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Land History of Alford Forest

Alford Forest is situated on the east edge of the White River Hills in the Ozark Highlands. The bulk of the forest lies within 2 miles of Bryant Creek, a major tributary of the White River. Roubidoux sandstone is the bedrock over most of the area, with some of the underlying Gasconade dolomite visible in the lower hollows. Elevations range from 700 feet along the Bryant to 1,160 feet on the southern ridgetops.

To make the best use of the information coming from the forest/cruise survey we needed to put it in the context of the history-social, ecological, and economic-of the land. Our sources included the survey notes of 1848, archives of the Alford Forest going back to the early 1960's, information from Ella Alford, title abstracts, and research on the pre-settlement condition of the area's forest, especially as it relates to native management by fire to maintain grasses and savanna conditions. In addition, we had the benefit of the oral and written history on the days of the Big Mill from Noble Barker, Sr., whose ancestors came into this area in 1830.

It seems likely that land in this part of the Bryant Creek Watershed was a mosaic of forest interspersed with grasslands, at least some of it burned on a cycle of every 3 to 11 years (the burn periodicity identified by studies at Caney Mountain) by the Indians to maintain the grass for the large herbivores (woodland buffalo, elk, deer) that were a prime source of food for them. Forest would have been most dense in the river bottoms and other riparian areas, with more savanna-like conditions being seen in some of the uplands. Where there is still forest now, the basic tree species would be much the same, except for their densities in any given area. In many places these have been rearranged by human activity since white settlement.