Tag Archives: CCC

Black Hills National Forest

Black Hills National Forest

South Dakota, Wyoming

Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region

1,534,471 acres (1,253,308 federal/ 281,163 other)

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/blackhills

Overview

Straddling the Wyoming-South Dakota border is a region known as the Black Hills, where a gold rush took place in the mid-1870s.  The area was a traditional hunting ground for American Indians and site of the sacred Bear Butte, which led to numerous conflicts.  The hills may be called black because of the ponderosa pine forests that dominate the rocky landscape that rises above the surrounding prairie.  Explore some of its 353 miles of trails on foot, drive the miles of back roads, and be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife. 

Highlights

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, Black Elk Peak, Pactola Reservoir, Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, Bridal Veil Falls, Centennial Trail, Old Baldy Trail, Flume National Recreation Trail, Buzzards Roost Trail

Must-Do Activity

In Wyoming, scenic Bear Lodge Road cuts through the forest between Sundance and Alva, east of Devils Tower National Monument.  In South Dakota, we love Black Hills National Forest because it offers tranquil dispersed camping not far from the hubbub that surrounds Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Roughlock Falls, and Deadwood.  To escape the crowds, hike a portion of the 111-mile Centennial Trail or 108-mile George S. Mickelson Rail Trail (which is free to hike or bike, but requires a parking fee at its official trailheads). 

Best Trail

Rising in the center of the Black Elk Wilderness is 7,242-foot tall Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak), the highest spot in South Dakota and the highest point in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains.  Trails to the summit start from near Mount Rushmore National Memorial (4.7 miles one-way) and Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park (parking fee, 3.8 miles one-way).

Watchable Wildlife

Elk can be found spread throughout Black Hills National Forest, but these nocturnal ungulates are elusive.  Mule deer, white-tailed deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, prairie dogs, and turkeys are more commonly sighted.  While driving past Mount Rushmore National Memorial keep an eye out for mountain goats that were introduced to this area.  Both Wind Cave National Park (free) and Custer State Park (entrance fee) have herds of bison, but fences keep them out of the National Forest.

Instagram-worthy Photo

West of Rapid City, South Dakota on Highway 44 is the trailhead for the Buzzards Roost trail system.  Loops of different lengths connect to the scenic overlook at Buzzards Roost Lookout, the shortest option being 1.1 miles one-way.

Peak Season

Summer, plus Buffalo Roundup weekend (late September)

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Iron Mountain Road (Highway 16A) is part of the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway where you will discover the meaning of the term “pigtail bridges.”  Although it cuts through Custer State Park, you do not have to pay the entrance fee if you are driving straight through.  We have found the dirt roads in Black Hills National Forest to be well maintained throughout the year.

Camping

The U.S. Forest Service operates 32 campgrounds (no RV hookups) with nominal fees, especially compared to Custer State Park.  There is also a campground at Wind Cave National Park, but we prefer dispersed camping along Forest Service roads although you have to be careful of private property boundaries.

Wilderness Areas

Black Elk Wilderness

Related Sites

Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)

Jewel Cave National Monument (South Dakota)

Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

Nearest National Park

Wind Cave (South Dakota)

Conifer Tree Species

ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, limber pine, white spruce, Rocky Mountain juniper

Flowering Tree Species

quaking aspen, paper birch, boxelder, green ash, American elm, eastern cottonwood, red osier dogwood, bur oak, hophornbeam

Explore More – When was the stone fire lookout tower atop Black Elk Peak built by the Civilian Conservation Corps?

Angelina National Forest

Angelina National Forest

Texas

Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Southern Region

402,231 acres (153,180 federal/ 249,051 other)

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/texas/home

Overview

Angelina National Forest lies in the piney woods region of eastern Texas dominated by longleaf, loblolly, and shortleaf pine trees.  In 1935, land acquisition began to create Angelina and the three other nearby National Forests it is co-managed with (Davy Crockett, Sabine, and Sam Houston).  Sam Rayburn Reservoir bisects Angelina National Forest into a north and south section in the flooded Neches River Basin.

Highlights

Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Boykin Springs Recreation Area, Caney Creek Recreation Area, Black Branch Barrens, Bouton Lake, Aldridge Sawmill Historic Site, Sawmill Trail

Must-Do Activity

Other than Sam Rayburn Reservoir, the most developed portion of the National Forest is Boykin Springs Recreation Area.  The lake, campground, and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) structures are at the end of 2.5-mile long Forest Road 313 off Highway 63.  About twenty minutes away Bouton Lake (12 acres) is located seven miles down Forest Road 303 and offers primitive camping, fishing, and an overgrown hiking trail amidst bottomland hardwoods and baldcypress trees (please respect the private property on the west side).

Best Trail

The 5.5-mile out-and-back Sawmill Trail connects Boykin Springs Recreation Area to the Aldridge Sawmill Historic Site.  The trail goes through a burn and can be hard to follow in places due to multiple user trails, so be sure to follow the yellow-painted metal markers on trees.  The sawmill has been heavily sprayed with graffiti, but if you aim your camera up to the second story it does not look as bad.  The trail that used to connect to the sawmill from Bouton Lake has been closed since it crossed private property.

Watchable Wildlife

At Boykin Springs Recreation Area we spotted a pileated woodpecker, cardinal, robins, and crows.  The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker can be found in the longleaf pine forests.  On the Sawmill Trail we saw a copperhead snake near the creek and turtles in the pond at the end.  Hunters seek white-tailed deer, wild turkey, American woodcock, and bobwhite quail in the forest, which also provides wintering habitat for bald eagles.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A cool rock spillway originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1938 drains from the nine-acre lake at Boykin Springs Recreation Area.  It was reconstructed to its original appearance in the years after Hurricane Rita hit in 2005.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Forest Road 303 to Bouton Lake is a very good dirt road, but the west side of the lake is privately owned and a one-lane road leads to a gate, so unless you want to drive backwards for a ways just park as soon as you get to the camping area.

