Thunder Ridge Wilderness

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Thunder Ridge Wilderness
IUCN category Ib (wilderness area)
Looking over Arnold Valley from Thunder Ridge.jpg
Looking over Arnold Valley from Thunder Ridge
USA Virginia location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location Bedford, Rockbridge County, Virginia, United States
Nearest city Buena Vista, Virginia
Coordinates 37°33′15″N79°28′25″W / 37.55417°N 79.47368°W / 37.55417; -79.47368 Coordinates: 37°33′15″N79°28′25″W / 37.55417°N 79.47368°W / 37.55417; -79.47368
Area2,344 acres (949 ha)
Established1984
Administrator U.S. Forest Service

The Thunder Ridge Wilderness is a 2,344 acres (949 ha) area located near Natural Bridge, Virginia, which is protected by the Eastern Wilderness Act of Congress to maintain its present, natural condition. As part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, it helps to preserve a variety of natural life forms and contributes to a diversity of plant and animal gene pools. Over half of the ecosystems in the United States exist within designated wilderness. [1]

Natural Bridge, Virginia Unincorporated community in Virginia, United States

Natural Bridge is an unincorporated community in Rockbridge County, Virginia, United States. The community is the site of Natural Bridge, a natural arch which gives the town its name. Natural Bridge is located at the junction of U.S. Route 11 and State Route 130. Natural Bridge has a post office with ZIP code 24578, which opened on June 1, 1800.

The Eastern Wilderness Areas Act was signed into law by President Gerald Ford on January 3, 1975. Built upon the 1964 Wilderness Act, which was written by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Act designated 16 new wilderness areas in the Eastern United States, including 207,000 acres (84,000 ha) of wilderness on national lands in 13 states. Although it was originally untitled, the bill signed by Ford has come to be known as the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act.

National Wilderness Preservation System

The National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) of the United States protects federally managed wilderness areas designated for preservation in their natural condition. Activity on formally designated wilderness areas is coordinated by the National Wilderness Preservation System. Wilderness areas are managed by four federal land management agencies: the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. The term "wilderness" is defined as "an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain" and "an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions." As of 2019, there are 803 designated wilderness areas, totaling 111,368,221 acres (45,069,120 ha), or about 4.5% of the area of the United States.

Contents

Dominated by Thunder Ridge with steep slopes towering above Arnold Valley, the interior is incredibly rugged, remote and rarely visited. The top of the ridge contains flowers blooming late into summer, long past blooms in the hot valley below. Trillium, may apple, pink lady slipper, Indian cucumber root and columbine flourish in the shade of black cherry trees, northern red oak and hickories. [2]

<i>Trillium</i> genus of plants

Trillium is a genus of about fifty flowering plant species in the family Melanthiaceae. Trillium species are native to temperate regions of North America and Asia, with the greatest diversity of species found in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the southeastern United States.

<i>Aquilegia</i> genus of plants

Aquilegia is a genus of about 60–70 species of perennial plants that are found in meadows, woodlands, and at higher altitudes throughout the Northern Hemisphere, known for the spurred petals of their flowers.

The area is part of the Glenwood Cluster .

Location and access

Thunder Ridge Wilderness is located in the Jefferson National Forest several miles from Natural Bridge Station, Virginia. It is just south of the James River Face Wilderness, bounded on the northeast by Forest Service Road 35, on the south by the Blue Ridge Parkway and on the northwest by a line approximately parallel to the parkway and offset by about a mile. [3]

Natural Bridge Station, Virginia Unincorporated community in Virginia, United States

Natural Bridge Station is an unincorporated community in Rockbridge County, Virginia, United States. Formerly known as Greenlee, and prior to that, Sherwood, it was the home of former Washington State Senator and United States Ambassador to Peru, Miles Poindexter. Natural Bridge Station is located along the James River and Virginia State Route 130, 3.2 miles (5.1 km) west of Glasgow. Natural Bridge Station is made up mostly of the southernmost corner of Rockbridge County encompassing all of the community of Arnolds Valley. Natural Bridge Station has a post office with ZIP code 24579.

