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Monongahela National Forest

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Title: Monongahela National Forest  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Laurel Fork North Wilderness, Laurel Fork South Wilderness, Spice Run Wilderness, Barton Knob, Olson Observation Tower
Collection: Allegheny Mountains, Campgrounds in West Virginia, Monongahela National Forest, National Forests of West Virginia, Protected Areas of Grant County, West Virginia, Protected Areas of Greenbrier County, West Virginia, Protected Areas of Nicholas County, West Virginia, Protected Areas of Pendleton County, West Virginia, Protected Areas of Pocahontas County, West Virginia, Protected Areas of Preston County, West Virginia, Protected Areas of Randolph County, West Virginia, Protected Areas of Tucker County, West Virginia, Protected Areas of Webster County, West Virginia
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Monongahela National Forest

Monongahela National Forest
U.S. National Forest
View from the slopes of Virginia
Name origin: Monongahela River, in whose watershed much of the original Forest was located
Country United States
State West Virginia
Counties[1] Grant, Greenbrier, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker, Webster
Ranger Districts[1] Cheat-Potomac, Greenbrier, Marlinton-White Sulphur Springs, Gauley
Highest point Spruce Knob
 - location Pendleton County, WV
 - elevation 4,863 ft (1,482.2 m)
 - coordinates
Lowest point South Branch Potomac River
 - location west of Petersburg, WV
 - elevation 968 ft (295 m)
 - coordinates
Area 921,150 acres (372,776 ha) [2]
 - Proclamation Boundary 1,706,898 acres (690,757 ha) [2]
Established April 28, 1920
 - Monongahela Purchase 1915
Owner US Forest Service
IUCN category VI - Managed Resource Protected Area
Headquarters Elkins, West Virginia
Location of Monongahela National Forest
Wikimedia Commons:
Website: Monongahela National Forest

The Monongahela National Forest is a national forest located in the Allegheny Mountains of eastern West Virginia, USA. It protects over 921,000 acres (3,727 km2; 1,439 sq mi) of federally owned land within a 1,700,000 acres (6,880 km2; 2,656 sq mi) proclamation boundary that includes much of the Potomac Highlands Region and portions of 10 counties.[3]

The MNF includes some major landform features such as the Allegheny Front and the western portion of the Ridge-and-valley Appalachians. Within the Forest are most of the highest mountain peaks in the state, including the highest, Spruce Knob (4,863 ft), also the highest point in the Alleghenies. Approximately 75 tree species are found in the Forest. Almost all of the trees are a second growth forest, grown back after the land was heavily cutover around the start of the 20th century. Species for which the Forest is important include red spruce (Picea rubens), balsam fir (Abies balsamea), and mountain ash (Sorbus americana).

The MNF includes eight U.S. Wilderness Areas and several special-use areas, notably the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area.


  • Administration 1
    • Ranger Districts 1.1
  • History 2
  • Statistics and general information 3
    • General 3.1
    • Trails 3.2
    • Natural features 3.3
    • Sensitive species 3.4
  • Geography 4
  • Ecology 5
  • Recreation 6
    • Campgrounds 6.1
  • Commercial resources 7
  • Areas of interest within the MNF 8
    • U.S. Wilderness Areas 8.1
    • Registered National Natural Landmarks 8.2
    • Stands of old growth forest 8.3
    • Other features 8.4
  • Photo gallery 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
    • Citations 11.1
    • Other sources 11.2
  • External links 12


The Forest is administered from the main headquarters in Elkins, West Virginia, and four ranger districts. The Forest has approximately 105 permanent employees, with this force augmented by senior citizens, temporary employees, and volunteers.

Ranger Districts

Monongahela National Forest is currently divided into four ranger districts.[1] The Cheat-Potomac and Marlinton-White Sulphur Springs were formed by combining their namesake districts; in the merged districts, the offices for both original districts were retained.


The MNF was established following passage of the Weeks Act in 1911. This act authorized the purchase of land for long-term watershed protection and natural resource management following the massive cutting of the Eastern forests in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1915, 7,200 acres (29 km2) were acquired to begin the forest, called the "Monongahela Purchase", and on April 28, 1920 it became the "Monongahela National Forest". By the end of 1924, the MNF had a total ownership of some 150,367 acres (609 km2).

Although white-tail deer never became completely extirpated from the MNF, from the 1890s to the 1920s their numbers throughout the state (as with most of the eastern US) were being officially reported as "almost zero". In January 1930, eight deer procured from Michigan were released into the Forest near Parsons. From 1937 to 1939, a total of 17 more deer were released in the Flatrock-Roaring Plains area of the Forest.[4][5] These releases served as the nucleus for reestablishing the healthy breeding populations of eastern West Virginia. (By the mid-1940s, deer were so numerous in the area that crop farmers had to patrol their fields by night.[6])

In 1943 and 1944, as part of the West Virginia Maneuver Area, the U.S. Army used parts of the MNF as a practice artillery and mortar range and maneuver area before troops were sent to Europe to fight in World War II. Artillery and mortar shells shot into the area for practice are still occasionally found there today. Seneca Rocks and other area cliffs were also used for assault climbing instruction. This was the Army's only low-altitude climbing school.

