|George Washington and Jefferson National Forests|
|Area||1,790,933 acres (7,247.65 km2)|
|Website||George Washington and Jefferson National Forests|
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests is an administrative entity combining two U.S. National Forests into one of the largest areas of public land in the Eastern United States. The forests cover 1.8 million acres (2,800 sq mi) of land in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Approximately 1 million acres (1,600 sq mi) of the forest are remote and undeveloped and 139,461 acres (218 sq mi) have been designated as wilderness areas, which prohibits 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.
Jefferson National Forest was formed on April 21, 1936, by combining portions of the Unaka and George Washington National Forests with other land. In 1995, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests were administratively combined. The border between the two forests roughly follows the James River. The combined forest is administered from its headquarters in Roanoke, Virginia.
- The northern portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is separately administered by the National Park Service, runs through the Forest.
- Over 2,000 miles (3,000 km) of hiking trails, including segments of the Appalachian Trail, go through the forest.
- Virginia's highest point, Mount Rogers, is located in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area that is part of the forest. Other notable mountains include Elliott Knob, which has one of the last remaining fire lookout towers in the eastern U.S., and Whitetop Mountain.
- Approximately 230,000 acres (930 km2) of old-growth forests.
- The ghost town of Lignite, Virginia, lies within the forest.
- The deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River, Breaks Interstate Park, is located in the forest.
- Roaring Run Furnace is the only site on the National Register of Historic Places owned by the Jefferson National Forest.
Flora and fauna
The Forests contain some 230,000 acres (930 km2) of old growth forests, representing all of the major forest communities found within them. 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. The Ramsey's Draft and Kimberling Creek Wildernesses in particular are mostly old-growth.
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 Forests.
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 for over ten million people and thus receives large numbers of visitors, 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.
George Washington Forest is also the venue for Nature Camp, a natural science education-oriented summer camp for youth. The camp is located on national forest land near the town of Vesuvius, Virginia. It has operated at this location since the summer of 1953.
Jefferson National Forest is located in 23 separate counties, more than any other National Forest except Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri, which lies in 29 counties. 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 area, with its two counties bringing up the tail end of Jefferson National Forest.
Ranger district offices
Ranger offices are the Forest Service's public service offices. Maps and other information about the forests can be obtained at these locations. These offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Supervisor's Office in Roanoke is not located in the forest and is primarily an administrative location.
District offices are listed from north to south. Counties are in Virginia unless otherwise indicated.
|District||Office Location||Counties served|
|Lee Ranger District||Edinburg, Virginia||Frederick, Hampshire (WV), Hardy (WV), Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Warren|
|North River Ranger District||Harrisonburg, Virginia||Augusta, Highland, Pendleton (WV), Rockingham|
|Warm Springs Ranger District||Hot Springs, Virginia||Bath, Highland|
|James River Ranger District||Covington, Virginia||Alleghany|
|Glenwood-Pedlar Ranger District||Natural Bridge Station, Virginia||Amherst, Augusta, Bedford, Botetourt, Nelson, and Rockbridge|
|Eastern Divide Ranger District||Blacksburg, Virginia||Bland, Botetourt, Craig, Giles, Monroe (WV), Montgomery, Pulaski, Roanoke, Smyth, Tazewell, Wythe|
|Clinch Ranger District||Norton, Virginia||Dickenson, Lee, Letcher (KY), Pike (KY), Scott, Wise|
|Mount Rogers National Recreation Area||Marion, Virginia||Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, Washington, Wythe|
There are 139,461 acres (564 km2) 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 (67 km2). There are 17 wildernesses in Jefferson National Forest, second only to Tongass National Forest, which has 19.
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
Wilderness Society's “Mountain Treasures” in the Jefferson Forest
In 1999 the Wilderness Society conducted a review of lands in the Jefferson National Forest to look for large, intact areas that satisfy a need for backcountry recreation, ecological study, biodiversity, and the preservation of cultural history from early America. The report found 67 such areas and identified them as “Mountain Treasures”. In 2012 The New River Group of the Sierra Club commissioned a study to review the status of these areas. Some of the areas had been converted into Wilderness Areas, while others had not received any special protection. Areas in close proximity were grouped with nearby wilderness areas into eleven clusters. The clusters, from north to south, are:
The first camp of the Civilian Conservation Corps NF-1, Camp Roosevelt, was established in the George Washington National Forest near Luray, Virginia. It is now the site of the Camp Roosevelt Recreation Area.
