Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Washington Lake Group Areas

I know.  This post is out of order.  I just couldn’t leave my series on Washington Lake without writing about our group areas. 

Washington Lake has five group areas.  Four of the five group areas accommodate groups up to 50 people; the largest group area accommodates 100 people.  The group areas are named after former U.S. presidents:  Lincoln, Jefferson, Hoover, Roosevelt, and Kennedy.  These sites are available by reservation only at www.recreation.gov.

So why were these particular five presidents chosen?  Roosevelt – that’s Teddy, not Franklin – was President when the U.S. Forest Service was created.  Per http://www.fs.fed.us/learn/our-history, “Federal forest management dates back to 1876 when Congress created the office of Special
Roosevelt Group Area
Agent in the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assess the quality and conditions of forests in the United States. In 1881 the Department expanded the office into the Division of Forestry. A decade later Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 authorizing the President to designate public lands in the West into what were then called ‘forest reserves.’ Responsibility for these reserves fell under the Department of the Interior until 1905 when President Theodore Roosevelt transferred their care to the Department of Agriculture’s new U.S. Forest Service. Gifford Pinchot led this new agency as its first Chief, charged with caring for the newly renamed national forests.”

President Herbert Hoover also had an influence over the National Forests.  “During his presidency, Herbert Hoover added 3 million acres to the National Park Service (expanding it by 40%), oversaw the National Park Service Reorganization of 1933, and added 2.3 million acres to the U.S. Forest Service.” (www.nps.gov)

Early in his presidency, John F. Kennedy issued seven Executive Orders concerning the National Forests.   Per www.americanforests.org, “Even though President Kennedy never designated new forestlands, he did enhance and add to the forests already in existence when he assumed office in 1961. Even without a new designation, and having less than one term in office, President Kennedy made his mark upon numerous national forests throughout the southeast and the Midwest.” 
Kennedy Group Area

What about Jefferson and Lincoln?  Both pre-date the National Forest Service.  Maybe they were just the favorite presidents of the builders of the Washington Lake Group Areas. 

The group areas are about ½ mile away from the main campground, so the groups can have their privacy.  Well, for the most part.  A lot of people drive into the group areas looking for either the trailhead or for fisherman parking.  I have to laugh.  What part of “Reservations Only” don’t they understand?  We also get legitimate visitors – people who are investigating the group areas for a future reservation.  We’ve tried to encourage the groups to work together to keep the lower gates closed so they are minimally disturbed.

Each group area features multiple picnic tables, two grills and two Dutch oven tables, and a large fire pit.  Restrooms are a short walk from each group area.  A trail at the top of the loop (in the Kennedy parking lot) leads to the Washington Lake Dam and to the Haystack Lake trailhead.  The Washington Lake shoreline trail is less than ¼ mile from the entrance to the group area and leads directly to the Crystal Lake trailhead. 

All in all, the Washington Lake Group Areas are a great place to spend a few days with 50 – 100 of your closest friends.  Make your reservations early – they fill up fast.

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