Elk Neck State Forest takes its name from the Elk River, into which most of the forest drains. Elevations range from 60 feet at Plum Creek to 306 feet in the northwest portion of the forest. The forest occupies 3,571 acres, of which, 2,404 acres came as a gift from Jane Francis Mallen in 1936. A Civilian Conservation Corps camp was on the Black Hill Tract of the State Forest in the late 1930’s. The camp accomplished road, trail and boundary line work on the forest and developed Elk Neck State Park some 8 miles to the south on the Elk Neck Peninsula.
Since the gravely soils of the upland forest are very dry, tree growth is slow and of poor quality. In addition, rather frequent forest fires have deteriorated these soils. Along Plum and Mill Creeks, however, the trees are larger and of higher quality. Fires on these moist areas were less severe, but still evident. Trees found in the forest are pitch, Virginia, and loblolly pine, scarlet, chestnut, and white oak on the upper slopes, and tulip poplar, sweetgum, white and red oak and red maple on the lower slopes and stream bottoms. Due to poor stocking and low quality trees, timber sales have been few.
The early history of the site included clearing for agriculture by the European settlers in the early 1700’s. Most of the soils in the Elk Neck area are poor because of either sand/gravel deposits or clay content. As agriculture failed, the area reforested, but was repeatedly cutover to provide charcoal for iron furnaces in the area. The Forest produced many other wood products for the area. This process continued until the early 1900’s.
As the forest grew, the power of nature took over. The forest developed into a relatively mature, hardwood forest that provides habitat to a wide diversity of wildlife. These relatively large, unbroken areas of mature forestland in Central Maryland provide a unique habitat in this section of the State.