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Monongahela National Forest
U.S. National Forest
View from the slopes of Back Allegheny Mountain looking east. Visible are Allegheny Mountain (middle distance) and Shenandoah Mountain (far distance). The latter is in the George Washington National Forest of Virginia
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
Coordinates 38°55′45″N 79°50′52″W / 38.92917°N 79.84778°W / 38.92917; -79.84778
Highest point Spruce Knob
 - location Pendleton County, WV
 - elevation 4,863 ft (1,482.2 m)
 - coordinates 38°41′59″N 79°31′58″W / 38.69972°N 79.53278°W / 38.69972; -79.53278
Lowest point South Branch Potomac River
 - location west of Petersburg, WV
 - elevation 968 ft (295 m)
 - coordinates 39°00′05″N 79°09′46″W / 39.00139°N 79.16278°W / 39.00139; -79.16278
Area 910,155 acres (368,326.7 ha)
Established 1920-04-28
 - 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: Monongahela National Forest
Website: Monongahela National Forest

The Monongahela National Forest (MNF) was established by the U.S. Congress in 1915 as the 7,200-acre (29 km2) "Monongahela Purchase". It became a U.S. National Forest on April 28, 1920 and now encompasses 910,155 acres (3,683 km2). It is located in the Allegheny Mountains of eastern West Virginia, USA and includes parts of 10 West Virginia counties including much of the Potomac Highlands Region.

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 turn 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.


Forest administration

The MNF is administered from the main headquarters in Elkins, West Virginia and four (formerly six) ranger districts. The Forest has approximately 105 permanent employees, with this force augmented by Senior Citizens, temporary employees, and volunteers.

Ranger Districts

The Monongahela 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 constituent districts were retained.


The Monongahela National Forest 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 1800s and early 1900s. In 1915, 7,200 acres (29 km2) were acquired to begin the forest, called the Monongahela Purchase, and on 28 April 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).

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 mountain assault climbing school.

Statistics and general information


  • Land area: 910,155 acres (3,683 km2)
  • Wilderness areas: 118,002 acres (478 km2)
  • 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)
  • ATV areas: 0
  • Wildlife management units (managed with West Virginia Division of Natural Resources): 10
  • Warm-water fishing steams: 129 miles (208 km)
  • Trout streams: 576 miles (927 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
  • Rivers and stream miles: ???

Sensitive species

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


The topography of the MNF ranges in elevation 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 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 mammals (also considered game species) 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/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.
Main article: List of National Natural Landmarks in West Virginia

Stands of old growth forest

Some 318 acres of true old growth forest have been documented within the MNF.[4] 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. ^ Monongahela National Forest Campground Information Index
  3. ^ "Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  4. ^ 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.
  • This article contains information that originally came from US Government publications and websites and is in the public domain.

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

View from Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia.
View from Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia.

The Monongahela National Forest [1] is in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia. There are campgrounds, picnic areas, and over 500 miles of hiking trails, in addition to mountain climbing, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, boating, wildlife viewing, birdwatching, hunting, and fishing.

  • Monongahela National Forest, 200 Sycamore Street, 304-636-1800.
  • Seneca Rocks, US-33 and WV-28, 304-567-2827. 900-foot-tall formations made of Tuscarora quartzite with over 375 mapped climbing routes and a self-guided interpretive trail with a viewing platform.
  • Spruce Knob, Forest Road, 304-567-2827. The highest point in West Virginia, at 4,861 feet. A stone and steel observation tower provides 360-degree views, and there's a half-mile trail circling the Knob. Fishing, hiking and an on-site campground with 43 sites.


The MNF is more than 900,000 acres and encompasses several wilderness areas, including Seneca Rocks and Spruce Knob. Within the forest are many small communities that have limited lodging, restaurants and small shops. Before hiking, camping, fishing, etc., be sure you are not trespassing on private land.

Get in

The MNF is is about an hour east of Elkins. Take US-33 West.



There are more than 20 campgrounds in the MNF. Accessibility of campgrounds varies.


Backcountry camping is allowed in most areas, provided you stay so far off the road and leave-no-trace.

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