Photo by Bob Stough

Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards

WVHC is now organizing volunteers for the Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards Program!

In partnership with the Monongahela National Forest (MNF), the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy is accepting volunteers to help support and preserve the wilderness characteristics of Dolly Sods and enhance the visitor experience. Projects to maintain trailhead registration boxes, compile campsite information, and improve trails will eventually be implemented. But first up will be an opportunity to engage visitors at trailheads and communicate key information about Dolly Sods, wilderness ethics and Leave No Trace practices.

Wilderness Trailhead Stewards will greet people and have friendly, low-key conversations, answer questions, and help hikers and backpackers be prepared for what they will encounter, as well as understand their responsibilities as visitors. No special background is required, and Stewards will receive training in key messages, conversational techniques and safety, and have practice sessions, before hitting the trailheads.

The training for the first group of stewards was in early July 2021. If you are interested in future training sessions, sign up now! For more details, click here. If you have questions, contact Dave Johnston at dollysodsstewards@gmail.com.

About Dolly Sods

Dolly Sods Wilderness is one of eight congressionally-designated wilderness areas in West Virginia, and is located in the north central part of the state, along the escarpment of the Allegheny Front. Dolly Sods encompasses most of the drainage of Red Creek, a tributary of the Cheat River. Red Creek rises from numerous highland bogs in a broad plateau at around 4000 feet, and then flows down through a dramatic canyon, both of which are part of Dolly Sods. The wilderness is an area of incomparable scenic beauty and includes habitat unique to the Appalachians, similar to that of Canadian areas much further north.

Dolly Sods was originally composed of open meadows surrounded by a dense native forest of red spruce, hemlock, and mature hardwoods, but was extensively logged in the early 20th century. The leftover slash and exposed organic soil were subject to massive fires which burned the soil down to bedrock. The area was considered a wasteland and was used as a practice artillery range during World War II. 

But left to recover on its own since then, its wild nature has reasserted itself, and Dolly Sods serves as a lesson in the resilience of nature and a laboratory for understanding and appreciating the processes of natural rejuvenation. The official designation of Dolly Sods as a wilderness in 1975 helped ensure that these natural processes could continue to play out, with minimum control or interference by humans.

The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy played a role in the initial designation of Dolly Sods Wilderness, as well as its expansion in 2009. In 1969 WVHC published the first wilderness proposal and trail guide for Dolly Sods, which outline the history, special characteristics, and rationale for creating the wilderness. The ultimate designation by Congress closely followed this proposal. WVHC has a special connection and sense of stewardship for Dolly Sods. The Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards program was formed to provide a means for WVHC and its volunteers to carry forward the goal of protecting and preserving the wilderness for the benefit of future generations.

To read more about the background and unique nature of Dolly Sods, please download and read the Dolly Sods Wilderness Proposal and Trail Guide.