The Clemson Experimental Forest

The history of Clemson's most ambitious land preservation project.

With 17,500 acres of land, this forest is for recreation, experimentation, and land preservation! However, it used to be fallow farmland. How did unusable acreage become a agricultural hub? Find out here!

The Clemson Experimental Forest is 17,500 acres of Clemson land dedicated to conservation, preservation, and recreation. As America was in the throes of the Great Depression, Dr. George H. Aull, a Clemson College agricultural economist, found that thousands of acres of farmland had gone fallow. He decided that rejuvenating that land would not only generate much-needed jobs, but also provide South Carolinians a glimpse into the value of nature. In 1933, President Roosevelt declared an executive order which provided funds to buy such "submarginal land", and Aull capitalized. While this land was first owned by the federal government with Clemson merely supervising, Clemson eventually generated the funds to purchase the land properly over the course of 20 years. Aull trudged through not only government bureaucracy which was unsure that Clemson could handle the property with care, but Clemson administration that didn't want the expense for land they thought unnecessary and worthless. Though World War 2 brought the Clemson Community Conservation Project to a halt (and led to some mild bombing of Lake Issaqueena by Donaldson Air Force cadets), Norbert B. Goebel, a graduate in forest management from Duke University turned Clemson tiger, used his expertise to set the growth of the forest in motion. He also began the trend of using the forest for profit, first with producing pulpwood for paper products which expanded to sponges, dyes, and even sausage cases made of cellulose. This made the forest a stable, profitable investment that was still cared for sustainably. In terms of experimentation, the Experimental Forest was a fascinating testing ground for controlled burning, as well as the density and preferred plurality of certain tree species. Today,we reap its benefits of all this hard work in the form of gorgeous walking paths, community yoga, and various preserved samples of endemic flora and fauna. About 12,000 acres of the wood is dedicated to one massive research project testing three forest management alternatives, those being timber production, multi-use forestry, and a minimum disturbance forest. However, despite this land being, historically, a research and productivity hub, there's still so much to do for visitors interested in getting to know this piece of history personally. With a registration fee of $7, visitors can register walks with a certified educator or go out on their own to bike, kayak, or even make use of equestrian trails! The Experimental Forest took the long, harrowing journey from eroded farmland to a source of economic growth and family fun thanks to the efforts of Clemson faculty and staff like Dr. Aull and Norbert B. Goebel, and the best thing we can do to honor their legacy is go take a walk and look at waterfalls! What's better than that?