by Rich Bailey |
Middle Mountain Wilderness candidate is the largest roadless area in the Marlinton/White Sulphur Springs Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest.
By Rich Bailey
Located in southern Pocahontas and northern Greenbrier counties, the seventeen mile long Middle Mountain Wilderness candidate is the largest roadless area in the Marlinton/White Sulphur Springs Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest. The proposed wilderness area would comprise a large portion of Middle Mountain, including lands currently managed as semi-primitive, non-motorized (management prescription 6.2), for a total of just over 12,000 acres. The area is bordered on the north by State Rt. 39/92; on the east by State Rt. 92 and private land; on the south by MNF land; and on the west by County Road 23.
The topography of Middle Mountain is quite irregular, as the mountain is dissected by numerous small tributaries of Anthony Creek on the east side, and of the North Fork of Anthony Creek on the west. The mountain seems to repeatedly fold in on itself, with numerous hollows and drafts. The Douthat headwaters and Devils Garden areas in particular are like this. Anthony Creek and Douthat Creek are classified as Tier 2.5 streams, those that can support trout populations. Thus, the opportunity to protect a major portion of their watersheds, and the associated fishing activities, exists with wilderness designation.
Middle Mountain would be unique among existing wilderness areas in the Monongahela NF because of its relatively low elevation and rainfall. There is a marked difference between the east and west faces of the mountain. The forest community on the east facing slope is dominated by oaks, hickorys, and other mixed hardwoods, along with white pine. The west slope, which receives considerably more rain, is more verdant as a result. Rhododendron, eastern hemlock, various azaleas, and striped maple can be found here among various hardwoods. The area provides critical habitat for the Federally Endangered Shale Barren Rockcress and some other rare species.
Opportunities for outdoor recreation in this area are considerable. There are a number of access points from Rt. 92 on the east, and from Rt. 39/92 on the north. The Middle Mountain Trail follows the spine of the mountain and is easily traveled, with numerous spots to camp. There is little in the way of water along the ridgeline, however. What water can be found exists as small springs in various places below the top of the mountain, so campers should come prepared with their own supply. Scenery on the mountain is almost entirely wooded, with several fine east-facing views along the top of the ridge. Middle Mountain is well-known among hunters as heavily populated by white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and black bear. Evidence of black bear passing can commonly be found. Wildlife management has been occurring here, and it is much used by the hunting community.
Middle Mountain will add wilderness to an area of the MNF that currently has none. Hunting and other recreational uses traditionally associated with this area would be able to continue, and reclusive species like black bear, wild turkey and native brook trout would benefit.