Roughly one-half of the total acreage in the watershed is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The bulk of Forest Service acreage lies within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest – Mt. Adams Ranger District (367,000 acres). Gifford Pinchot National Forest is one of the older national forests in the United States. Included as part of the Mount Rainier Forest Reserve in 1897, the area was set aside as the Columbia National Forest in 1908. It was renamed the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on June 15, 1949. The Mount Adams Ranger District features a great diversity of habitats and features, from old growth to second growth forest, wetland areas, low and high elevation meadows, glaciers, and low and high elevation lakes.

Mt Adams is a prominent landmark on the District being 12,276 feet at the summit. White Salmon River headwaters lie on Mount Adams. Along the west slope of Mt. Adams lies the 46,353-acre Mt. Adams Wilderness. On the eastern slope of Mt. Adams and adjacent to the Mt. Adams Wilderness lies the Yakama Nation. Mt. Adams Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1964 as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.