Manistee National Forest History
Exact Location:
Newaygo County- Enter the Manistee National Forest after crossing Croton Dam. Almost all the NCT until Hodenpyl Dam is within the Forest. Portions of Newaygo, Lake, Oceana, Mason and Manistee Counties
1941 Manistee National Forest map
1941 map of the Manistee National Forest borders (public domain)

The Manistee National Forest was created in 1938, although some lands were acquired in 1933. 1.2 million acres are enclosed by the boundaries of the Forest, but there remain thousands of acres of inholdings. According to some sources, the word Manistee means "Spirit of the Woods," from the murmuring of the Manistee River as it flowed to Lake Michigan.

The MNF includes portions of Newaygo, Lake, Oceana, Mason and Manistee Counties. The North Country Trail passes through all but Oceana County.

After the towering white pines were logged off at the turn of the 20th Century, farmers moved to the area, attracted to the cleared land except for stump removal. The layer of fertile soil above the sand is shallow, and crops failed after only a few years. When the government began purchasing the land it was denuded and in danger of becoming a dust bowl.

Reforestation became a priority, and many of the red pine plantations seen within today's Forest were planted in the 1930s. With the rare exception of a tree the loggers missed, the timber is all second-growth. Overall, the forest is mesic to xeric (dry), with a few areas which have richer soil. Mixed hardwoods, white and red pine, and bracken fern are dominant plants.

The Forest is managed by two ranger districts. The Baldwin District, office in Baldwin, in the south covers approximately from the southern boundary to 5 Mile Road in Lake County. The Manistee District in the north manages everything northward. The Manistee Ranger Station is in Manistee. The administrative offices are located in Cadillac.

Chittendon Nursery
millions of seedlings were raised at the Chittenden Nursery to accomplish reforestation of the depleted land (photo from The Forest History Society archives)
Significant portions of the Muskegon, White, Pere Marquette, Big Sable, and Little and Big Manistee Rivers are found within the Forest boundaries.

Approximately 130 miles of the North Country Trail traverse the Manistee National Forest, from Croton Dam in the south to Hodenpyl Dam in the north.

Also see:
Manistee National Forest: Trail Talk

Michigan State University Extension
The Forest History Society
personal experience
Every effort is made to provide up-to-date accurate information, but errors are bound to occur. Please contact explorer@exploreNCT.info about errors, corrections or additions.

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The North Country National Scenic Trail is 4800 miles long, spanning eight states. For more information, visit the North Country Trail Association