The fisher (Martes pennanti), believed to have been exterminated in the state by 1912, was reintroduced during the winter of 1969. At that time 23 fishers were translocated from New Hampshire to two sites within boundaries of the MNF (at Canaan Mountain in Tucker County and Cranberry Glades in Pocahontas County).

In 1980, and again in 2005, the MNF was the venue for the annual counterculture "Rainbow Gathering".

In 1993, the Craig Run East Fork Rockshelter and Laurel Run Rockshelter in the Gauley Ranger District were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[7]

Statistics and general information


  • Land area: over 919,000 acres (3,719 km2)[3]
  • Wilderness areas: 94,991 acres (384 km2)[8][9][10][11][12][13][14]
  • Roads: 570 miles (920 km)
  • Visitor centers: 2 (Cranberry Mountain Nature Center and Seneca Rocks Discovery Center)
  • Designated Scenic Areas: 3
  • Visitor observation towers: 2 (Bickle Knob Tower and Olson Tower)
  • Picnic areas: 17
  • Campgrounds: 23
  • Snowmobile areas: 1 (Highland Scenic Highway)
  • Wildlife management areas (managed with West Virginia Division of Natural Resources): 10
  • Warm-water fishing steams: 129 miles (208 km)
  • Trout streams: 578 miles (930 km)
  • Impoundments (reservoirs): 5


  • Trails: 825 miles (1,327 km)
    • Outside Wilderness Areas: 660 miles (1,062 km), not counting the 3 newest wildernesses
    • In Wilderness Areas: 165 miles (265 km), not counting the 3 newest wildernesses

Natural features

  • Wilderness areas: 8

Sensitive species

  • Sensitive plants and wildlife: 50
  • Threatened & endangered species: 9


The MNF encompasses most of the southern third of the Allegheny Mountains range (a section of the vast Appalachian Mountains range) and is entirely within the state of West Virginia. Elevations within the MNF range from about 900 feet (270 m) at Petersburg to 4,863 feet (1,482 m) at Spruce Knob. A rain shadow effect caused by slopes of the Allegheny Front results in 60 inches (1,500 mm) of annual precipitation on the west side and about half that on the east side.

Headwaters of six major river systems are located within the forest: Monongahela, Potomac, Greenbrier, Elk, Tygart, and Gauley. Twelve rivers are currently under study for possible inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.


The Forest is noted for its rugged landscape with spectacular views, blueberry thickets, highland bogs and "sods", and open areas with exposed rocks. In addition to the second-growth forest trees, the wide range of botanical species found includes rhododendron, laurel on the moist west side of the Allegheny Front, and cactus and endemic shale barren species on the drier eastern slopes.

There are 230 known species of birds inhabiting the MNF: 159 are known to breed there, 89 are Neotropical migrants; 71 transit the Forest during migration, but do not breed there, and 17 non-breeding species are Neotropical. The Brooks Bird Club (BBC) conducts an annual bird banding and survey project in the vicinity of Dolly Sods Scenic Area during migration (August - September). The Forest provides habitat for 9 federally listed endangered or threatened species: 2 bird species, 2 bat species, 1 subspecies of flying squirrel, 1 salamander species, and 3 plant species. Fifty other species of rare/sensitive plants and animals also occur in the forest.

Larger animals and game species found in the forest include black bear, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, gray and fox squirrels, rabbits, snowshoe hare, woodcock, and grouse. Limited waterfowl habitat exists in certain places. Furbearers include beaver, red and gray fox, bobcat, fisher, otter, raccoon and mink. Other hunted species include coyotes, skunks, opossums, woodchucks, crows, and weasels. There are 12 species of game (pan) fish and 60 species of nongame or forage fish. Some 90% of the trout waters of West Virginia are within the forest.


The MNF is a recreation destination and major tourism attraction, hosting approximately 3 million visitors annually. The extensive backwoods road and trail system is available for hiking, mountain biking, horse riding. There are many miles of railroad grades that are a link in the recreation use of the Forest. (The longest is the Glady to Durbin West Fork Railroad Trail which is 23 miles (37 km) long.) Recreation ranges from self-reliant treks in the wildernesses and backcountry areas to the challenges of mountain climbing to traditional developed site camping. Canoeing, hunting, trapping, fishing, and wildlife viewing are also popular uses.


