Tuskegee National Forest Overview
Though it has the dubious honor of being the smallest of its kind in America, Tuskegee National Forest claims no shortage of outdoor activities. This small wonder offers some of the best hiking, fishing, biking, and wildlife in the beautiful southeastern United States.
Located in east-central Alabama along Interstate 85 in Macon County, Tuskegee National Forest is managed by the Forest Service to maintain the area's recreation, wildlife, water quality, and timber resources. This administration is consistent with the original conservation effort that went into making it a national forest.
The land, purchased by the federal government over a three-year period from 1935 to 1938, was once one of the most eroded and abused territories in Alabama. Many restoration projects and changes occurred between then and November 27, 1959, when it was proclaimed a national forest by President Eisenhower. To explore this forest today is to witness a landscape reborn and healed.
Whether hiking the scenic paths, like the 8.6-mile segment of the Bartram National Recreation Trail that goes through the forest, or exploring the log cabin replica of the birthplace of Booker T. Washington at the Taska Recreation Area, visitors enjoy slowing down in this delightful slice of backcountry Alabama.
Bike the Bartram
In the 1770s the first American-born naturalist, William Bartram, traveled through the wildlands of the south, observing and recording in his famous diaries what he saw of these pristine lands. Today the Bartram National Recreation Trail winds through 8.6 miles of Tuskegee's hardwood and pine forest near its namesake's original route. The trail offers some of the best single-track in central Alabama. Bartram Trail is 12 miles out and back and is rated an intermediate trail due to its many exposed roots and bumpy terrain. The section between the ranger station and US Highway 29 has several fast burst sections. Trail usage is fairly heavy for this part of the state—more than 500 riders cruise it per week during peak riding seasons.
Take in Some History
Along Highway 80, five and a half miles from Tuskegee, sits the Taska Recreation Area. This is a must-see during a visit to Tuskegee National Forest. Here you'll find a log cabin replica of the birthplace of Booker T. Washington, along with picnicking facilities and great wildlife viewing. From Taska, take a trip to the Tuskegee Institute in nearby Tuskegee and visit the original buildings that were witness to amazing events in American history. This National Historical Site, which is on the campus of the Tuskegee Institute, consists of more than 30 post-Reconstruction buildings. Booker T. Washington founded the school in 1881.
Brake for Wildlife
The unusual variety of plant species that grow in this second-growth forest coexist with an abundance of mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects, making this area ecologically unique. Two observation towers give a bird's-eye view of the area's wildlife. Deer, the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, ducks, and herons are frequently spotted around the Tsinia wildlife viewing area. The beavers you may encounter in other areas of the forest probably make their home here as well. Their ponds add to the diversity of wildlife that live or eat in the area. The Forest Service maintains the Tsinia by planting crops and shrubs to attract and sustain the animals that make it such a treasure.
Fish with Intensity
To the delight of Alabama anglers, two small ponds in Tuskegee National Forest are "intensively managed for fishing." Okhussee Chutkee (small pond) and Okhussee Thloko (big pond), located along Macon County Road 54 (Vaughn Mill Road), provide anglers with the opportunity to catch largemouth bass, catfish, and bream. These ponds are four and two acres, respectively, and anglers are restricted to bank fishing. Another type of fishing is available in the Uphapee and Choctafaula Creeks. Catfish, bream, and largemouth and spotted bass inhabit these waters. A valid fishing license is required and anglers must adhere to state size and creel limits.
Test Your Hunting Skills
An abundance of deer, small game, and fowl are hunted at Tuskegee. Squirrels, raccoons, turkey, quail, and rabbits are the most common game animals. Currently, to legally hunt the Tuskegee, a person must have a valid Alabama hunting license. The state does not require a special permit. The hunting seasons are established by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and are the same as those in Macon County, except the area is closed to hunting deer with dogs. Seasons, bag limits, and other restrictions are subject to change annually. Some roads are closed to vehicles on a continuous or seasonal basis to benefit wildlife populations and curtail poaching.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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