Mountain Valley Pipeline protests
In 2018–2019, protests occurred near Peters Mountain to block the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The 303-mile pipeline would transport natural gas through the Jefferson National Forest and cross the Appalachian Trail.
In 2023 a small plane carrying four people strayed into restricted Washington, D.C., airspace. Because of this, a number of F16 jets were sent to intercept the aircraft. The pilots of the jets noticed that the aircraft pilot was passed out. The plane eventually crashed landed in the park. There were no survivors.
- Great North Mountain
- Massanutten Mountain
- Shenandoah Mountain
- Monongahela National Forest—adjoining forest in West Virginia
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- "Wilderness.net search page". Archived from the original on 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2009-09-21.
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- Mary Byrd Davis (23 January 2008). "Old Growth in the East: A Survey. Virginia" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 February 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
- Jefferson National Forest South Half. Old Growth Inventory Map (PDF). United States Forest Service, Southern Region. 1997.
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- Run100s ("Run Hundreds") – A Not-For-Profit UltraRunning Corporation
- Nature Camp
- History of Nature Camp
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- "Districts". United States Forest Service. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
- Virginia's Mountain Treasures, report issued by The Wilderness Society, May, 1999
- Bamford, Sherman (February 2013). A Review of the Virginia Mountain Treasures of the Jefferson National Forest. Blacksburg, Virginia: Sierra Club, OCLC: 893635467.
- "Camp Roosevelt". www.ccclegacy.org. Archived from the original on January 27, 2012.
- George Washington 26 Jefferson National Forest – Camp Roosevelt Recreation Area. Fs.usda.gov. Retrieved on 2013-08-09.
- Miles, Kathryn (2018-04-25). "The Forest Service Is Arresting Protesters Along the AT". Outside Online. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
- "Why a Virginia Tech professor locked herself to pipeline construction equipment". Yale Climate Connections. 2019-12-03. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
- "Pilot of plane that crashed in Virginia was slumped over in cockpit - reports". BBC News. 2023-06-05. Retrieved 2023-06-13.
- Hall, William L. (July 1914). "To Remake The Appalachians: A New Order In The Mountains That is Founded On Forestry – What The Government's Appalachian Forests Mean To The People In The Mountains And To The Millions Who Want Recreation". The World's Work: A History of Our Time. Doubleday, Page & Co. XLIV (2): 321–338. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
- Jefferson National Forest: An Appalachian Environmental History. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Pr., 2011.
- Prehistoric Southwest Virginia: Aboriginal Occupation, Land Use, and Environmental Worldview, Smithfield Review 5 (April 2000): 125–151.
- Turnpike Tourism in Western Virginia, Virginia Cavalcade 48:1 (Winter 1998): 14–23.
- The Potts Valley Branch Railroad and Tri-State Incline Lumber Operation in West Virginia and Virginia, 1892–1932, West Virginia History 54 (1995): 42–58.
- The Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and the Rise of Public Involvement in Forest Service Planning, Environmental History Review 28 (Summer 1994): 41–65.
- An Appalachian Forest: Creation of the Jefferson National Forest and its effects on the local community, Forest and Conservation History 37:4 (October 1993): 169–178.
- The Great Anti-Fire Campaign, American Forests, 99:5&6 (May/June 1993): 33–35, 58.
- Green Cove Station: An Appalachian train depot and its community, Virginia Cavalcade, 42:2 (Autumn 1992): 52–61.
- Fisheries and Wildlife Management: part of the history of the Jefferson National Forest, Virginia Forests, 48:2 (Summer 1992): 6–8.
- George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
- U.S. Forest Service, George Washington National Forest, Dry River District Collection at James Madison University's Special Collections.
- George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Revised Forest Plans