Daniel Boone National Forest

The Daniel Boone National Forest is the only national forest that is completely within the boundaries of Kentucky. When it was established in 1937, it was originally named the Cumberland National Forest, after the core region called the Cumberland Purchase Unit. Roughly 2,100,000 acres are encompassed within its current proclamation boundary, of which 706,000 acres are owned and managed by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, up from about 620,000 acres in the early to mid-1990s.

This forest gets its name from Daniel Boone, a frontiersman and explorer in the late 18th century who contributed significantly to the exploration and settlement of Kentucky.

The forest surrounds or includes various popular and notable features including one of the world’s largest concentrations of caves, Cave Run Lake, Laurel River Lake, Red River Gorge, Buckhorn Lake, Sheltowee Trace Trail, Yahoo Arch and Yahoo Falls, Natural Bridge State Park, Cumberland Falls, Rock Creek Research Natural Area, Clifty Wilderness, and Beaver Creek Wilderness.

In 1937, a national forest was established encompassing 1,338,214 acres within its proclamation boundary. As of June 1937, the Forest Service had bought only 336,692 acres. The majority of the early purchases were large and isolated tracts owned by lumber and coal companies with few inhabitants. The service has since had difficulty obtaining more land within the proclamation boundary, the bulk of which was, and still is, small owner-operated farms.

Partly because of World War II, funds for land acquisition were shortened in the early 1940s. Significant acquisition efforts couldn’t resume until the middle of the 1960s. The lengthy termination of land acquisitions, except for a period during the forest’s renaming, caused a highly fragmented ownership pattern.

Naming the forest involved considerable debate. The name Daniel Boone National Forest was supported by a variety of groups, and was favored by the majority of local leaders in Kentucky, before the area’s formal designation as the Cumberland National Forest soon after its inception. Protests were initiated immediately after the national forest was named.

The naming issues were reopened in the late 1950s. The Forest Service investigated the name Cumberland and found it came to Kentucky in 1750 when Thomas Walker named the Cumberland River honoring Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. The Duke had defeated the Scottish Highlanders in 1946 at the Battle of Culloden, a particularly brutal conflict. A lot of Scottish families fled to America and ultimately Kentucky as a result of the event. The Forest Service found that for the descendants still residing in eastern Kentucky, the name ‘Cumberland’ was especially distasteful.

Additionally, the service noted the influence of history on the names of places in Kentucky. While the settlement of the area began before the American Revolution, the population grew dramatically after the Revolutionary War, when many veterans received land grants in reward for service in the military. During this period of time, place names with British connotations fell out of favor and alterations were made.

During the 1960s, a new movement to rename the forest took place. The Kentucky Senate passed a resolution in 1966 persuading the Forest Service to change the name to Daniel Boone National Forest, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation so renaming the forest in 1966.

Also during the 60s, part of the national forest was designed a Primitive Weapons Area and set apart for hunting with longbow, muzzle-loading firearms, and crossbow. In 1970, this was the only US area where deer could legally be hunted with crossbows. The park remains special still for allowing only muzzle-loaded firearms.

In 1967, a large and disconnected addition to the forest was established, called the Redbird Purchase Unite, after a main purchase from the Red Bird Timber Company. According to Robert F. Collins of the Forest Service, Thomas R. Frazier was the first District Ranger of the Redbird Purchase Unite, and can be credited for being a major factor in the success of the Redbird land purchasing unit.

Image Caption: View from Tater Knob in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, USA. Credit: Mzzl/Wikipedia