Ashley National Forest

Ashley National Forest is a National Forest found in northeastern Utah and southwestern Wyoming. Within the boundaries of this forest are 1,382,346 acres in Utah and 96,223 acres in Wyoming of vast forests, lakes, and mountains with elevations ranging from 6,000 to 13,500 feet. It covers portions of Daggett, Summit, Uintah, Duchesne, and Utah counties in Utah and Sweetwater County in Wyoming. Some of the most popular landmarks in this forest include the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and the Uinta Mountains, which contains the highest mountain peak in Utah. It also includes 276,175 acres, or about 60.5 percent of the High Uintas Wilderness. The headquarters for this national forest are located in Vernal, Utah with ranger district offices in Vernal; Duchesne, Utah; Manila, Utah; Roosevelt, Utah; and Green River, Wyoming.

Petroglyphs found throughout the Forest propose that the land had been hunted for centuries by Indians before being discovered. The first white men believed to have set foot in the national forest were the Spanish explorers Dominques and Escalante in 1776. The forest, however, was not thoroughly explored until the early 19th century when General W.H. Ashley, an organizer of a fur company, began searching for an outlet to the Gulf of Mexico for his business. General Ashley and his team started making their way up the Green River in the spring of 1825. After passing through the Flaming Gorge, General Ashley was convinced by the local Indians to turn around and head back up the Uinta Mountains. During this exploration, General Ashley wrote and hung his name out over one of the rivers that he had explored, which now lies below the water of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir; this is how Ashley National Forest got its name. Many other explorers would come and explore the forest, and eventually the first settlement was made in 1872. It was settled by Captain Pardon Dodds, who brought about 2,000 cattle into the Uinta Basin. In a few years, all of the bordering ranges were completely stocked with cattle and horses.

On July 1st of 1908, by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt, Ashley National Forest was formed. The general boundaries of this forest remained unchanged until 1953. The entire north slope of the Uinta Mountains was transferred to the Wasatch National Forest, while Ashley National Forest received the Rock Creek and the Duchesne River drainages. President Lyndon B. Johnson added about 120,000 acres to the Forest when he established the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area as part of Ashley National Forest in the year 1968. Since then, there have only been small boundary changes to the Forest.

With more than 2.5 million visitors each year, Ashley National Forest offers many various recreational activities to its guests. It contains four main byways to drive on, which take visitors through many different landmarks that can be found in the forest and offers them a chance to see a variety of forms of wildlife. For people who have a preference for walking, the forest contains over 1,000 miles of hiking trails. These trails cover the entire forest, taking the hikers from extensive forests to rugged mountains. Many of these trails are designed for off road vehicles as well, such as ATVs, snowmobiles, and motorcycles. Along the trails there are many campgrounds that are available to visitors. During the winter months, there are two facilities located in the forest called Yurts that provide cross-country skiers with overnight room rentals to escape the cold. There are also many lakes and rivers located throughout the forest, which allows the guests to take in some fishing while visiting. There are also some bodies of water in the forest that are designated for motorized water-crafts.

Image Caption: Naturalist Basin in Ashley National Forest. Credit: summitcheese/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)