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George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
U.S. National Forests
White Rocks on Little Sluice Mountain in George Washington National Forest.
Country  United States
States  Kentucky,  Virginia,  West Virginia
Ranger Districts Clinch, Eastern Divide, Glenwood Pedlar, James River, Lee, Mount Rogers, North River, Warm Springs
Coordinates 38°30′0″N 79°0′0″W / 38.5°N 79°W / 38.5; -79
Highest point Mount Rogers
 - location Grayson and Smyth Counties, VA
 - elevation 5,729 ft (1,746.2 m)
 - coordinates 36°39′35″N 81°3′41″W / 36.65972°N 81.06139°W / 36.65972; -81.06139
Lowest point South Fork Shenandoah River
 - location southwest of Front Royal, VA
 - elevation 513 ft (156.4 m)
 - coordinates 38°52′31″N 78°18′34″W / 38.87528°N 78.30944°W / 38.87528; -78.30944
Area 1,788,739 acres (723,877 ha)
Established 1995 [1]
 - George Washington NF 1918-05-16 [2]
 - Jefferson NF 1936-04-21 [2]
Owner US Forest Service
IUCN category VI - Managed Resource Protected Area
Headquarters Roanoke, Virginia
Location of George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
Wikimedia Commons: George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
Website: George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are U.S. National Forests that combine to form one of the largest areas of public land in the Eastern United States. They cover 1.8 million acres (7,300 km²) of land in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Approximately one million acres (4,000 km²) of the forest are remote and undeveloped and 139,461 acres (564.38 km²)[3] have been designated as wilderness areas, which eliminates future development.



George Washington National Forest was established on May 16, 1918 as the Shenandoah National Forest. The forest was renamed after the first President on June 28, 1932. Natural Bridge National Forest was added on July 22, 1933.[2]

Jefferson National Forest was formed on April 21, 1936 by combining portions of the Unanka and George Washington National Forests with other land.[2] In 1995, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests were administratively combined.[1] The border between the two forests roughly follows the James River. The combined forest is administered from its headquarters in Roanoke, Virginia.[1]

Notable features

Flora and fauna

A split rail fence at the entrance to Sherando Lake

The Forests' vast and mountainous terrain harbors a great variety of plant life - over 50 species of trees and over 2,000 species of shrubs and herbaceous plants. [4]

Dry-mesic oak forests are the most abundant forest type.[5][6] These forests are widespread in the southeastern United States and occur on dry, upland sites on southern and western aspects and ridgetops. The composition of these forests varies throughout their range but often includes chestnut oak, northern red oak, eastern black oak, white oak, and scarlet oak. Conifers sometimes found among the oaks are shortleaf pine, eastern white pine, and table mountain pine.[7]

Dry and dry-mesic oak-pine forests occur on droughty, coarse-textured soils on ridges and south-facing slopes. Oak and pine species are easily found, with white oak, scarlet oak, chestnut oak, shortleaf pine, pitch pine the most common. Flowering dogwood, sourwood, sassafras, and blackgum live in the midstory and blueberry, huckleberry, and mountain laurel fill the understory.[7]

Xeric pine and pine-oak forests and woodland grow on dry, acidic soils on steep slopes, rock outcrops, or south-facing aspects. Typical trees are pitch pine, Virginia pine, shortleaf pine, eastern white pine, table mountain pine, and chestnut oak.[7]

Dry and xeric oak forest, woodland, and savanna occur on very dry and infertile uplands as well as steep, southern aspects and rocky outcrops. They include black oak, post oak, blackjack oak, chestnut oak, scarlet oak, and white oak.[7]

Mixed mesophytic forests occur in coves and on low north- and east-facing slopes and are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the country. Typical trees of these forests are sugar maple, American beech, eastern hemlock, silverbell, yellow poplar, red maple, white oak, northern red oak, yellow birch, yellow buckeye, and basswood. Oaks gain numbers on drier sites.[7]

Northern hardwood forests occur in cool, mesic habitats found on high north- and east-facing slopes. Sugar maple, beech, and yellow birch dominate but are sometimes joined by the conifers eastern hemlock, eastern white pine, and red spruce.[7]

Uncommon but significant are montane and allied spruce and spruce-fir forests. These occur only on the highest peaks and ridges, where the soils are poor, the growing season short, and moisture comes from rain, snow, and fog. Red spruce, Fraser fir, yellow birch, mountain ash, and mountain maple identify these forests, while hobblebush and bearberry occur in the understory.[7]

The Forests contain some 230,000 acres (930 km2) of old growth forests, in which all of these forest types are represented.[5][6] Locations of old growth include Peters Mountain, Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area, Rich Hole Wilderness, Flannery Ridge, Pick Breeches Ridge, and Laurel Fork Gorge, Pickem Mountain, and Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.[8] The Ramsey's Draft and Kimberling Creek Wildernesses in particular are mostly old-growth.[8][9 ][10]

The black bear is relatively common, enough so that there is a short hunting season to prevent overpopulation. White-tailed deer, bobcat, bald eagles, weasel, otter, and marten are also known to inhabit the forest.


The forests are popular hiking, mountain biking, and hunting destinations. The Appalachian Trail extends for 330 miles (530 km) from the southern end of Shenandoah National Park through the forest and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The forest is within a two hour drive to over 10 million people and receives heavy visitation, especially in the region closest to Shenandoah National Park.

