America's Rain Forests

A Distance Learning Adventure

Prince William Network, National Forest Foundation and USDA Forest Service

Chugach National Forest

When you think of rain forests, the Chugach National Forest (pronounced "Chew'gatch") is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, this 5.6 million acre national forest located in Southcentral Alaska represents America’s northern most range of temperate rain forest. The Chugach National Forest is the second largest Forest in the National Forest System. Roughly the same size as the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined, the Chugach is the most northern of National Forests, only 500 miles south of the Arctic Circle. One third of the Chugach is composed of rocks and moving ice. The remainder is a diverse and majestic tapestry of land, water, plants, and animals. The mountains, lakes, and rivers of the Kenai Peninsula, the islands and glaciers of Prince William Sound, and the copious wetlands and birds of the Copper River Delta are what make this National Forest unique.

Glaciers! They have sculptured much of America's beauty. Yet, there are few places today where glaciers still wage their ancient battle against the land. The Chugach National Forest is one of these places - a land of glacial diamonds set on a ring of fire. However, the slow, relentless force of glacial ice has not been the only land-shaping agent. Forces as quick and powerful as earthquakes and as dramatic as volcanoes have played a role in creating one of the most diverse landscapes in Alaska, if not America.

Humans, too, have continued the shaping of this land. For more than 10,000 years, the lands of what is now the Chugach National Forest have been continually inhabited by populations of Alaskan Eskimos and Indians. Place names such as Valdez, Cordova, Zaikof Bay, and Prince William Sound, show that the lands, waters, and natural resources of the Forest have attracted the attention of the Spanish, who were seeking empires; Russians, who were seeking furs; and the English, who were seeking a northwest passage to the Pacific.

Americans too, have sought much in Alaska, from whale oil to petroleum oil, fish, gold, copper, coal, furs, timber, and strategic defense. Following the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, the lands surrounding Prince William Sound became the focus of mineral exploitation. An impending private monopoly on the reserves and transportation of its coal and copper motivated President Theodore Roosevelt to designate the lands of the Chugach National Forest in 1907, originally some 23 million acres in size.

For more information, go to http://www.fs.usda.gov/chugach/.


Prince William Network • USDA Forest Service • Caribbean, Tongass,
Chugach, and Olympic National Forests • Pacific Northwest Research Station
International Institute of Tropical Forestry • National Forest Foundation
Alaska Department of Fish and Game • Alaska Department of Natural Resources
The Nature Conservancy • Alaska Natural History Association
Southeast Island School District