Camping

There are developed campgrounds at Boykin Springs and Caney Creek Recreation Areas, plus an undeveloped (and free) area to camp at Bouton Lake.

Wilderness Areas

Turkey Hill Wilderness

Upland Island Wilderness

Related Sites

Big Thicket National Preserve (Texas)

Davy Crockett National Forest (Texas)

Sabine National Forest (Texas)

Nearest National Park

Hot Springs (Arkansas)

Conifer Tree Species

baldcypress, longleaf pine, shortleaf pine, loblolly pine

Flowering Tree Species

laurel oak, blackjack oak, post oak, overcup oak, swamp chestnut oak, cherrybark oak, water oak, black hickory, water hickory, red maple, American beech, American holly, yaupon holly, southern magnolia, sweetbay magnolia, swamp red bay, water tupelo, water elm, winged elm, Carolina ash, green ash, wax myrtle

Explore More – Other than looking cool, what function do the knees serve that protrude from the baldcypress root system?

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Allegheny National Forest

Allegheny National Forest

Pennsylvania

Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Region

742,693 acres (513,175 federal/ 229,518 other)

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/allegheny

Overview

The only National Forest in Pennsylvania was created in 1923 utilizing the federal government’s ability to purchase land under the Weeks Act of 1911.  However, they could not afford the subsurface or mineral rights, which has created issues in this oil-producing area.  Before it became Allegheny National Forest, most of the hillsides were clearcut to feed the area’s wood chemical plants, allowing black cherry and early successional species to dominate the second growth forests.  The National Forest contains two Wild and Scenic Rivers: the Clarion River (51.7 miles) and Allegheny River (87 miles in three separate sections).

Highlights

Allegheny National Recreation Area, Hearts Content Scenic Area, Willow Bay Recreation Area, Old Powerhouse, Timberdoodle Flats Interpretive Trail, Minister Creek, Buzzard Swamp Hiking Area, Clarion Wild and Scenic River, Allegheny Wild and Scenic River, Buckaloons Recreation Area, Hall Barn Wildlife Viewing Area, North Country National Scenic Trail

Must-Do Activity

A good place to start exploring Allegheny National Forest is by driving the Longhouse Scenic Byway, a 36-mile loop, which includes views of the Allegheny Reservoir and Kinzua Dam, plus a side trip up to Jakes Rocks Overlook.  We drove in from the east and found the easy walks on the Timberdoodle Flats Wildlife Interpretive Trail to be a good introduction to this region.  This is one of the few places in Pennsylvania with old-growth forests, so be sure to stop at Hearts Content Scenic Area or Tionesta Scenic and Research Natural Areas. 

Best Trail

Huge eastern hemlock and eastern white pine trees up to 400 years old can be found in the 20-acre Hearts Content Scenic Area.  This National Natural Landmark has a picnic area constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and is located across from a nice campground.  There are two short, flat loop trails located here, but you can also connect into 7.8 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing routes.  Other popular hiking destinations include Rimrock Trail and a 10-mile section of the North Country National Scenic Trail within the Tracy Ridge Hiking Trail System (see our post on Allegheny National Recreation Area for more information).

Watchable Wildlife

As hard as it is to believe given their prevalence now, low populations of white-tailed deer in the 1920s allowed this new National Forest to grow back quickly.  Campers should exercise caution with their food and trash since black bears are in the area.  Turkeys, bald eagles, barred owls, Canada geese, black-capped chickadees, and pileated woodpeckers are common bird species.  Hall Barn Wildlife Viewing Area is known for its summer population of 1,000 roosting bats.  There is also evidence of beavers on the Timberdoodle Flats Wildlife Interpretive Trail.  Allegheny Reservoir has walleye, trout, bass, catfish, northern pike, and muskellunge, and small native brook trout can be found in the Farnsworth Stream and other creeks. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

Kinzua Dam was completed in 1965 and stands 179 feet tall and 1,897 feet in length.  Kinzua is a Seneca Indian word that translates as “place of many big fishes.”  Watch for fish that gather in eddies at the edges of the Allegheny Reservoir near the dam, but remember that fishing and feeding the fish is prohibited at this spot.

Peak Season

Summer

Fees

There is an entrance fee at both Willow Bay and Buckaloons Recreation Areas, but it is half price with an America the Beautiful pass.

Road Conditions

All roads are paved to Willow Bay Recreation Area and Hearts Content Scenic Area, which are popular with RV campers. 

Camping

Allegheny National Forest contains 15 campgrounds with more than 1,000 sites, and Willow Bay Recreation Area also has cabins for rent.  We enjoyed our stay at Heart’s Content Campground, but found Buckaloons Campground to be too crowded.  Allegheny Islands Wilderness has seven islands that can be used for boat-in dispersed camping.

Wilderness Areas

Allegheny Islands Wilderness

Hickory Creek Wilderness

Related Sites

Allegheny National Recreation Area (Pennsylvania)

Grey Towers National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Fort Necessity National Battlefield (Pennsylvania)

Nearest National Park

Cuyahoga Valley (Ohio)

Conifer Tree Species

eastern hemlock, eastern white pine

Flowering Tree Species

sugar maple, black maple, red maple, striped maple, silver maple, mountain maple, yellow birch, sweet birch, black walnut, bitternut hickory, shagbark hickory, sycamore, American beech, white ash, tulip-poplar, green ash, cucumber magnolia, quaking aspen, bigtooth aspen, black cherry, pin cherry, choke cherry, northern red oak, basswood, American elm, slippery elm

Explore More – Timberdoodle is a local nickname for which native bird species that nests in this forest?