Custer National Forest

Custer National Forest is mostly located in the state of Montana, with some areas located in South Dakota. This national forest is comprised of ten sections that equal 1,188,130 acres of land, which are separated into three ranger districts known as Ashland, Beartooth, and Sioux. It was created on March 2, 1907 as Otter National Forest, but was renamed in 1908 as Custer National Forest. In 1920, Sioux National Forest was added and in 1932, part of Beartooth National Forest was added. The forest holds many Native American burial grounds, petroglyphs, and pictographs. It is thought that Lewis and Clark were the first white Americans to visit the area, which was once used for hunting and shelter by the plains Indians.

Western areas of Custer National Forest are part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and contain fir, pine, and spruce trees. This area has a cooler climate with abundant rainfall, which supports a variety of animals including bison, black bears, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep. Part of Granite Peak resides within this national forest, with the remainder residing in Gallatin National Forest, and the forest is also home to Grasshopper Glacier, which holds millions of grasshoppers that are thought to have died three hundred years ago. Eastern areas of the forest are grasslands and forest “islands.” These areas are dominated by ponderosa pine stands and grasslands, supporting many animals including elk, antelope, and merlins, a small species of falcon.

Custer National Forest offers visitors 1,500 miles of hiking trails, as well as thirty easily accessible campgrounds. Visitors can fish in some areas of the forest, but the waterways are not large enough for boating. Eastern areas of the forest are considered important to conservationists, loggers, and ranchers.

Image Caption: Male mountain goat crossing a rocky moraine in front of Granite Peak. Credit: Hike395/Wikipedia