ROTHROCK STATE FOREST
The Rothrock State Forest is named for Dr. Joseph Trimbel Rothrock, a native of Mifflin County, who is recognized as the Father of Forestry in Pennsylvania. In 1895, Dr. Rothrock was appointed the first forestry commissioner to lead the newly-formed Division of Forestry in the Department of Agriculture. That Division has evolved through the years into the current Bureau of Forestry. Two of Rothrock's major accomplishments during his tenure as commissioner were his land acquisition program and the creation of a forest academy to train foresters for state service.
Raystown Lake, an 8,300-acre flood control reservoir, is operated by the Corps of Engineers to provide flood control, fisheries enhancement, water quality, and recreational opportunities. Nestled between the ridges of Huntingdon County, adjacent to the southern portion of Rothrock State Forest, the visitor to this 29,300-acre Federal facility can participate in hiking, fishing, camping, recreational boating, hunting, picnicking, and many other outdoor activities.
Raystown Lake is formed by a dam which is located on the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River, 5.5 miles upstream from its junction with the Juniata just east of Huntingdon. The lake and dam are major elements in the Susquehanna River Basin flood control system. Constructed at a cost of $76 million in the mid 1970's, the lake controls a drainage area of 960 square miles, and provides downstream flood protection through controlled water releases.
In 1903, the forested area now known as the Rothrock was virtually stripped bare of trees to provide wood to make charcoal for the iron furnaces located at Greenwood Furnace in Huntingdon County. These furnaces were used for the smelting of iron ore which was a major industry in the 1700's and 1800's in Pennsylvania. When two of the Greenwood Furnace hearths closed in 1903, Dr. Rothrock was instrumental in helping the Bureau of Forestry purchase approximately 35,000 acres in Huntingdon County from Greenwood Furnace. Other purchases followed until most of the Seven Mountains forest area became state land. These original land purchases were called state forest reserves and were divided into three separate reserves. Those in northern Huntingdon County and Ferguson and Harris townships in Centre County were to be named the Logan State Forest with headquarters in Petersburg. Adjacent tracts in Potter Township, Centre County and Armagh and Brown townships in Mifflin County became the Penn State Forest with headquarters in Milroy. Forestry purchases near Mount Union and Entriken were named the Rothrock State Forest with an office in Mount Union.
The Logan, Penn, and Rothrock forests remained separate entities until 1953 when the Logan and Penn State Forest became part of the Bald Eagle Forest District. The remaining forests became the realigned Rothrock State Forest with its district office located in downtown Huntingdon.
When former chief of US Forest Service Gifford Pinchot became Governor of Pennsylvania in 1923, one of his first actions was to upgrade the state's fledgling forestry division to full department status. The new Department of Forest and Waters was given funds to build the first steel forest fire observation tower, complete with its own telephone service. There are four maintained fire towers in the Rothrock District - Jacks on Butler Knob, Loop on State Game Land #118 on Tussey Mountain, Greenwood and Little Flat. Forest fires were a major problem on the Rothrock through the 1950's, but fire prevention education paid off and fire occurrence and size have steadily diminished. Because of liability problems, visitors are discouraged from climbing the towers.
In 1933, newly-elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the US Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a work program for able-bodied and unemployed males. Approximately 93 resident work camps, each consisting of 174-200 young men, were built on Pennsylvania's state forests. Six of these camps were located in the present day Rothrock State Forest. State forestry personnel planned and supervised work projects for the CCC which included construction of roads, fire trails, workshops, park and picnic area development, tree planting and fire suppression. All CCC camps in the Rothrock closed by early 1942.
The next significant development in the Rothrock was in 1955 when the entire state forest system in Pennsylvania was placed under a scientific timber management plan. In the Rothrock, timber management became very important as large stands of nearly pure oak and hickory grew large enough to be harvested for lumber. The forester staff at Huntingdon increased from four to eight. In 1985, the scope of the timber management plans was revised to encompass all forest resources and functions including water, wildlife, timber, fire protection, and recreation. Recreational use has grown in importance as more citizens take advantage of outdoor opportunities. Visitors are encouraged to use, but respect the forest and its facilities and to learn and comply with all state forest rules and regulations.
The Rothrock State Forest is truly a "living forest." It is managed to provide recreational opportunities for thousands of visitors each year while making a significant contribution to Pennsylvania's economy with its high quality timber production.