Monongahela National Forest

Monongahela National Forest, also known as the MNF, is a United States national forest that is located in eastern West Virginia in the Allegheny Mountains. The forest holds 921,150 acres and is separated into four ranger districts known as Cheat-Potomac Ranger District, Gauley Ranger District, Greenbrier Ranger District, Marlinton-White Sulphur Springs Ranger District. There are eight designated wilderness areas within the forest including Dolly Sods Wilderness and Spice Run Wilderness.

Monongahela National Forest was established in 1915 as a result of the Weeks Act, passed in 1911, which set aside land for watershed protection and natural resource conservation. Between the 1890s and the 1920s, the white-tail deer suffered extreme population decreases in many area of the United States, but between 1930 and 1939, twenty-five deer were introduced into the area. During the 1940’s, farmers in the forest had to watch their crop fields because the deer populations had grown so high. The fisher was also reintroduced into the forest. Monongahela National Forest was used as a training ground for the military between 1943 and 1944.

Most of the Allegheny Mountain range is located within MNF, which holds varying elevations between 900 and 4,863 feet. Because of the elevation of the Allegheny Mountains, the west side of the forest receives about sixty inches of rain per year, while the east side receives only half of that in an event known as the rain shadow effect. Many species of plants reside in the forest including second growth forests, rhododendrons, laurels, and cactus plants. There are over 230 bird species residing within the park, including those that migrate there, as well as 2 species of endangered bats. Larger mammals within the forest include wild turkeys, gray squirrels, snowshoe hare, coyotes, and black bears.

Monongahela National Forest offers many activities to about three million visitors each year including biking, hiking, horse riding, mountain climbing, hunting fishing, nature viewing, and twenty-five campgrounds.

Image Caption: The Monongahela National Forest; photo taken from slopes of Back Allegheny Mountain looking east. Credit: Valerius Tygart/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)