Despite the desolate appearance in 1904 the unfolding ecological disaster was a victory for New England and fueled the creation of the US National Forest Service. Due to increasing regulations, the opening of virgin timber stands in the western United States, and the fact that only a handful of mature trees were still standing in Vermont the logging operations came to an end, and the region began to heal.
Today the area is alive with birch, and maple trees. At higher elevations where the wind sweeps the tops of the worn down peaks spruce and firs are making a comeback. In another hundred years most of the maples and birch trees will be gone, choked out by the shade of the advancing fir and spruce. Still it is not a complete comeback - it has been almost a century since timber wolves, mountain lions, and lynx have called this area home.
The state bought the first tracts of land in this area in 1919 and continued to purchase parcels through 1975 when the state forest reached 25,000 acres. Like so many of our older parks in the United States, the Civilian Conservation Corps (or CCC) built many of the roads, trails, buildings, and campgrounds in use today.
Today State Highway 232 (also called the Groton Forest Highway) snakes it way north/south through the heart of the state forest. From the town of Groton to Kettle Pond State Park in the heart of the forest, the old Montpelier and Wells River Railroad bed runs parallel to the road before veering off to the northwest.
Visitors to the state forest will find that recreational opportunities and facilities rival national parks of similar size. The state forest is serviced by a vast network of hiking and multi-purpose trails for mountain biking, horseback riding, and off road use. In the wintertime the network of trails that surround the Groton Nature Center, located on the shore of Lake Groton, are used for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
Hiking east of the Groton Nature Center forest visitors can explore the 700-acre Peacham Bog, one of the largest bogs in Vermont (be alert for poison sumac). Many visitors also take the hike up to the top of Owlshead Mountain (Owl's Head Mountain is in southern Vermont near the Massachusetts border). The peak of Owlshead is due east of the Kettle Pond Campground. Visitors can almost drive to the summit on a multi-use road (check conditions) and take an easy 1/10 of a mile trek to the summit. If you want a little bit more of a challenge consider hiking from the New Discovery Campground, about a two-mile one-way trek up the gently sloping side of the mountain. The view is tremendous and well worth the drive or the foot work to get there.
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