James River Face Wilderness

The James River Face Wilderness is an 8,907-acre area located near Natural Bridge, Virginia that is protected by the Eastern Wilderness Act of Congress to maintain its present, natural condition. As part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, it helps to preserve a variety of natural life forms and contributes to a diversity of plant and animal gene pools. Over half of the ecosystems in the United States exist within designated wilderness.

Blue Ridge Parkway scenic parkway in the United States

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road in the United States, noted for its scenic beauty. The parkway, which is America's longest linear park, runs for 469 miles (755 km) through 29 Virginia and North Carolina counties, linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It runs mostly along the spine of the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. Its southern terminus is at U.S. 441 on the boundary between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina, from which it travels north to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The roadway continues through Shenandoah as Skyline Drive, a similar scenic road which is managed by a different National Park Service unit. Both Skyline Drive and the Virginia portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway are part of Virginia State Route 48, though this designation is not signed.

There are three trails into the wilderness: [3]

Appalachian Trail 2,160-mile hiking trail going through fourteen US states

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the Eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is about 2,200 miles (3,500 km) long, though the exact length changes over time as parts are modified or rerouted. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy describes the Appalachian Trail as the longest hiking-only trail in the world. More than 2 million people are said to take a hike on part of the trail at least once each year.

There are several overlooks of the wilderness from parking areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway:

Natural history

May Apple in the Thunder Ridge Wilderness, Virginia May Apple, Thunder Ridge Wilderness.jpg
May Apple in the Thunder Ridge Wilderness, Virginia

With very different environments, the area sustains a great variety of trees found in a diversity of habitats. Coves support tulip poplar, oak and hemlock, some very large; the crest of Apple Orchard Mountain has a mix of hardwoods such as red and white oak as well as common persimmon, red spruce and hemlock; and the harsh environment of the dry western slopes support pitch pine, Virginia pine and chestnut oak. [6]

Persimmon Edible fruit

The persimmon is the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros. The most widely cultivated of these is the Asian or Japanese persimmon, Diospyros kaki. Diospyros is in the family Ebenaceae, and a number of non-persimmon species of the genus are grown for ebony timber.

Apiaceae Family of plants

Apiaceae or Umbelliferae is a family of mostly aromatic flowering plants named after the type genus Apium and commonly known as the celery, carrot or parsley family, or simply as umbellifers. It is the 16th-largest family of flowering plants, with more than 3,700 species in 434 genera including such well-known and economically important plants such as ajwain, angelica, anise, asafoetida, caraway, carrot, celery, chervil, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, poison hemlock, lovage, cow parsley, parsley, parsnip and sea holly, as well as silphium, a plant whose identity is unclear and which may be extinct.

Red Eft Red Eft, Thunder Ridge Wilderness.jpg
Red Eft

The moist forests provide good habitat for salamanders. The world’s greatest diversity of salamanders is found in the southeastern United States. More than 55 species are located in Virginia, with over 15 in the Thunder Ridge wilderness or adjacent public and private lands. [2]

Topography

Sulphur Spring Sulphur Spring, Thunder Ridge Wilderness.jpg
Sulphur Spring

The area is dominated by Thunder Ridge with steep slopes on the northern side, and elevations ranging from 1320 feet in the lowlands of the northwest to 4200 feet on Apple Orchard Mountain. [8]

The peaks are part of the Pedlar Formation, composed of igneous granite and metamorphic gneiss with a mineral content which weathers to give a soil supporting a lush growth of plants. The area has the tallest trees and the finest groups of laurel and rhododendron in the region. [4] :136 [9]

Cultural history

Just south of the wilderness area on Apple Orchard Mountain, Apple Orchard Camp offered overnight accommodations in the early 1900s. In 1924 the camp became Camp Kewanzee, a summer camp for boys and girls. During the Cold War a nearby area was developed as a radar-based tracking station, and in the 1960s a large computer complex was built to process data for transmission to Fort Lee, Virginia. The military base was closed in 1975 leaving a single radar dome and other facilities. The dome, a prominent feature on the tallest mountain along the parkway in Virginia, can be seen from a long distance. [2] [4]

