While famous pioneer Daniel Boone would be celebrating his 283rd birthday this year, the national forest named in his honor is turning 80.

Established on Feb. 23, 1937 as Cumberland National Forest through a proclamation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Daniel Boone National Forest now encompasses 709,000 acres across 21 counties in southern and eastern Kentucky and attracts more than 1 million visitors to the region, annually.

Forest officials noted that some of the largest tracts of what was to become national forest land was acquired from coal and lumber companies.

“In many cases, the land was depleted of its natural resources before sold to the federal government,” officials stated. “The U.S. Forest Service planted trees to restore vegetation and water quality in these areas.”

The national forest has approximately 100 developed recreation areas such as campgrounds and picnic areas, along with more than 600 miles of multiple-use trails.

In 1966, the national forest was officially renamed Daniel Boone National Forest.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of Laurel River Dam in December 1964.

The 5,600-acre lake was created in 1974.

“For the past 80 years, the Daniel Boone National Forest has been ‘caring for the land and serving people’ as part of the Forest Service mission,” said Acting Forest Supervisor Dan Olsen.

Corbin Tourism Director Maggy Kriebel said the Cumberland River, Laurel Lake, the campgrounds, marinas, and the hiking and off-highway vehicle trails are among the attractions that draw approximately 500,000 people to the area.

“The national forest is a huge asset in terms of attracting tourists,” Kriebel said.

Daniel Boone National Forest is one of 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in the United States, which contributes $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy.