Christopher Leeser, USDA Forest Service Fall 2023
Just one hundred years ago, the 514,183 acres that became Allegheny National Forest were by and large a desolate, wildfire-ravaged landscape. Timber harvesting, the oil boom, and the subsequent railroad logging era had stripped the mountains of their trees, leaving not much more than a brush patch and streams choked with mud. Gifford Pinchot, the Father of American Forestry, and other conservation pioneers had the vision to restore our Nations’ forests for the benefit of future generations.
The Weeks Act of 1911 empowered the nascent US Forest Service to protect watersheds and produce timber by purchasing forested, cutover, or denuded lands. The headwaters of the Allegheny River was chosen to become a national forest. The first parcel of land totaling 32,000 acres was approved for purchase in 1922, setting the stage for President Calvin Coolidge to establish the Allegheny National Forest on September 24, 1923. There was much work to be done, especially if the Forest were to realize the potential identified by L.L. Bishop, the first forest supervisor.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) program brought the ingenuity and muscle to get forest restoration work moving forward. The CCC enlisted single men aged 18 to 25 to work on improving America’s public lands. The second CCC camp in the Nation was established in the Allegheny National Forest. The Forest hosted 16 CCC camps from 1933 – 1942. The CCC boys’ legacy of recreation areas, buildings, roads, trails, erosion control, and reforestation work is evident throughout the forest. They are among the twelve points of interest related to their enduring work that await your discovery using the National Forest Explorer app.
Over decades, forest service scientists investigated methods to overcome ecological problems. They collaborated with foresters to implement plans that have resulted in the resilient second-growth forest that has reclaimed the once-scarred mountainsides. Forest Supervisor Bishop’s words in 1925 were prophetic, “With the further extension of the highway systems and the completion of the Allegheny purchase program, thousands will annually seek the region for pleasant and wholesome out-of-door recreation.” That is indeed what came to pass. Each year hundreds of thousands of people pursue their happiness through the outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities available to them in the reforested northwestern corner of Pennsylvania.
The 100th anniversary is the perfect time to immerse yourself in the diverse history and revel in the conservation success story that is Allegheny National Forest. To mark the centennial, two special trail activities have been created to assist visitors in exploring the ANF.
Centennial Hiking Challenge- Hike 100 Miles to Commemorate 100 Years
Hike one hundred miles of the best and most beautiful trails in the Allegheny National Forest in honor of the ANF Centennial. Begin your challenge by downloading your trail log from www.fs.usda.gov/detail/allegheny/learning/history-culture. Choosing from the trails listed on the website is recommended, but you can select others from within the ANF, making sure they add up to one hundred miles. Remember to mark the date, trail name, and miles hiked on your log on your journey. When you complete one hundred miles, bring your hiking log to one of the ranger stations in Bradford, Marienville, Warren, or the ANF Visitors Bureau in Bradford to receive your commemorative camping mug and wooden coaster while supplies last.
ANF Centennial Geocache Trail
This commemorative geocache trail has been created to connect the American public to the outdoors, encourage families to explore the national forest and provide educational and recreational opportunities for trail users. If you are new to geocaching, it is like hunting for buried treasure, except you are using a GPS unit, clues found online, and the target is a variety of items or codes contained within the hidden cache. For this geocache, you will be retrieving a specific code. The first step in enjoying this trail is to register on www.geocaching.com. Once registered, participants can retrieve the coordinates and other location information. The next step is to pick up your passport from the ranger stations or download it from www.pennsoil.org. Then follow the instructions to be eligible for an ANF Centennial Souvenir Token trackable on geocaching.com.
Centennial Celebration at Twin Lakes Recreation Area
The ANF Centennial Celebration will be September 14, 2023, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Twin Lakes Recreation Area within the Allegheny National Forest close to Wilcox, PA. A full day of fun and educational activities planned include guided nature hikes, interpretive displays on research and conservation work currently underway in the Forest, live music, swimming, children’s activities, and face painting. Food and beverage vendors and local business vendors will be onsite. A celebratory cake and a live musical performance will complete the celebration. Admission is free. Overnight stays may be reserved at the Twin Lakes Recreation Area campground.
To learn more about the history of the Allegheny National Forest, outdoor recreation opportunities, and additional special centennial events, please visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/ANFCentennial.