It was more than three decades ago that Congress designated nearly 80,000 acres of Shenandoah National Park as wilderness. This coming weekend the park is planning a variety of activities to celebrate that wilderness.
You can join in celebrating that wilderness, which covers about 40 percent of the park, by viewing Shenandoah’s wilderness from Skyline Drive, hiking a wilderness trail, joining a ranger program, completing the new Wilderness Explorer Ranger Activity Guide, or exploring a visitor center exhibit.
Wilderness Weekend is a partnership between Shenandoah National Park, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), and the Shenandoah National Park Association (SNPA). PATC volunteers will be at several overlooks along Skyline Drive to share information about Shenandoah’s wilderness with visitors enjoying the park’s fall foliage. On Saturday, volunteers from the Society of American Foresters will be at overlooks sharing information about forest conservation.
Two special events will take place at Byrd Visitor Center, milepost 51 on Skyline Drive. The first event will be a traditional tool display and demonstration from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day. Shenandoah National Park Trail Crews and PATC and SNPA volunteers will share their expertise in the traditional tools used to maintain trails in wilderness. Visitors will be able to try their hands at using these tools and gain insight on the important role trail maintenance plays in protecting wilderness for future generations.
The second event will be 20-minute ranger programs held at 11:30 and 3:30 each day. These programs will explore the history and values of Shenandoah’s wilderness.
Junior Rangers of all ages are invited to explore wilderness using the recently published Wilderness Explorer Ranger Activity Guide, “The Wild Side of Shenandoah.” This activity guide, part of an advanced Junior Ranger series, leads visitors through a series of activities that explore the meaning and significance of Shenandoah’s wilderness. One activity puts the participant in the role of a wilderness ranger to decide how to protect wilderness while keeping trails open for hikers. Activity guides are available for free at Byrd Visitor Center (milepost 51) and Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 4.6).
Visitors are encouraged to stop by park visitor centers for more opportunities to learn about Shenandoah’s wilderness through exhibits and films. The highly interactive exhibit at Byrd Visitor Center, “Within a Day’s Drive of Millions,” tells the story of Shenandoah’s establishment including the significance of wilderness designation. Visitors can explore the history and meaning of wilderness through a computer touch screen exhibit, “The Spirit of Wilderness.” A newly released film narrated by Christopher Reeves, American Values: American Wilderness, will be available for viewing on request.
Shenandoah’s wilderness was designated by Congress in October 1976. That 80,000-acre swath of wilderness represents one of the largest wilderness areas in the eastern United States. Areas preserved as wilderness provide sanctuaries for human recreation, habitat for wildlife, sites for research, and reservoirs for clean, free-flowing water. Wilderness areas have been designated on public land across the United States. Today more than 107 million acres of public land are protected in the National Wilderness Preservation System.
For more information about Shenandoah National Park and wilderness, visit the park’s website.