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Central Appalachian Forest Ecoregion
Cheat Mountain Conservation Area
The Nature Conservancy's Upper Shavers Fork Preserve is open by prior arrangement for research and nature study. The preserve is easily accessible from US Forest Service Road 235. The Preserve has several trails that are clearly marked, all of which are easily walked. There are some upland forest areas without trails for more adventurous walking. These areas are adjacent to the Monogahela National Forest Service lands, but are not connected by trails. The preserve is located near the privately held Cheat Mountain Club and Shavers Fork Homeowners Association lots. Please respect the club and home owners' privacy by staying on the preserve.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The Cheat Mountain Conservation Area is one of the most significant areas of biodiversity concentration in West Virginia and the Central Appalachian Ecoregion. The Nature Conservancy has been actively involved with the US Forest Service to protect large areas of the landscape. Since 2000 the Conservancy has worked to buy and transfer over 57,300 acres of mineral rights to the Monongahela National Forest to ensure that the area would be protected from mining. The Conservancy also worked to secure almost 1000 acres of surface ownership along the Shaver Fork River and in the area surrounding the Upper Shavers Preserve through the purchase of former CSX and Elk River Land Company properties. These properties have also been transferred on to the Monongahela National Forest. Through these efforts the Conservancy has helped create a 25-mile long area of the Watershed which is almost 100% public lands.
Why You Should Visit
The Upper Shavers Fork Preserve is located along the banks of the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River at the center of the 40-mile long high elevation watershed that is the heart of West Virginia’s red spruce forests. These red spruce forests are not only spectacularly beautiful, with their green canopy and lush understories of rhododendron, mountain laurels, ferns, and mosses, but support one of the most biologically significant areas in West Virginia and the Central Appalachian Ecoregion. The high elevation of the landscape creates an environment that catches a good deal of moisture and sustains cool temperatures, allowing species generally associated with northern boreal forests to co-exist with more southern species. Well known boreal species such as the northern goshawk exist here with West Virginia endemics such as the West Virginia northern flying squirrel and the Cheat Mountain salamander. The high elevation of the river also creates ice floes which supports a scour zone along the river banks, a haven for rare plants such as Barbara’s buttons, sticky false asphodel, and fly poison.
The surrounding landscape is comprised of tens of thousands of acres of public lands and has easy access to many trails and US Forest Service Roads that allow you to explore this high elevation watershed. The preserve is well located to begin your explorations of this spectacular area.
What to See: Plants
Red spruce, beech, yellow and black birch dominate the forest overstory, with rhododendron, mountain laurel, and mosses in the understory. There are several wet and boggy areas on the preserve that support species such as hellibore and skunk cabbage. The preserve has known occurrences of the scour dependent plant sticky false asphodel, and serves a buffer for downstream occurrences of the scour dependent plant Barbara’s Buttons.
What to See: Animals
The preserve is located in the heart of West Virginia’s red spruce forests which are known to support the West Virginia northern flying squirrel. The area is also rich in birdlife, and you should keep eyes and ears alert for signs of the northern goshawk, Swanson’s Thrush, olive-sided flycatcher, and the yellow-bellied sapsucker. The Shavers Fork is one of the premier trout streams in West Virginia. As you cross of the bridge that connects the eastern and western portions of the preserve you might catch a glimpse of a brook trout laying in the waters below.
Much of the preserve is easily walked, but there are some wet and boggy areas, so please bring proper footwear. Weather conditions are often cooler and wetter than nearby locations at lower elevations. Be prepared for these conditions before you visit. For those interested in visiting the preserve, please contact the Conservancy at (304) 637-0160. Visitation is by appointment only.
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