Suspended pedestrian bridge at Upper Shavers Fork Prese
Cheat Mountain Bridge Pedestrian bridge on Cheat Mountain. © Kent Mason

Places We Protect

Cheat Mountain

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Cheat Mountain supports the most extensive spruce forests south of the Adirondacks.

Cheat Mountain is exceptionally high, with four peaks rising above 4800 feet and supporting the most extensive spruce forests south of the Adirondacks.  It nestles the upper Shavers Fork of Cheat River, the highest large stream in the East.  Ice floes that break up in the spring scour the river’s edge, an ecological phenomenon more typically encountered in eastern Canada and northern New England.  The Cheat Mountain country is also one of the coldest, snowiest parts of the Appalachians, where over 300 inches of snow has been known to fall in one remarkable winter.

Threats

A little more than a century ago, West Virginia supported 460,000 acres of spruce and spruce-hardwood forests.  All but a few hundred acres were logged within a short period of time nearly a century ago.  The species dependent on that forest continue to suffer the consequences. For example, both the West Virginia flying squirrel and Cheat Mountain salamander are now on the federal list of threatened and endangered species.

Today, about 40,000 acres of second and third-growth spruce remain in West Virginia, much of that in the Cheat Mountain landscape.  In recent decades, surface mining, development activities and roads have continued to fragment forested areas.  Removal of the spruce also affected the river’s ability to support native brook trout, along with sedimentation from coal mining and road construction.  An insect pest accidentally introduced from Asia is threatening to destroy the southernmost native stand of balsam firs, also found here.

Conservation Action

It will be centuries before extensive areas of high-quality spruce forest will redevelop completely, but the beginnings are here. The Conservancy is working with the Forest Service and other partners to restore this magnificent ecosystem. Our strategies also include:

  • Replanting sites with native red spruce and northern hardwood trees
  • Establishing native species and restoring hydrologic function
  • Removing non-native trees and treating invasive species like knapweed

This is country like none other in the Central Appalachians.  Cheat Mountain is exceptionally high, with four peaks rising above 4800 feet and supporting the most extensive spruce forests south of the Adirondacks.  It nestles the upper Shavers Fork of Cheat River, the highest large stream in the East.  Ice floes that break up in the spring scour the river’s edge, an ecological phenomenon more typically encountered in eastern Canada and northern New England.  The Cheat Mountain country is also one of the coldest, snowiest parts of the Appalachians, where over 300 inches of snow has been known to fall in one remarkable winter.

The Cheat Mountain area supports a greater variety of summer warblers than any other known West Virginia location.  The upper Shavers Fork drainage supports one of the largest concentrations of rare species in the Central Appalachians, including the West Virginia flying squirrel, Cheat Mountain salamander, globally rare wildflower Barbara’s buttons, and what may be the last viable population anywhere for the Cheat minnow.  Woven throughout this region is a rich tapestry of plants and animals, including the saw-whet owl, winter wren, red crossbill, snowshoe hare, fisher and mountain cranberry.  Shaver’s Fork is one of the state’s premier trout fishing streams, and the upper Shavers Fork is among West Virginia’s most popular recreation areas.

Places to Visit

Upper Shavers Fork

Cheat Mountain Bridge
West Virginia: Cheat Mountain
Cheat Mountain has four peaks rising above 4800 feet and supporting the most extensive spruce forests south of the Adirondacks.