The Monongahela National Forest is located in the eastern mountains of West Virginia.
Where is this Forest?

 

About the Forest

Welcome to the Monongahela National Forest!

The Monongahela National Forest was established following passage of the 1911 Weeks Act.  This Act authorized the federal purchase of land for long-term watershed protection and natural resource management following massive cutting of the Eastern forests in the late 1800's and at the turn of the century.

In 1915 7,200 acres in the mountains of West Virginia near Parsons were acquired by the federal government, and called the Monongahela Purchase.  On April 28, 1920 the Monongahela National Forest was officially designated, incorporating the original purchase tract.  Over the years additional lands have been acquired within the 1.7 million-acre proclamation boundary of the Forest.  Today the Forest occupies more than 919,000 acres in 10 counties in the highlands of the State.

Located within a day's drive of about 1/2 of the nation's population, the Forest is both popular and accessible; yet feels remote and wild.

Considered by The Nature Conservancy to be in an area of global ecological importance, the Monongahela is one of the most biologically diverse national forests.  Much of this diversity can be attributed to the wide range in elevation and the resulting patterns of precipitation.  The lowest part of the Forest is on the eastern side and is about 1000 feet above sea level, while the central portion of the Forest contains the State's highest peak, Spruce Knob at an elevation of 4863 feet above sea level.

Most of the weather patterns approach the Forest from the west where they are forced up and over the mountains of the Appalachians that form the spine of the Monongahela National Forest.  As this happens moisture is wrung from the clouds in the form of snow and rain.  The western side of the Forest receives about 60 inches of precipitation per year while the "rain shadow" side on the east receives half of that.

The mountain ranges lie in a northeast to southwest pattern, with valleys between for most of the Forest.  An airplane ride over the Forest would clearly illustrate this ridge and valley pattern, along with the more broken and less distinct landforms in the most northerly portions of the Forest.  Rivers and streams are abundant throughout the Forest, and act as travel corridors for both plants and animals, which further increase the biological complexity.  In addition the elevation changes up the slope of a single mountain ridge will cause changes in micro-climates as evidenced by changes in vegetation.

Echoing the common theme of diversity are the abundant numbers of species of plants and animals.  At least 75 tree species; more than 225 species of birds;  8 federally listed threatened or endangered species of birds, bats, salamanders, and plants; 60 species of non-game/forage fish; 12 species of game fish; and numerous other species of wildlife inhabit the Monongahela.

The natural resources of the Forest lead to a wide number of uses ranging from extensive recreational opportunities to timber harvesting; from grazing of livestock to mineral extraction; and from clean drinking water to a place to simply recharge.  We hope you will explore your Monongahela National Forest through these web pages or in person.

Features

Why Does It Have That Name?

The origins of the names of the Forest, Ranger Districts, and some of the features on the Monongahela are interesting to many folks, but are frequently somewhat hazy or subject to a variety of interpretations.  Most of the following is based on a book entitled, “West Virginia Place Names” by Hammill Kenney.