National Forest Foundation

Names of our National Forests

The National Forest System, History and Culture


Throw some sweet facts at your friends with this list of how some of our Forests got their names.
  • Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia: Chattahoochee is thought to come from the Muskogean word meaning “rocks-marked,” possibly referring to the color granite outcroppings along the Chattahoochee River.
  • Chugach National Forest, Alaska: Chugach is the name of a Native Alaska culture and people in the Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound.
  • Deschutes National Forest, Oregon: Deschutes River, was originally namedRiviere des Chures, French for River of the Falls. The waterfall, they were referring to, Celilo Falls, no longer exists, having been inundated by the lake behind the Dalles Dam.
  • Dixie National Forest, Utah: In 1851 Brigham Young sent Mormon Settlers to the St George area. Many of these settlers were from the deep south. Since the St. George area was warm like the deep south, they started calling it Utah's "Dixie". The name stuck because of the heat and all the southerners that settled there to grow cotton for the Mormon church.
  • Francis Marion National Forest, South Carolina: Francis Marion, aka the Swamp Fox, is known for his irregular methods of warfare during the revolution in South Carolina.
  • Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington: Gifford Pinchot was the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service from 1905-1910. He is known for reforming the management and development of forests in the United States and for advocating the conservation of the nation’s reserves by planned use and renewal.
  • Malheur National Forest, Oregon: Malheur is derived from the French word for misfortune. French Canadian voyageur trappers gave the Malheur river its name because of the unfortunate circumstance that some of their beaver furs they had caught there were stolen by Native Americans.
  • Mendocino National Forest, California: In 1542 explorer Roderiques de Cabrillo named Cape Mendocino, near the forest, in honor of Don Antonio de Mendoza, first viceroy of New Spain.
  • Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia: The word Monongalia is a Latinized version of the Native American world Monongahela, which means “falling banks.”
  • Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin: Jean-Nicolas Nicollett was a French geographer and mathematician known for mapping the Upper Mississippi River basin in the early 19th century.
  • Oconee National Forest, Georgia: In the Creek language, Oconee means “people/place or nation” of the “skunk.”
  • Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas: The word Ouachita is composed of two Choctaw words: ouac, a buffalo, and chito, large.
  • Payette National Forest, Idaho: François Payette, a French-Canadian fur trapper, eventually became the head of the Fort Boise trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1835-44.
  • Samuel Roy McKelvie National Forest, Nebraska: Samuel Roy McKelvie was a Nebraska Republican politician for his service as the 19th Governor of Nebraska from 191-1923.
  • Tombigbee National Forest, Mississippi: The name Tombigbee comes from the Choctaw, meaning “box maker, coffin maker.”

Do you have a favorite name of a National Forest or Wilderness area? Tell us about it on our facebook page.

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