History & Culture

History of the Kisatchie

A historic timber picture from the USFS Archives

          The name Kisatchie was derived from a tribe of Kichai Indians of the Caddoan Confederacy, who called themselves "Kitsatchie". In the late 1800's virgin forests covered 85 percent of Louisiana. Not only was most of the land in timber, much of it was in pure stands of magnificent yellow pine.The quality, volume and level terrain represented a lumberman's dream. And they reaped that dream in the short span of roughly 25 years.

       Those outstanding forests enabled Louisiana to lead the nation in lumber production in 1914 and ranked second for several years. But that fast cut-out-and-get-out practice left Louisiana a blackened stump-waste just as the Great Depression gripped the nation. Devoid of resources or hope, few people saw any future for Louisiana in timber.

The Great Depression affected people of Louisiana long before the fateful "Black Tuesday" of October 29, 1929. The economic woes came several years before 1929 when the majority of large sawmills started closing their doors. The largest sawmill west of the Mississippi River, the Gulf Lumber Company, cut it's last timber in 1927 due to the economic ills of the country.

Fortunately for Louisiana, the Forest Service was able to acquire some of the Gulf Lumber Company and others lands. But as records of the supervisor's office show, there were over 78 large abandoned mills in western and north central Louisiana scattered throughout 26 pine parishes. During its first 30 years, the Kisatchie acquired land in only five of those parishes: Vernon, Rapides, Grant, Natchitoches and Winn. Even at bargain offers of less than $2 per acre, the federal government was limited in its purchases. The depressed economy was also pinching federal budgets and funds were not always available.

A picture of Louisiana in the early 1930's after the cut-em-and-leave era had passed leaving a bare wasteland

As the nation slipped deeper into the throes of the Depression, President Hoover stood staunchly by his belief in private enterprise and against public welfare and relief programs. But in 1929 the Forest Service was able to hire a few local men to begin management work on Kisatchie National Forest purchase units.

In 1928, Charles A. Plymale had been assigned as head of the Kisatchie Purchase Unit with headquarters in Alexandria, Louisiana. The following year the Forest Service Directory for October, 1929, listed the Catahoula as the forest's first ranger district. P.E. Ackerman headed that unit with his headquarters at Pollock, Louisiana. In 1930 the current Secretary of Agriculture Hyde proclaimed the Kisatchie as a National Forest.

Today Louisiana is green again, and the states only national forest, the Kisatchie, is considered a forester's dream. In 1979 and 1980, it led all other national forests of the South in revenue produced per acre.