History & Culture

History of the Mt. Hood National Forest

Mt. Hood National Forest has a rich history which has contributed to its importance to the people and communities that visit the forest and the surrounding areas. The mountain was named Mt. Hood in 1792 by British Lieutenant William Broughton after a famous naval officer Alexander Arthur Hood. Lewis and Clark were the first Americans to document their view of Mt. Hood as they traveled through Oregon.

The Molalas, Kalapuyans, Chinookan Clackamas, Shinookan Wascos, Northern Paiute peoples, and Sahaptin speakers all lived within the area and many of them called the mountain Wy’East. This name has continued to live on in the community through names of streets, businesses, and schools. Native American trails  would later be used by pioneers, rangers, the recreating public, and automobiles as well. With the movement of pioneers to the newly settled West most Native American tribes were forcibly moved to reservation lands.

The Mount Hood National Forest land was first officially designated as the Bull Run Timberland Reserve by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892. In 1893 land was added to this allotment and the name was changed to the Cascade Range Forest Reserve. In 1908 the land was renamed the Oregon National Forest after the creation of the U.S. Forest Service. Finally in 1924 the Oregon National Forest was renamed Mount Hood National Forest. By the 1920s recreation was growing in the forest. Picnic grounds and auto camps were very popular at this time.

Historically, the communities near Mount Hood National Forest have been heavily dependent on the natural resources as well as job opportunities offered by the forest. This was especially true during the Great Depression as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) helped provide jobs to the locally unemployed creating buildings and recreation sites within the forest. From 1933 to 1944 the CCC built campgrounds, picnic shelters, trails, as well as Timberline Lodge with the help of the WPA. Timberline Lodge was the largest project undertaken during this time, and was even formally dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on September 28, 1937.

Skiing also became a very popular recreational opportunity for visitors during this time. Skiing was first noted on the mountain in 1900 and had been growing ever since. With the construction of Silcox Hut in 1938 and the Magic Mile Chairlift, recreational downhill skiing gained popularity, especially because the Magic Mile was the second chairlift constructed in the US.


Two ski patrol members carrying a member of the public down for their safetyDuring World War II, Mt. Hood National Forest had to shift its focus from recreation to raw material production in order to help with the war effort. However, post-war the forest received an even larger number of visitors than had ever been seen before. This continues to the present day with about 2.3 million visitors per year to the forest. With its 1.1 million acres, the forest hosts a number of recreational activities for all including:  100 developed campgrounds, 5 ski areas, and 812 miles of recreational trails.

Besides recreation, the watersheds that start in the forest help provide drinking water for 1/3 of Oregon’s entire population. While the forest goes through periods of change, the Forest Service has continued to provide recreational facilities and opportunities for Oregonians and other visitors, as well as helping to preserve the history and landscape of the forest for generations to come.

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