Thirty-five years ago Shenandoah National Park was bestowed with official wilderness by the Congress. That anniversary will be marked October 15-16 by the park and its partners.
During Shenandoah's 11th annual Wilderness Weekend you'll be able to simply enjoy the park's wilderness areas from Skyline Drive, hike down into the wilderness, complete the Wilderness Explorer Ranger Activity Guide, or learn more about wilderness from a visitor center exhibit.
The weekend is a partnership between the national park, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, and the Shenandoah National Park Association. 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.
The primary event, a traditional tool display and demonstration, will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day at Byrd Visitor Center at milepost 51 on Skyline Drive. Shenandoah National Park’s Trail Crew and PATC 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 will gain insight on the important role trail maintenance plays in protecting wilderness. Rangers and volunteers will be on site to help explore the history and significance of Shenandoah’s wilderness.
Junior Rangers of all ages are invited to explore wilderness using the Wilderness Explorer Ranger Activity Guide, “The Wild Side of Shenandoah.” This activity guide, part of an advanced Junior Ranger series, leads visitors through activities that explore the meaning and significance of Shenandoah’s wilderness. One activity puts the participant in the role of a wilderness ranger deciding how to protect wilderness while keeping trails open and safe for hikers. Activity guides are available for free at Byrd Visitor Center (milepost 51) and Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (milepost 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 interactive exhibit at Byrd Visitor Center, “Within a Day’s Drive of Millions,” tells the story of Shenandoah’s establishment and development 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 film narrated by the late Christopher Reeves, American Values: American Wilderness, will be available for viewing on request.
Shenandoah’s wilderness was designated by Congress in October 1976. Forty percent of the park, almost 80,000 acres, is wilderness and 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 109 million acres of public land are protected in the National Wilderness Preservation System. For more information on Wilderness Weekend, contact Shenandoah National Park at 540-999-3500.