Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
The Forest Service inaugurated the Little Santeelah, an impressive 3800 acre remnant of virgin wilderness, as the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and dedicated it July 30, 1935. In this most beautiful, unmarred, and natural setting, that was the uncharted hunting ground of the Cherokee Indians, virgin trees grow more than 100 feet tall and some 20 feet around the base. Many of the huge trees are hundreds of years old. In addition to the trees there is an outstanding variety of shrubs, vines, ferns, mosses, lichens, liverworts and herbaceous plants. In the spring wild flowers take advantage of the sunlight which will not be available after the hardwood trees are covered with shade-producing leaves. The Memorial Forest, comprised of the huge poplars, giant red oaks and magnificent hemlocks, as well as many other varieties of trees, is maintained in its primitive and natural state. No plants living or dead may be cut or removed.
Walking trails inside the Memorial Forest are suitable for all ages. There are more than 60 miles of hiking trails in this 14,000 acre wilderness area of Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness that follows the mountain streams, misty waterfalls, flowing cascades, over bold, sharp peaks and ridge tops. The longest trail through the Memorial Forest winds through the Forest to the site of the largest of the virgin trees still standing.
“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of Robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.”
December 6, 1886-July 30, 1918.
The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is a tribute to a hero whose poem “Trees” inspired millions. Joyce Kilmer, who was killed in action in France in W.W.I, has a living memorial in his memory, the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.