The Catoctin Forest covers over 100 square miles. Frederick County is 665 sq mi. in size. Over 32 Sq. Mi. (20,000 Acres) of the Catoctin Forest is public land (local, county, state and federal parks and watersheds).
300-1900 feet above sea level
The Catoctin Forest sits at the boundary of the Piedmont and Appalachian physiographic provinces and the Appalachian province forms the eastern front of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is characterized by steep slopes and rocky terrain.
The oldest rock in the Catoctin Forest from the Precambrian Period of 600 million years ago is a greenish-gray metamorphosed lava called greenstone which forms Cunningham Falls and Hog Rock. Highly weather resistant quartzite rock forms such promontories as Chimney Rock and Wolf Rock.
Frederick County is 25% forested (166 sq mi. = 106,000 ac.) and much of that forest is on the steep slopes of Catoctin Mountain. The deciduous forest is composed of chestnut oak, hickory and tulip poplar on the drier slopes with white oak and red maple occurring at lower and wetter elevations. Evergreen species include Canadian hemlock and table mountain pine.
Current threats: Gypsy moth, hemlock woolly adlegid, emerald ash borer, invasive species
Black bear, White tailed Deer, Wild Turkey, Brook trout, and over 200 species of birds
Concerns: Overpopulation of deer, Habitat fragmentation
Over 700 of 1,434 miles in 11 of 25 watersheds in Frederick County.
Concerns: Chemical and thermal pollution, Loss of shade, Sedimentation/erosion, headwaters protection
18 sites ranging from French and Indian War to World War II
7 Historic Districts
Over 100 miles of hiking trails
Concerns: Erosion, user impacts
Over 1 million recreation visitors utilize this area annually.
An excerpt from the National Park Service website:
Nearly 95% of Catoctin Mountain Park is covered with forest, but this hasn’t always been the case. Before this land became part of the National Park System it had been extensively logged for agricultural and charcoal making practices. The mountains were interlaced with logging roads-Park Central Road follows what used to be an old logging road. Frank Mentzer, former superintendent of the park, said “In 1936 there was barely a tree over the size of a fence post.”
When this area became a park and these practices stopped, the forest was allowed to regenerate. Natural tree regeneration was helped by the Civilian Conservation Corps who planted more than 5000 trees in 1939 and 1940! Today’s forest at Catoctin is a secondary succession forest. This means that the forest is still regenerating towards a climax, or final, old growth forest. Most of the park’s area contains a mixture of oaks, hickories, maple, and tulip poplar. Officially, the forest is classified as a Mid-latitude Deciduous Forest. This type of forest is relatively rare in that it turns beautiful, vibrant colors and sheds its leaves in the fall, then bursts forth with new growth in the spring.
At one time the American Chestnut tree was a dominant tree found in the Catoctin forest. Unfortunatly, in 1906 a fungus was acccidentaly introduced from eastern Asian infested chestnut trees into the New York City area. The fungus spread quickly and attacked American chestnuts throughout the country. The disease reached the Catoctins in about 1912 and by the 1940′s had killed most of the large chestnut trees. Today chestnuts exist only in the forest understory, primarily as root shoots. By the time they reach about 20 feet in height the blight attacks them.
Other types of trees that can be found include cherry, ash, sassafras, elm, butternut, locust, walnut, hemlock, white pine, and table mountain pine.