The George Washington National Forest is a popular destination for trail runners. It is the location for several Ultramarathons, including the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 miler, the Old Dominion 100 miler, and the Old Dominion Memorial 100 miler[11].

The George Washington Forest is also the home to Nature Camp, a science-oriented summer camp for youth. The camp is located on national forest land near the town of Vesuvius.


Counties are listed in descending order of forestland area within county. Note that Jefferson National Forest is located in 22 separate counties, more than any other National Forest except Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri, which lies in 29 counties. Note also that Botetourt, Monroe, and Rockbridge counties, at the dividing line between the two forests, include parts of both forests. Thirdly, note that the state of Kentucky actually has very little acreage, with its two counties bringing up the tail end of Jefferson National Forest. As of September 30, 2007 George Washington National Forest has a total area of 1,065,389 acres (1,664.7 sq mi, or 4,311.5 km²). There are local ranger district offices located in Bridgewater, Covington, Edinburg, Hot Springs, and Staunton. Jefferson National Forest has a total area of 723,350 acres (1,130.2 sq mi, or 2,927.3 km²). [1] There are local ranger district offices located in Blacksburg, Marion, Natural Bridge, New Castle, and Wise.


George Washington National Forest

  1. Augusta County, Virginia
  2. Bath County, Virginia
  3. Alleghany County, Virginia
  4. Rockingham County, Virginia
  5. Shenandoah County, Virginia
  6. Highland County, Virginia
  7. Amherst County, Virginia
  8. Hardy County, West Virginia
  9. Pendleton County, West Virginia
  10. Rockbridge County, Virginia
  11. Page County, Virginia
  12. Nelson County, Virginia
  13. Botetourt County, Virginia
  14. Warren County, Virginia
  15. Frederick County, Virginia
  16. Hampshire County, West Virginia
  17. Monroe County, West Virginia

Jefferson National Forest

  1. Craig County, Virginia
  2. Bland County, Virginia
  3. Smyth County, Virginia
  4. Botetourt County, Virginia
  5. Giles County, Virginia
  6. Wythe County, Virginia
  7. Wise County, Virginia
  8. Scott County, Virginia
  9. Grayson County, Virginia
  10. Washington County, Virginia
  11. Rockbridge County, Virginia
  12. Montgomery County, Virginia
  13. Pulaski County, Virginia
  14. Bedford County, Virginia
  15. Monroe County, West Virginia
  16. Lee County, Virginia
  17. Tazewell County, Virginia
  18. Dickenson County, Virginia
  19. Carroll County, Virginia
  20. Roanoke County, Virginia
  21. Letcher County, Kentucky
  22. Pike County, Kentucky

Wilderness areas

There are 139,461 acres (564.38 km²)[12] of federally designated wilderness areas in the two forests under the United States National Wilderness Preservation System. All are in the state of Virginia, except as indicated. The largest of these is the Mountain Lake Wilderness, at 16,511 acres (66.82 km²). There are 17 wildernesses in Jefferson National Forest, second only to Tongass National Forest, which has 19. However, most are relatively tiny when compared to the giant wildernesses in the Alaska national forest.

George Washington National Forest

Jefferson National Forest

  • Barbours Creek Wilderness (most)
  • Beartown Wilderness
  • Brush Mountain East Wilderness
  • Brush Mountain Wilderness
  • Garden Mountain Wilderness
  • Hunting Camp Creek Wilderness
  • James River Face Wilderness
  • Kimberling Creek Wilderness
  • Lewis Fork Wilderness
  • Little Dry Run Wilderness
  • Little Wilson Creek Wilderness
  • Mountain Lake Wilderness (Virginia / West Virginia)
  • Peters Mountain Wilderness
  • Raccoon Branch Wilderness
  • Shawvers Run Wilderness (most)
  • Stone Mountain Wilderness
  • Thunder Ridge Wilderness

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Forest Facts". George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Archived from the original on 2009-01-18. Retrieved 2009-01-18.  
  2. ^ a b c d Davis, Richard C. (2005-09-29). "The National Forests of the United States" (PDF). The Forest History Society. Archived from the original on 2008-01-17. Retrieved 2009-01-18.  
  3. ^ search page
  4. ^ "George Washington & Jefferson National Forest Trees & Shrubs". George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Archived from the original on 2009-01-17. Retrieved 2009-01-17.  
  5. ^ a b George Washington National Forest 1993 Revised Forest Plan. United States Forest Service. 1993.  
  6. ^ a b Jefferson National Forest 2004 Revised Forest Plan. United States Forest Service. 2004.  
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Guidance for conserving and restoring old-growth forest communities on national forests in the Southern Region. United States Forest Service, Southern Region. 1997.  
  8. ^ a b Mary Byrd Davis (23 January 2008). "Old Growth in the East: A Survey. Virginia".  
  9. ^ Jefferson National Forest South Half. Old Growth Inventory Map.. United States Forest Service, Southern Region. 1997.  
  10. ^ Jefferson National Forest South Half. Wilderness, Roadless, and Wild & Scenic Rivers Map.. United States Forest Service, Southern Region. 1997.  
  11. ^ Run100s ("Run Hundreds") - A Not-For-Profit UltraRunning Corporation
  12. ^ search page

External links


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