Laurel Forks (North and South) Wildernesses

Located in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.

Congress designated the Laurel Fork North Wilderness and the Laurel Fork South Wilderness in 1983 to preserve portions of a relatively unmodified Appalachian Forest and allow for its return to a natural state. These areas were set aside for your enrichment and that of future generations.

The Laurel Fork North and South Wildernesses combined contain approximately 12,200 acres along the headwaters of Laurel Fork. They are accessible from the north via U.S. Route 33 and Forest Road 14, from the south via WV Route 28 and Forest Road 14.

The Laurel Fork of the Cheat River is characterized by its narrow valley floor with regularly dissected slopes and long narrow ridges. Numerous side streams occur along its length.

Elevations vary from 2,900 feet to over 3,700 feet. The areas are bordered on the east by Rich Mountain and on the west by Middle Mountain.

The continuous forest cover consisting mainly of Beech, Maple, Black cherry, Birch, and Yellow Poplar predominates. This cover is occasionally broken by grassy areas along Laurel Fork.

Common animals are the white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bobcat, and beaver, as well as other water-oriented species. A small number of Black Bear also occur in the Wilderness. Many different species of birds and small mammals are present such as vireos, tanagers, hawks, chipmunks, and raccoons.

Laurel Fork provides native brook trout and brown trout fishing. Short fly rods and spinning gear are recommended.

The Laurel Fork campground is located between the Laurel Fork North Wilderness and the Laurel Fork South Wilderness, providing overnight camping opportunities as well as parking for day hikers.

Before the Forest Service purchased the Laurel Fork drainage in the 1920's, it was owned by the Laurel River Lumber Company, who had removed the virgin timber by 1921. The original forest was predominately hardwood with some spruce and hemlock mixed in. Horses brought the timber down to the Laurel Fork until a railroad was constructed along the river. Several fires, presumably caused by locomotives, swept over the area. Those early fires had a big effect on changing the forest cover to its present type.

A Civilian Conservation Corps camp was located at the site of the Laurel Fork campground during the 1930's. In addition to building the Middle Mountain road (Forest Road 14) and several others in the area, the CCC was instrumental in controlling forest fires within the Laurel Fork area, which is now designated Wilderness.

The Wilderness is bordered by private property along the eastern edge. Please respect the rights and property of private landowners.

The local climate varies considerably throughout the year. Summer temperatures are usually in the 70's but can drop to 40 or less at night. Normal mid-winter daytime temperatures are around 30, but this can drop to as low as -20. Deep snows can make travel difficult. Special winter clothing, footwear, and camping gear are required to safely enjoy winter visits to the Wilderness. A knowledge of winter survival in remote country is also essential.

General Comments
Drinking water is not available and the limited open water sources within the Wilderness are not recommended for drinking. Bring your own, or boil water found within the area. Water should be boiled for about five minutes.

The Wilderness is readily accessible and relatively small in size, making day trips very practical. Hotels, motels, and resorts are located within reasonable driving distance as are public and private campgrounds.

For more information contact: The Monongahela National Forest

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 31 Aug 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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