a wide range of users and uses and evaluation of each proposed facility use is based on these criteria.  Individuals interested in the use of the camp facilities at Robinson Forest should visit

The forest is also used by Extension forestry specialists for a variety of programs.  Several training programs for county agents with specialties in agriculture, 4-H and home economics have been held there.  Workshops and seminars for forest landowners and other groups have been conducted in subjects such as production of quality lumber from hardwoods, other forest commodities, and tree identification.  The Forest's facilities have also been used by various groups outside the Forestry Department for educational programs in ecology, entomology, environmental education for elementary school teachers, and scouting.

In addition to these existing programs, there is a new program to establish forest resource demonstration areas in different tracts of Robinson Forest.  These areas will illustrate various silvicultural practices which can be applied in hardwood forests.  Once the different practices have been implemented, continuous measurements will help to evaluate which practices are biologically and economically most effective under the conditions common to most of eastern Kentucky and to much of the Appalachian area.

Nearly half of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is in commercially valuable forest land.  Ninety percent of this land is in private ownership, and almost all of that is in the hands of farmers with small land holdings.  Much of the data gleaned from the wise use and experimentation at Robinson Forest ultimately provides valuable information to the private landowners for effective management of their own forested lands.

Robinson Forest Address:
617 Clemons Fork Road
Clayhole, KY 41317 
Tel: 606-666-9995 
Fax: 606-666-9995