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West Virginia

Slaty Mountain Preserve

This preserve features a high-quality shale barren that is home to a variety of rare species.


Why You Should Visit
Slaty Mountain Preserve is comprised of a dry hardwood and pine woodland including a globally rare shale barren community.  The primary feature of the preserve is the high quality shale barren that is habitat to many rare species.  The small dirt road accessing the preserve cuts across the shale barren  community, allowing good views of the shale barren species and surrounding mountains.  Hiking and visitation is limited to walking along this dirt road.  All the shale barren species can be seen from the road side.  Late summer (after mid August) is the best time to see the shale barren plants in bloom.

Location
Central Appalachian Forest Ecoregion
Monroe County, West Virginia
Forty minutes southeast of Lewisburg, WV

Size
153 acres

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
This preserve was given to the Conservancy as a generous gift from the MeadWestvaco Corporation.  After acquiring the preserve, Conservancy volunteers cleaned a large trash dump on the preserve. 

What to Expect
The Nature Conservancy's Slaty Mountain Preserve is open year-round during daylight hours to the public for hiking and nature study. Parking is limited to wide spaces found along the dirt road into the preserve. This road has very little daily vehicle traffic.  Hiking and visitation is limited to walking along this dirt road. Please respect neighboring land owners by staying on the preserve. Admission is free.

What to See: Plants
Slaty Mountain shale barrens are habitat to many shale barren endemic species.  These are species that are restricted to steep, dry, south-facing, shale slopes and limited in distribution to the central Appalachian Mountains.  Shale barren endemics include such species as yellow buckwheat (Eriogonum alleni), Allegheny plum (Prunus alleghaniensis), and Kate’s Mountain clover (Trifolium virginicum).  In total, 13 shale barren endemic species are known from this preserve.  Most of these species can be observed by walking the road crossing the preserve. 

What to See: Animals
Many common bird species can be observed from the road traversing the preserve.  This preserve is a good place to see and hear the blue-headed vireo, red-eyed vireo, scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak, blue-gray gnatcatcher, chestnut-sided warbler, black and white warbler, indigo buntings, and many other species.  Due to the warm southern aspect and dry arid conditions of shale barrens, these habitats are especially good habitat for a large variety of butterflies.  Fence lizards are also commonly observed basking on exposed rocks and tree trunks at this preserve.

  • Bring plenty of drinking water, sun protection (sunscreen, hat, sunglasses), rain gear, and bug protection. Binoculars, field guides, and a camera may be useful. 
  • Pets are not allowed on Conservancy preserves or field trips. 
  • Smoking is not permitted. 
  • Please do not remove any plants, animals, or rocks. 
  • Keep hiking limited to the dirt road crossing preserve.

Please help us maintain this unique natural environment by taking home everything that you bring, including biodegradable materials.

Weather conditions are often very hot during mid-day visits.  Be prepared for these conditions before you visit.

Directions

From Union, WV (approximately 40 minutes):

  • Travel on State Route 3 east towards the town of Sweet Springs, in the northeast corner of  Monroe County.  It is 19 miles between Union and Sweet Springs. 
  • Just after entering the town limits of Sweet Springs, turn west on Route 3-14, Cove Creek Road.  A historical marker, gravel triangle and small store are across the street from the turn. 
  • Proceed for 2.2 miles on paved Cove Creek Road. 
  • After crossing a small bridge, the paved road makes a sharp turn to the right.  Stay straight at this point and drive up the dirt road that looks like a driveway.  To avoid missing this dirt road, look for a large white farm house on your left and a brick house at the sharp curve.  The dirt road is to the left of the brick house. 
  • Continue west and up the ridge on the dirt road. 
  • Park at the first sharp turn to the left, next to the cable on the right hand side of the road. 
  • The public dirt road runs across the barren for the length of the property.  There are several wide areas in which to turn around.
Discussion

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Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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