In 1928 during a violent storm, a balloon, participating in an international balloon race, crashed in the night onto Thunder Hill. Major injuries were sustained, especially during the climb down the mountain. [4] :138 [10]

Nearby Wildlands

Nearby wilderness areas and wildlands recognized as one of Virginia's "Mountain Treasures" by the Wilderness Society are: [11]

See also

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Three Ridges Wilderness

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Shawvers Run Wilderness

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Kimberling Creek Wilderness

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Hunting Camp Creek Wilderness

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Lynn Camp Creek Wilderness Study Area

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Raccoon Branch Wilderness

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Little Wilson Creek Wilderness

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Lewis Fork Wilderness wilderness area in Virginia

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White Oak Ridge-Terrapin Mountain

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North Creek (conservation area)

North Creek is a wildland in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests of western Virginia that has been recognized by the Wilderness Society as a special place worthy of protection from logging and road construction. Tall evergreen and hardwood trees in the area around Apple Orchard Falls tower above ferns and wildflowers. The area includes a valley which extends from Sunset Fields in the east to its western border near the North Creek Camping Area.

James River Face Wilderness Addition

James River Face Wilderness Addition is a wildland in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests of western Virginia that has been recognized by the Wilderness Society as a special place worthy of protection from logging and road construction. Adjacent to the James River Face Wilderness, it extends the wildland opportunities of the wilderness on the east to the Jefferson National Forest boundary. The area, managed for bear, has hardwood forests with ages between 60 and almost 100 years.

Cove Mountain (conservation area)

Cove Mountain is a wildland in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests of western Virginia that has been recognized by the Wilderness Society as a special place worthy of protection from logging and road construction.

Glenwood Cluster

The Glenwood Cluster is a region in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests recognized by The Wilderness Society for its rich biodiversity, scenery, wildflower displays, cold-water trout streams and horse trails. It offers a unique habitat for rare plants, salamanders and other rare species. The Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail traverse the area, giving ready access with views to the east of the Piedmont region and to the west of the Valley of Virginia.

Little Walker Mountain (conservation area) Protected natural area in Virginia, United States

Little Walker Mountain, a wildland in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests of western Virginia, has been recognized by the Wilderness Society as a special place worthy of protection from logging and road construction. The Wilderness Society has designated the area as a “Mountain Treasure”.

References

  1. "Why Wilderness?" . Retrieved March 5, 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Bamford, Sherman (October 2014). 18 Wonders of Virginia. Richmond, Virginia: Sierra Club Virginia Chapter. ISBN   0-926487-79-5.
  3. 1 2 Lexington, Blue Ridge Mts [George Washington and Jefferson National Forests]: Lexington, Blue Ridge Mts [George Washington and Jefferson National Forests], accessdate: March 12, 2017
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Appalachian Trail Guide, Central Virginia (3rd ed.). Harpersville, West Virginia: Appalachian Trail Conference. 2014. pp. 132–143. ISBN   978-1-889386-88-1.
  5. Virginia | AllTrails.com: Hunting Creek Trail - Virginia | AllTrails.com, accessdate: March 5, 2017
  6. 1 2 Steven Carroll and Mark Miller (1995). Wilderness Virginia. Lexington, Virginia: Old Forge Productions. p. 145. ISBN   0-9646692-1-8.
  7. 1 2 Thunder Ridge Parking Area (elev. 3845), Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 74.7: Thunder Ridge Parking Area (elev. 3845), Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 74.7, accessdate: March 5, 2017
  8. General Information: Wilderness.net - Thunder Ridge Wilderness - General Information, accessdate: March 5, 2017
  9. Geology of the Blue Ridge in Virginia: Geology of the Blue Ridge in Virginia, accessdate: March 5, 2017
  10. Detroit (USA) 1928: 17th Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett - Detroit (USA) 1928, accessdate: March 5, 2017
  11. Virginia's Mountain Treasures, report issued by The Wilderness Society, May, 1999