Kelley Mtn.-Big Levels

Proposed National Scenic Area

This area lies outside Shenandoah Mountain, but Friends of Shenandoah Mountain included it in our proposal because it is so special.  Kelley Mountain - Big Levels is an ecologically rich area on the Blue Ridge Mountains and a popular mountain biking destination. Its proximity to Sherando Lake Recreation Area and the Blue Ridge Parkway makes National Scenic Area designation appropriate.This status would protect the biological richness, water quality, and scenic beauty of the area, while continuing to allow mountain biking access
Where:  AugustaCounty, Pedlar Ranger District, George Washington National Forest,
Size: 12,895 acres
Boundaries:  Bordered by Sherando Recreation Area, FR 160 (by St. Marys Wilderness),  National Park land along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Coal Road.   Access to FR 160 and reservoirs along Coal Road would remain open.
Notable Characteristics:
  • Ranges in elevation from 1,600 ft at the Coal Road to 3,440 ft at the summit of Flint Mountain
  • Broadly sloping, steep-sided rocky ridges, drained by small steep-gradient freestone streams
  • An unusual feature - Big Levels  This plateau averages 3,000 ft and is a remnant of the Summit Peneplain dating before the Blue Ridge upthrust. It is almost perfectly flat in some areas and is densely vegetated with pin oak, post oak, chestnut oak, Virginia pine, mountain laurel, rhododendron, wild azalea, black gum, and an extensive growth of young American chestnut. Green Pond, located at the western boundary, is a boggy remnant of the Summit Peneplain and is geologically older than the Blue Ridge upthrust.
  • Wild turkey and whitetail deer are particularly abundant with a healthy population of black bear present along with smaller animals and birds
  • Native Eastern brook trout in nearly all streams draining the area
  • Challenging and scenic trails for mountain biking and hiking (maintained by bike clubs in Charlottesville and Harrisonburg)
In 1935 President Roosevelt signed an act enlarging the Big Levels Game Refuge from the original 3,000 acres to more than 32,000 acres.

Note:  The GWNF Forest Stakeholders Consensus Agreement submitted to the GWNF Planning Team on Oct. 17, 2011, does not include a recommendation for Kelley Mountain-Big Levels as a National Scenic Area; however, FOSM will continue to advocate for protection of this area through the stakeholders ongoing collaborative process.  The Kelley Mountain-Big Levels area will be managed as a Special Biological Area according to the new draft plan for the GWNF, offering a measure of protection, albeit only for the 15-year life of the plan.