BLEDSOE STATE FOREST
Bledsoe State Forest is located on the Cumberland Plateau in east-central Tennessee, in Bledsoe, Cumberland, Van Buren, and White Counties. The land was originally purchased by the State Department of Institutions in 1907. In 1933, 6,656 acres were designated as state forest. The remaining lands, known as the Taft Youth Center, left under the jurisdiction of the Department of Institutions, now the Department of Corrections. Areas of the forest are used for tree improvement studies, where strains of various species are grown to determine their suitability as high quality timber. The timber type consists primarily of mixed upland hardwoods and most stands are in the 40 to 80+ age classes. The forest has been used traditionally for hunting and small amounts of fishing. Some hiking and horseback riding occur on the forest. Fall Creek State Park is approximately 3 miles southwest of the forest.
1. Native American Presence: Before European colonization, the area around Bledsoe State Forest was inhabited by the Cherokee and Creek Indian tribes. Evidence of their presence can still be found in the form of archeological sites within the forest.
2. Early European Settlement: The forest takes its name from the Bledsoe family, who were prominent pioneers in the mid-1700s. They established Bledsoe's Station, a fortified frontier settlement, near the forest's current boundaries. The Bledsoes played a significant role in the early history of Tennessee.
3. Logging and Timber Industry: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the area underwent extensive logging to meet the demands of the timber industry. The forest provided valuable resources such as hardwood and pine timber, which were harvested for construction, furniture, and other purposes.
4. Reforestation and Conservation Efforts: Recognizing the need for sustainable forest management, the Tennessee Division of Forestry initiated reforestation efforts in the 1930s. They planted thousands of trees and established the Bledsoe State Forest in 1935 to demonstrate proper forestry practices.
5. Recreation and Education: Over the years, Bledsoe State Forest has evolved into a recreational and educational resource for the local community and visitors. It offers numerous recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, and camping. The forest also serves as an outdoor classroom, providing educational programs about forestry, wildlife, and ecology.
6. State Forest Designation: In 1952, Bledsoe State Forest became Tennessee's first designated state forest. This recognition further highlights its importance as a protected and managed natural resource in the state.