Little River Lake in Winter Alabama’s four state forests encompass nearly 14,000 acres and help protect the air and water quality of the state. The Choccolocco, Geneva, Little River, and Weogufka forests are home to a diversity of wildlife, including nearly 160 species of birds that breed in Alabama, more than 170 native species of birds, and almost 460 species of fish. These species include Alabama’s state bird, the yellowhammer, the state freshwater fish, the largemouth bass, and the state game bird, the wild turkey. The state forests also offer a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities, including bird watching, camping, canoeing, fishing, hiking, picnicking, and swimming.
The four state forests are currently maintained by the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC), which was established in 1924 to protect forests from deforestation and soil erosion, assist landowners with forest management, and educate the public about the value of properly managed forests. The AFC has three divisions: executive, management, and protection. Under this management system, Choccolocco, Geneva, Little River, and Weogufka contribute vital resources such as timber while still maintaining needed habitat for wildlife. The lands under management are divided into four regions that essentially divide the state into quarters, and each of these regions is further divided into work units that total 18 in all.
Choccolocco State Forest
Choccolocco State Forest, located in northeast Alabama in southeastern Calhoun County near White Plains, covers 4,406 acres of mixed hardwood forest. The forest’s name comes from the Creek Indian term for the area. Archeological studies conducted by Jacksonville State University (JSU) in the forest found evidence that the site has been occupied for at least 8,000 years. After the Indian Removal Act was implemented in 1836, settlers moved into the area. The area was farmed until it was purchased by the state during World War II to be used as a training site for the military and to provide access between Fort McClellan and Talladega National Forest. In 1969, the forest came under the AFC’s control. Some 293,000 longleaf and loblolly pine trees were planted with the assistance of the Arbor Day Foundation in 2016 to replace storm-damaged trees. A two-acre wetland area called the “Frog Pond” was created after clearcutting and before the property was managed as a state forest. The depression filled in with water and provides valuable habitat for frogs, fish, and amphibians. Local schoolchildren also enjoy the site for fieldtrips, hosted by JSU, to explore and learn about wetland ecology. Choccolocco also offers activities such as hiking, biking, and camping.
Geneva State Forest
Geneva State Forest Geneva State Forest is the largest of the Alabama state forests and encompasses 7,200 acres in Geneva County in southern Alabama, west of Samson and north of Kinston. It was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s from an area that was clear-cut and considered to be worthless. After being replanted, Geneva has provided a valuable resource for timber and for wildlife. The forest is now mainly covered by native longleaf pine and is managed for timber harvesting. The forest offers fishing, hiking, picnicking, horseback riding, and off-road vehicle riding. Limited hunting (with a permit) of small and large game is allowed in the forest. The 100-acre Geneva State Lake located inside the forest is one of its main features. The hiking trail around the lake provides good wildlife viewing where deer, quail, turkeys, foxes, and bobcats may be spotted.
Little River State Forest
Little River State Forest Little River State Forest (LRSF) encompasses 2,100 acres in Monroe and Escambia Counties in southwestern Alabama south of Uriah. This forest was formerly private land deeded to the state and also developed by the CCC. Many of the structures were constructed by the CCC in 1934, including the original office, cabin, and picnic pavilions. The forest is composed of longleaf pine and provides habitat for deer, turkey, rabbits, and rare bobcats. The main attraction of this park is the 25-acre Little River Lake, which provides swimming and fishing opportunities. Other recreational activities in the forest include canoeing, picnicking, and bird watching. The LRSF also offers hunting for the disabled and is one of the few locations in Alabama to do so.
Weogufka State Forest
Weogufka State Forest is located in Coosa County southwest of Weogufka and encompasses 240 acres covered in hardwood trees. It too was developed by the CCC when it was predominately yellow pine, beginning in 1933. Originally slated to be a state park, that effort was not completed, but the CCC did construct several cabins, including a dogtrot, and a stone tower in the mid-1930s. The tower, used by the AFC until the late 1980s, is approximately 50 feet tall with walls 2-4 feet thick. It is on the National Historic Lookout Register, which lists historic fire lookouts in the United States. The forest, located around 1,150-foot Flagg Mountain, provides hiking, camping, and bird watching. It is part of the Alabama Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail and the southern terminus of the Pinhoti Trail and the Appalachian Mountain range. Plans are underway to connect this area to the Appalachian Trail system.
The four Alabama state forests provide valuable resources for the state of Alabama. A wide range of habitats inside the forests helps maintain Alabama’s extensive biodiversity. Recreational opportunities in the forests contribute to the health and well-being of Alabama residents and visitors alike. Continued management by the Alabama Forestry Commission is crucial to maintain the health and resources of the Alabama State Forests for future generations.