The largest national forest in the US is the Tongass National Forest. The total area measures 17 million acres (69,000 km2).
The forest is located in southeastern Alaska. Due to its location, it has become the home of rare and endangered fauna and flora. The Tongass is comprised of Alexander Archipelago, Coast Mountains peaks, glaciers and fjords. The Ketchikan Forest Service administers the site.
About 75,000 people call the forest and the surrounding areas home. Their livelihood depends on the resources of the land. The Tsimshian, Haida and Tlingit Alaskan tribes are living in the site. There are 31 communities in the area.
Juneau is the biggest with a population of 31,000. The forest is named for the Tongass group who lived in the southernmost portion of Alaska.
The US’ largest national forest also includes the Pacific Coastal Mountain tundra and ice fields. The Northern Pacific coastal forests are also part of the area. The forest is comprised of the western hemlock, sitka spruce and western red cedar. The basic terrain is made up of granite and karst.
The forest is home to many kinds of wildlife. These include bald eagles, black bears, brown bears and salmon. 40% of the site is made up of non-forest vegetation, rock, ice, snow and wetlands. The 40,000 km2 left are rainforest. 20,000 km2 are regarded as “productive old-growth”. Over 18,000 sq km of it are being conserved.
Recreation in the Park
The area attracts over a million visitors annually. There are 150 public recreation cabins in the forest. It can be reached by plane or trail boat. There are several campgrounds scattered around. Many of the campgrounds have splendid views of the forest.
Viewing areas also abound. The southernmost location is at Hyder. There is also the Fish Creek. There are brown and black bears here. They can be seen from a boardwalk or viewing platform.
There are more wilderness areas in Tongass compared to any National Forest in the United States. The Tongass forests make up 5,750,000 acres (23,300 km2). These include the Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness, Maurille Islands Wilderness, Warren Island and Karta River Wilderness.
Other wilderness areas include Kootznoowoo Wilderness, West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness and Russell Fjord Wilderness.
The largest national forest in the US was created by the presidential proclamation of 20 August 1902 by Theodore Roosevelt. Subsequent Presidential decrees would lead to the expansion of the site.