Location: West Virginia
Size: 17,371 acres
Year Designated: 1975
Fast Fact: The highest plateau of its type east of the Mississippi.
Situated on the Allegheny Plateau, the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area is the highest plateau of its kind east of the Mississippi. Within the area, elevation ranges from 2,600 feet to as high as 4,000 feet, where high elevation and cool weather helps produce extremely unique ecosystems like bogs and boulder-filled meadows more common in southern Canada than West Virginia. In higher elevations, the area is home to animals rarely seen in the state. Common animals like raccoons, skunks and moles share the area with rare creatures like the snowshoe hare, whose habitat typically ranges from Canada to Alaska. Other northern animals, like the New England cottontail, also make their home in the area’s higher elevations. Rare birds, including the smallest owl in the East, the Saw-whet owl, also call Dolly Sods home.
Vegetation found in the wilderness’ higher elevations is also similar to vegetation found over 1,500 miles north. Here, red spruce forests reign supreme. At lower elevations, yellow and black birch, basswood and sugar maple are the dominant trees.