Little River

Proposed Wilderness

The Little River is an exceptional candidate for Wilderness designation. Given its size and isolation from human influences, this area is a productive haven for black bear and many species of birds, and it provides exceptional opportunities for primitive recreation.  
Where: Augusta County in North River Ranger District of the George Washington National Forest
Size: 12,490 acres
Notable characteristics:
  • Lies in the heart of one of the most significant concentrations of roadless wildlands in the Southern Appalachians
  • Outstanding scenery when viewed from Reddish Knob or the Shenandoah Valley
  • Includes the entire Little River Watershed, as well as Middle Mountain
  • Little River is a designated Native Trout Stream
  • Productive haven for black bear
  • Many species of birds that need mature canopy
  • Outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation
  • Served by an extensive trail network with multiple access points
  • Includes a portion of the Shenandoah Mountain Crest – Cow Knob Salamander Conservation Area, a 43,000 acre area above 3,000 ft in elevation that is home to a variety of rare species and unique natural communities, including at least 15 species of plants and at least 13 species of animals and their habitats
  • A 4,092 acre area on Reddish Knob is a Virginia Division of Natural Heritage Conservation site
  • Exceptional habitat for bear and other species that need a remote undisturbed area. Mature forests with a full canopy help fill the need for a particular type of habitat not met by the more fragmented surrounding forest and private land
  • The entire area is well-known by hunters from the Valley and all over Virginia
  • Numerous roads provide ample access for good hunting
  • Accessible from both the
    • Wild Oak National Recreational Trail – a challenging 25-mile loop that ascends Little Bald Knob, Big Bald Knob, and Hankey Mountain.
    • Shenandoah Mountain Trail – a ridgeline trail that extends from Rt. 33 to Rt. 250  This trail is part of the new shared-use Great Eastern Trail that is planned to extend from New York to Florida.
  • Around 250 bird species, making it an ideal destination for birding. The range of elevations from 1,600 ft to well above 4,000 ft makes it possible for the serious birder to see a wide variety of birds, including warblers and other neotropical migratory songbirds, and birds of prey, such as hawks, eagles, and peregrine falcons
  • Discover Our Wild Side, a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries guidebook highlights several areas around the perimeter of Little River: Reddish Knob, Hearthstone Lake, and Todd Lake
  • Reddish Knob is one of the best places in the region for star gazing because there is little light pollution in this remote area
View of Reddish Knob from Big Ridge/Grooms Ridge Trail
Our proposal is for the entire Little River watershed, which extends from Reddish Knob at nearly 4,300 ft. in elevation down to Hearthstone Lake, and the entire Middle Mountain area. The proposed Wilderness area lies within a boundary formed by Timber Ridge Trail, Hearthstone Ridge Trail, Chestnut Ridge Trail, Little Bald Mountain Road, Forest Road 101, and several tracts of private land on the west side of Forest Road 101. The Wilderness boundary would be set back from FR95 and the private land to provide a buffer and allow space for construction of a new connector trail between Hearthstone Ridge Trail and Chestnut Ridge Trail. The proposed Wilderness boundary excludes Hearthstone Lake.
These proposed boundaries are significantly smaller than the 28,000-acre Little River Special Management Area. The trails in the Little River area are very popular with mountain bikers. The reduced boundary will provide strong protection for the core area of Little River and Middle Mountain, while allowing mountain biking to continue on all trails except Buck Mountain Trail and Big Ridge/Grooms Ridge Trail. The remainder of the Little River Special Management Area would be protected as a National Scenic Area without a restriction on mountain biking.
No motor vehicle access roads would be closed or otherwise affected by this proposal.
Toad eggs in Little River
Economic Impact
The proposed area is not being managed for timber now; Wilderness designation will not result in any loss of revenue or taxes for Augusta County.