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Southern Region National Forests Offer Plenty of Recreation Opportunities

Thirteen states make up the Southern Region of America's National Forests and they offer plenty of recreational opportunities throughout the year.

 David Hearn #136 in action during the US Whitewater Kayak/Canoe Olympic Trials on the Ocoee River in the Cherokee National Forrest in Ducktown, Tennessee.
Photo by M. David Leeds/Getty Images

In Alabama the Bankhead, Talladega, Conecuh and Tuskegee National Forests make up the 680,000 acre system there. Highlights include the Talladega Scenic Drive and Sipsey Wild and Scenic River along with the Pinhoti, Conecuh and Bartram National Recreational Trails. Hunters will enjoy the five wildlife management areas and campers can choose between 12 developed recreational areas.

The Quachita National Forests stretches from western Arkansas into southeastern Oklahoma and covers 1.8 million acres highlighted by the Caddo and Quachita Rivers, Little Missouri and Cossatot Rivers. The area draws hunters and rockhounders and focal points include the Winding stair Mountain National Recreation Area, Cedar Lake Recreation Area and the Talimena Scenic Drive.

Arkansas is also home to the Ozark and St. Francis National Forests that cover over 1.2 million acres with the highest point on Mount Magazine and the lowest in Blanchard Springs Caverns. These forests hold six wild and scenic rivers, five wilderness areas and seven scenic byways

The 21,000-acre St. Francis National Forest has an abundance of bottomland hardwoods along Crowley's Ridge and St. Francis River.

Florida's National Forests include the Apalachicola, Osceola and Ocala that contain a wide diversity of plants and animals along with 49 recreational areas and seven wilderness areas.

Georgia has the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests stretching mostly along the top border of the state. The Chattahoochee's 749,000 acres include the Chattooga River while the Oconee has 115,000 acres. Main places of interest include the Appalachian Trail, Lion's Eye Trail in addition to 10 wildernesses, Oconee River, Lake Oconee, Hillsboro Lake and Lake Sinclair providing many fishing opportunities and water sports.

The Daniel Boone National Forest covers 700,000 acres in eastern Kentucky and has wildlife management areas, two wilderness areas and the 257-mile Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail.

In central Louisiana you will find the Kisatchie National Forest which is a botanical mecca and sportsman's dream featuring the Wild Azalea National Recreation Trail, Gum Springs Horse Trail, Kisatchie Bayou and Kincaid Recreation Area.

There are six forests scattered throughout Mississippi and they include the Bienville, Desoto, Holly Springs, Homochitto, Tombigbee and Delta. Visitors will find the Bienville full of towering pines while the Desoto has two National Recreation Trails and two wilderness areas and the Black Creek Wild and Scenic River. Shaded lakeshore camping can be found in the Tombigbee while Holly Springs offers rolling hills and hardwoods.

Small lakes are located inside the Homochitto and lush cypress swamps fill the Delta - the only bottomland hardwood national forest in the nation.

In North Carolina visitors will find the Pisgah and Nantahala , the Uwharrie and Croatan. These mountain forests are very popular while the Uwharrie has much geology and history and in 1799 gold was first discovered in North America there. You can still pan for gold. The Croatan is located on the state's coast so expect beaches and marshes.

In nearby South Carolina the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests offer 600,000 acres containing outstanding outdoor activities including the National Wild and Scenic Chattooga River, over 500 miles of trails, 60 recreation sites and five wilderness areas. These forests have one of the largest hunting seasons in the country.

Cherokee National Forest is located in Tennessee and is in the heart of the Southern Appalachian mountain range covering 640,000 acres making up the largest tract of public land in the state and containing 30 campgrounds, 30 picnic areas, 700 miles of trails and seven whitewater rivers.

The 170,000 acre Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area is in the western end of Kentucky and Tennessee and features 300 miles of undeveloped shoreline, a 40-mile peninsula, 1,500 campsites, a 19th century living history farm, Golden Pond Planetarium, Elk and Bison Prairie, Woodlands Nature Station and three welcome centers.

Four national forests and the Caddo and Lyndon B. Johnson National Grasslands covering 675,658 acres of public lands make up the National Forests/Grasslands in Texas.

The Sabine and Angelina National Forests line the shores of Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn Reservoirs while Lakes Conroe and Livingston offer water-related outdoor recreation on or near the Sam Houston National Forest.

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia round out the South, covering two million acres and featuring 17 wildernesses, a portion of The Blue Ridge Parkway, 200 miles of trails and 350 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

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