Top Ten Ancient Forests of the United States

Elgin Air Force Base, Florida

Longleaf pine was the dominant forest of the long stretch of coastal plain from southern Alabama and central Florida to just beyond the top edge of North Carolina. This is a parklike forest, with an open canopy and low-growing groundcover. The early botanical explorer William Bartram described these forests as "delightful" with "stately trees scatteringly planted by nature, arising straight and erect from the green carpet. . .

Up until 1941, this huge (720 square miles) military facility was Choctawhatchee National Forest. The net result of withdrawing this area from timber harvesting was the preservation of the largest old growth longleaf pine forest in the United States—2,000 acres, half the estimated 3,900 acres still in existence.

The base management has cooperated with environmentalists and the local community to manage the forest in an enlightened way. You need a permit to visit, but that can easily be obtained by stopping by the office in Niceville. Call (850) 882-4164 for directions and current information. With the permit you also get a map to visitable areas of the preserve.



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