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White Mountains National Forest

The 768,000-acre White Mountain National Forest (WMNF), the largest in the east, was created by the Weeks Act of 1911. Millions of board feet of timber were cut from these mountains in the nineteenth century, and a portion of the Kancamagus Scenic Byway and the Wilderness Trail were the routes of logging railroads, part of an extensive rail system built by the timber companies to harvest the dense stands of mountain trees. The clear-cutting techniques employed by the timber cutters left the steep mountain slopes denuded, leading to massive erosion and downstream flooding. The limbs and branches left behind in the woods quickly dried and fueled huge forest fires which threatened the uncut areas. It was to curtail the clear cutting, reduce the danger of forest fires, provide for reforestation of the mountains, and prevent erosion and flooding that the forest was created. A ride across the Kancamagus Scenic Byway provides clear evidence of the success of the forest plan. Despite heavy use by visitors, most of the WMNF is again a wilderness. Although the United States Forest Service continues to harvest timber in this huge woodland, the WMNF is also managed for multiple-use activities: hiking, camping, swimming, fishing, nature study, forest research, and scenic beauty. Protection of watersheds and endangered species of plants, insects, and animals also figure into the operation of this forest. So varied is the forest, from lowland bogs to high alpine mountains, so interesting is its history, from Indians to settlers, loggers to scientists, that a whole guide could be written about this wild country. The WMNF has several self-guided nature trails, is responsible for many miles of backcountry trails, and operates a number of barrier-free day-use facilities and campgrounds. Four congressionally designated wilderness areas within the forest are managed to preserve a wilderness experience. Here no timber cutting is permitted; motorized vehicles (snowmobiles, trail bikes, or bicycles) are prohibited; and campsites are limited to 10 people or fewer. In addition to varied WMNF publications, the best guide to the area is the AMC White Mountain Guide, the hiker's 600-page handbook of trail details and also some human and natural history information.

WMNF Saco Ranger Station (447-5448), Kancamagus Highway, just off Route 16, Conway. WMNF Androscoggin Ranger Station (466-2713), Route 16, Gorham. WMNF Ammonoosuc Ranger Station (869-2626), Trudeau Road, off Route 302, Box 239, Bethlehem AMC Pinkham Notch Camp (466-2725), Route 16, Pinkham Notch.

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