Telling the story of 200 years  of White Mountain History

                                        White Mountain

                            National Forest Maps 

by David Govatski

 The WMNF was formally established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1918. The authorizing legislation was the Weeks Act of March 1, 1911. As a result of the Weeks Act, a National Forest Reservation Commission (NFRC) was created in 1911 to determine the acquisition boundaries. This boundary is called the Proclamation Boundary and specifies where land can be acquired without special rules.  The Proclamation Boundary has changed several times over the years including the elimination of the Mahoosuc Range Purchase Unit in New Hampshire and Maine in 1928.

Approval of the Proclamation Boundary allowed the US Forest Service to begin acquiring land in 1914, even before the White Mountain National Forest  was established   in 1918. Lands were purchased by a team of foresters led by William Logan Hall who, in a little over a year,  purchased a quarter million acres from willing sellers. The first tract acquired under the Weeks Act,  on January 2, 1914 according to the WMNF land status records,  was the E. Bertram Pike Tract, US Tract 59,  consisting of  7,079 acres in Benton, NH.  The next acquisition was US Tract 11 from the Berlin Timber Land Company on January 20, 1914, consisting of 30,296 acres in the Northern Presidential Range, Wild River and Cherry Mountain regions.

 The first WMNF map for the public was issued in 1914 with a  title of White Mountain Region. The maps were then free for the asking. The 1914 map showed the first three large acquisitions including the two previously mentioned and a large tract of land in Bethlehem in the headwaters of the Gale River. The map was black and white and used simple hachure lines to denote topography. Later maps used color, contour lines and illustrations or photos and were printed on both sides.

 Over 30 WMNF maps have been produced by the US Forest Service since the first map came out in 1914. In the early years, maps were updated annually to reflect the rapid changes in public ownership brought about by the Weeks Act. Recreational opportunities such as trails and campgrounds were featured in early editions.  After the Great Hurricane of 1938, the maps in 1939-1942 denoted areas closed to the public because of the high fire danger posed by the hurricane ravaged forest. Later years brought less frequent map products including a large gap from 1942 to 1963. The last WMNF map produced was in 1993. 

David Govatski worked on several national forests including 22 years on the White Mountain National Forest as a forester, silviculturist and fire management officer. He retired in 2005 but continues to volunteer for the WMNF and organizations like ours where he is on the Board of Directors. He lives in Jefferson, NH and can be reached at David.Govatski@gmail.com  

      Clicking on any map will bring up  a larger image.
The type on these maps is small.  In order for viewers  to see the details, we've decided to use larger file sizes, realizing that this will result in slower loading for some viewers.

The maps have been provided through the courtesy of the Evans Map Room at Dartmouth College.  Captions by Dave Govatski.


The first public map of the WMNF was issued in 1914 and showed the first land acquisitions and the proclamation boundary. It was free to the public and printed on one side.  The Forest  Supervisor’s Office was in Gorham.


 The second WMNF map was issued in May 1915 in time for the recreation season and included a message to the public about the WMNF area. Information about preventing forest fires was also included. The map showed lands being acquired by the United States in green. 


The Zealand Valley was acquired from the J.E. Henry Estate. Crawford Notch State Park was established and shown on the map. Additional lands in Maine had been included in the expanded Proclamation Boundary. 305,000 acres had already been purchased.


The fourth WMNF map uses White Mountain National Forest for the first time. The Mahoosuc Purchase unit is established.  Some trails are now shown. This map lacks the green overprint .
Presidential Proclamation 
The Proclamation was issued with both late 1917 and 1918 issues of the map.

 The southern boundary around Ellsworth and Sandwich has been better defined. This map came in two versions, one with the green overprint and the other just black and white. 

The 1920 map showed more land having been acquired in the last two years. The area around the Mount Washington Hotel at Bretton Woods is now out of the Proclamation Boundary.


 By 1924 the WMNF had acquired most of the land in the Presidential and Carter Ranges.  State Forests and Parks are shown in brown.  An ownership along the Dry River is hand corrected using a stamp and purple ink stating “Private Land.” This later was sold to the US government.  A huge area in the Pemigewasset River country in Lincoln shows logging railroads and private land. 

Three state game refuges managed by the WMNF are shown. They are the Hubbard Brook, Wild River and York Pond state game refuges.  WMNF campgrounds and shelters are shown in red for the first time.  The Mahoosuc Purchase unit is dropped. The Supervisor’s Office is now in Laconia.

 A double sided map with a picture of the Presidential Range from Glen Road is on the cover.  The map had camping and other information on the back side. The Pemigewasset wilderness, now largely cut over was designated for acquisition.

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·         Planimetric Map: A map accurately representing only the horizontal position of features such as buildings, campgrounds, roads, rivers, trails and other cultural features. Terrain or topography is omitted.

·         Thematic Map:  A map designed to show a particular theme connected with a specific geographic area such as high fire danger from hurricane damage on the 1939 map.

·         Topographic Map: A map characterized by large-scale detail and quantitative representation of relief, usually using contour lines as in the 1967 WMNF map. Earlier WMNF maps often used hachure lines to denote mountains and ridges.  


“Purchase of Land Under the Weeks Law in the Southern Appalachian and White Mountains. “  


“Weeks Law Purchase Units.”  http://www.foresthistory.org/ASPNET/Policy/WeeksAct/WeeksPurchaseUnits_Map.htm 


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