The Southern US National Forests

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forest crosses Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forest crosses Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

There are 154 protected areas in the United States. These protected areas are known as national forests, and they cover an area of 188,336,179 acres in total. The country's forest reserves are run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the U.S. Forest Service. The Southern United States region has 32 national forests. Every state in the south except Maryland and Delaware has at least one forest reserve. The state with most national forests is Mississippi with six followed by North Carolina with five. Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Virginia have one each.

The Largest National Forests in Southern US

George Washington & Jefferson

The forest is made up of two national forests: the Jefferson and George Washington National forests which combine to form the most extensive public land area in the South. The forest occupies 1,792,209 acres in total, and it is found in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. The highest point in Virginia, Mount Rogers, is located in this forest.


Ouachita National Forest is the second largest and the oldest forest reserve in the south. The forest, which covers 1,784,457 acres, lies in western Arkansas with some of its portions covering some parts of eastern Oklahoma. Ouachita National Forest contains six designated wilderness areas and about 800,000 acres of old-growth forest.

Ozark St. Francis

The Ozark-St. Francis National Forest in Arkansas is the third largest national forest in the southern US with a total area of 1,153,374 acres. The forest is made of two forests, the St. Francis National Forest on Crowley's Ridge and the Ozark National Forest which lies in the Ozark Mountains. The forest boasts 23 developed campgrounds, around 395 miles of hiking trails, nine swimming areas, and numerous fishing streams.


Monongahela is the fourth largest southern US National Forest with about 921,000 acres of area. It is found in the Allegheny Mountains which lie in the eastern region of West Virginia. There are approximately 75 species of trees in the forest, but the most important are red spruce, balsam fir, and mountain ash. Some prominent features found in this forest include Spruce Knob which is the highest point in West Virginia and the Allegheny Front.


The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest is found in the northern part of Georgia. It comprises two smaller forests, Chattahoochee National Forest and the Oconee National Forest both of which encompass 866,468 acres of land. The forest has ten wilderness areas, over 2,200 miles of streams and rivers and more than 450 miles of hiking trails. Some of the animals that inhabit this forest include deer, foxes, American black bears, and several species of birds and reptiles.

Other Large Forests within the Southern States

There are seven other forests in the South with a total area of over 500,000 acres. They include Cherokee National Forest which lies mainly in Tennessee with some of its parts extending into North Carolina. Others are Pisgah National Forest and Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina, Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana, Apalachicola National Forest in Florida, Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, and De Soto National Forest in Mississippi.

The Southern US National Forests

RankNational ForestState
4William B. BankheadAlabama
5Ozark-St. FrancisArkansas
6OuachitaArkansas, Oklahoma
11Daniel BooneKentucky
12Land Between The LakesKentucky, Tennessee
14De SotoMississippi
19Holly SpringsMississippi
20CroatanNorth Carolina
21NantahalaNorth Carolina
22UwharrieNorth Carolina
23PisgahNorth Carolina
24Francis MarionSouth Carolina
25SumterSouth Carolina
26CherokeeTennessee, North Carolina
27Sam HoustonTexas
29Davy CrockettTexas
31George Washington & JeffersonVirginia, West Virginia, Kentucky
32MonongahelaWest Virginia

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