The Monongahela National Forest
Since 1920, some of West Virginia’s most diverse and pristine forest land has been protected within the boundaries of the Monongahela National Forest. Comprising 921,000 acres, many of the region’s prized natural features can be found here. The Monongahela National Forest spans portions of 10 counties, including Tucker County, and the Canaan Valley owes much of its present-day beauty to the federal protection of this massive forest.
It’s hard to imagine that white-tailed deer were once logged and hunted out of existence in the state, but, at the beginning of the 20th century, there were next to none. It was their reintroduction to the Monongahela National Forest in 1930 that reversed their disappearance. Similarly, the fisher had been completely eradicated from the West Virginia mountains until their reintroduction to the forest in 1969. Tree species that face regional extinction, including the red spruce, balsam fir, and mountain ash, are preserved within the national forest.
Tucker County Sections of Monongahela National Forest
Within Tucker County alone, the Monongahela National Forest covers some pretty important territory. The Mon—the shortened moniker preferred by locals—encompasses the wind-sculpted sandstone formations of the Bear Rocks Preserve and Dolly Sods Wilderness, the epic falls of Blackwater Falls State Park, the wetlands of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and State Park, the red spruce of Fernow Experimental Forest, the old growth forests of Otter Creek Wilderness.
What’s in a Name?
If you struggle to pronounce Monongahela, you’re not the only one. Monongahela is a native Umami word meaning falling banks. The original inhabitants of this mountainous region named their homeland for the characteristic erosion of the loose banks. And, yes, banks are a significant feature of the forest. The headwaters of six major river systems can be found here: Monongahela, Potomac, Greenbrier, Elk, Tygart and Gauley.