  • Bear Heaven Campground
  • Big Bend Campground
  • Big Rock Campground
  • Bird Run Campground
  • Bishop Knob Campground
  • Blue Bend Recreation Area
  • Cranberry Campground
  • Cranberry River Sites
  • Day Run Campground
  • Gatewood Group Camp
  • Horseshoe Campground
  • Island Campground
  • Jess Judy Group Campground
  • Lake Sherwood Recreation Area
  • Laurel Fork Campground
  • Middle Mountain Cabins
  • Pocahontas Campground
  • Red Creek Campground
  • Seneca Shadows Campground
  • Spruce Knob Lake Campground
  • Stuart Campground
  • Stuart Group Campground
  • Summit Lake Campground
  • Tea Creek Campground
  • Williams River sites

Commercial resources

The Forest administration maintains wildlife and timber programs aimed at managing a diverse mix of tree species and ages. About 81 percent of the total Forest area is closed canopy forest over 60 years of age. The tree species most valuable for timber and for wildlife food in the MNF are black cherry and oaks. The Forest's commercial timber sale program averages 30 mbf (million board feet) of timber sold per year with a yearly average value of $7.5 million. A variety of cutting techniques are used, from cutting of single trees to clearcutting blocks up to 25 acres (100,000 m2) in size. Regeneration cuts (clearcuts or other treatments designed to start a new timber stand) occur on approximately 1,300 acres (5.3 km2) yearly out of the more than 909,000 acres (3,680 km2) forest total.

Mineral resources located in the MNF include coal, gas, limestone, and gravel; but not oil. Sheep and cattle grazing occurs on about 7,000 acres (28 km2).

Receipts for timber, grazing, land uses, minerals, and recreation use averaged $4,840,466 annually between FY92 and FY96, and 25% of that (an average of $1,210,116 per year) was returned to counties that include MNF lands. This money is intended for use by local schools and for roads. The remaining 75% each year is returned to the U.S. Treasury.

Areas of interest within the MNF

U.S. Wilderness Areas

Registered National Natural Landmarks

Canada geese in Spruce Knob Lake.

Stands of old growth forest

Some 318 acres (1.29 km2) of true old growth forest have been documented within the MNF.[16] The largest of these areas are:

Other features

Photo gallery

See also



  1. ^ a b c "Monongahela National Forest: Land and Resource Management Plan" (PDF). Monongahela National Forest. September 2006. Archived from the original on 2009-01-19. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  2. ^ a b "Land Areas of the National Forest System". U.S. Forest Service. January 2012. Retrieved June 30, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "About the Forest". Monongahela National Forest. Retrieved April 13, 2010. 
  4. ^ DeGarmo, W. R. (1949), A White-tailed Deer Study; Final Report, W-8-R, Phase B, Statewide Wildlife Survey, West Virginia Conservation Commission, Charleston, West Virginia, 184pp.
  5. ^ Lesser, Walter A. and Jack I. Cromer Historical Review of Wildlife Management in Canaan Valley and Surrounding AreaUnpublished MS: , West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, pg 2.
  6. ^ DeGarmo, W.R., and J. Gill (1958), West Virginia White-tails, Conservation Commission of West Virginia, Charleston, West Virginia, 87 pp.
  7. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  8. ^ a b "Big Draft Wilderness". Monongahela National Forest. Retrieved April 13, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b "Cranberry Wilderness". Monongahela National Forest. Retrieved April 13, 2010. 
  10. ^ a b "Dolly Sods Wilderness". Monongahela National Forest. Retrieved April 13, 2010. 
  11. ^ a b c "Laurel Fork Wilderness brochure". Monongahela National Forest. Retrieved April 13, 2010. 
  12. ^ a b "Otter Creek Wilderness". Monongahela National Forest. Retrieved April 13, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b "Roaring Plains West Wilderness". Monongahela National Forest. Retrieved April 13, 2010. 
  14. ^ a b "Spice Run Wilderness". Monongahela National Forest. Retrieved April 13, 2010. 
  15. ^ Monongahela National Forest Campground Information Index
  16. ^ Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (September 2006), Monongahela National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan; Appendix B, pg 4.

Other sources

  • McKim, C.R. (1970), Monongahela National Forest History, Unpublished manuscript available at the Monongahela National Forest Office, Elkins, West Virginia.
  • de Hart, Allen and Bruce Sundquist (2006), Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide, 8th edition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Charleston, West Virginia.
  • Berman, Gillian Mace, Melissa Conley-Spencer, Barbara J. Howe and Charlene Lattea (1992), The Monongahela National Forest: 1915-1990, Morgantown, West Virginia: WVU Public History Program; For the United States Forest Service: Monongahela National Forest. (March 1992)
  • DeMeo, Tom and Julie Concannon (1996), "On the Mon: Image and Substance in West Virginia’s National Forest", Inner Voice, Vol. 8, Issue 1, January/February.
  • Weitzman, Sidney (1977), Lessons from the Monongahela Experience, USDA, Forest Service, December.
  • This article contains information that originally came from US Government publications and websites and is in the public domain.

External links

  • MNF Webpage on the USDA Forest Service Website
  • Recreation.Gov Page
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