Gifford Pinchot National Forest

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a national forest found in southern Washington, USA, managed by the US Forest Service. It has an area of 1.32 million acres and extends 116 kilometers along the western slopes of Cascade Range from Mount Rainier National Park to the Columbia River. The forest straddles the crest of the South Cascades of Washington State, spread over broad old growth forests, high mountain meadows, several glaciers, and a number of volcanic peaks. The forests highest point is 12,276 feet at the top of Mount Adams, the second tallest volcano in the state. It includes the 110,000 acres Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, established by Congress in the year 1982.

This forest is one of the older national forests in the US. Included as a part of the Mount Rainier Forest Reserve in 1897, the area was set aside as the Columbia National Forest in 1908. The name was changed to Gifford Pinchot National Forest honoring Gifford Pinchot, on June 15th of 1949. In 1985 the non-profit Gifford Pinchot Task Force formed to defend the area. For over 6,000 years people have made an impact in the ecology of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Native Americans hunted in the high meadows below the receding glaciers. The natives then started to manage the forest to meet their own needs. One technique they utilized was to burn specific areas to help in the production of huckleberry. Roughly 338 spots more than 6,000 culturally modified trees were recognized, of which 3,000 are being protected now. Archaeological investigations on the forest continue to find new information to this day about the past lives of the Native Americans.

The forest gets its name after Gifford Pinchot, an active conservationist, one of the leading figures in the making of the national forest system of the United States. The forest is home to the Big Tree at the southern part of Mt. Adams, one of the world’s largest Ponderosa Trees.

This national forest is located in a mountainous region roughly between Mount St. Helens, Mt. Adams towards the east, Mt. Rainier National Park towards the north, and the Columbia River towards the south. This area of Southwest Washington is noted for its complex topography and volcanic geology. Roughly 65 percent of the forest acreage can be found in Skamania County. It lies in parts of Yakima, Cowlitz, Klickitat, and Lewis counties.

The Northwest brings plentiful rainfall to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, feeding the extensive network of rivers. The forest currently only has one river designated as Wild and Scenic, the White Salmon River, fed from the glaciers located high on Mt. Adams. The forest recommends four rivers are added to the Wild and Scenic System. They are the Cispus River, the Clear Fork and the Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz River, and the Lewis River. There are thirteen additional rivers in the forest that are being studies for consideration into the national Wild and Scenic River System.

The major streams and rivers of the forest are Cispus River, White Salmon River, Cowlitz River, Little White Salmon River, Wind River, Lewis River, Muddy River, East Canyon Creek, Skate Creek, Iron Creek, Clear Creek, Butter Creek, Siouxon Creek, Johnson Creek, and Canyon Creek.

The forest includes many popular and secluded backcountry lakes. The majority of the lakes offer great fishing. Goose Lake is well-known for the best fishing in Washington State.

Congressional action since the year 1964 has established the following wilderness areas: Goat Rocks, Glacier View Wilderness, Indian Heaven, Tatoosh, Trapper Creek, Mount Adams, William O. Douglas, and the Shark Rock Wilderness.

The forest also provides the following unique areas and points of interest: Silver Star Scenic Area, Dark Divide Roadless Area, Lava Tubes, Caves, Casts, Ape Caves, Big Lava Bend, Midway High Lakes Area, Packwood Lake, Berry Fields, and Lone Butte Wildlife Emphasis Area.

The Forest Service study that took place is 1993 estimated that the extent of old growth in the forest was 198,000 acres, some of which is contained within its wilderness areas. The forest supervisor’s office can be found in Vancouver, Washington. There are local ranger district offices in Randle, Amboy, and Trout Lake. The forest gets its name after the first chief of the US Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot. Some Washington towns close to the entrances of the forest include Packwood, Randle, Cougar, Trout Lake, and Carson.

The forest is the native habitat for several threatened and endangered species. Local endangered species include the spotted owl and the bald eagle in addition to multiple species of Northwest fish like the bull trout, coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and steelhead salmon.

Image Caption: Old Snowy Mountain, 7880+ feet, west slope of pt. 7210′ in middle distance, Pacific Crest Trail faintly visible on the latter. Credit: Walter Siegmund/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)