MOSHANNON STATE FOREST
More and more people are making use of the Moshannon State Forest as their recreation outlet. In recent years there has been an increasing demand for types of recreation that only large tracts of forest lands can provide. Traditional outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing have been stable, but such things as cross-country skiing, mountain biking, backpacking, horse back riding and motorized recreational activity increase each year. Some of these have required the construction of new or the upgrading of older trail systems. Maps have been created for a number of the specialty trails and may be obtained at the district office.
The major tracts that comprise the Moshannon State Forest were once held by large lumber companies, land holding companies and private individuals. The first purchase, on September 28, 1898, was 352 acres along Montgomery Run north of Clearfield for which the state paid $65.45 in delinquent taxes. Tracts are still being added today if they meet the current guidelines for acquisition.
White pine and hemlock stands occupied the shady slopes and moist plateaus in the earliest recorded forests in the region. Many areas were covered with a mixture of beech, yellow poplar, birches, maples, oaks, cherry, hickory and chestnut. Some of the best white pine in the U.S. grew here in the stands that sometimes approached one hundred thousand board feet per acre. According to Conrad Weiser in 1737, "The wood is so thick, that for a mile at a time we could not find a place the size of a hand, where the sunshine would penetrate, even on the clearest day." All of this virgin timber was cut between 1860 and 1921. The high pine stumps, the tie marks from the logging railroads, the grooves of old log slides and the remnants of splash dams are all that remains to remind us of this earlier time of overcutting.
Wildfires, which followed this period of cutting, many of which were caused by man, destroyed much of the humus and organic matter that had taken nature centuries to create. Even today, there are open areas where mainly bracken fern and huckleberry grow among the giant stumps of a former forest that remind us of the devastation caused by those fires. The forest that developed after the periods of overcutting and wildfires was predominately oak-chestnut. Prior to 1925 the chestnut blight swept through the region. The present-day oak-hardwood forests is a result of the loss of the chestnut component due to the ravages of the blight.
In 1911 the Dague Nursery got its start on a 1/10 acre site near to where the current Forest District Office is located. Established to provide pine seedlings for reforestation, it reached a peak production of 35 million seedlings annually. Most of the pine plantations on the Moshannon are the result of this nursery and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) efforts. While it no longer serves as a nursery, it has left a legacy on the forest.