This year commemorates the 34th anniversary of Shenandoah’s wilderness designation. Celebrate wilderness by viewing Shenandoah’s wilderness from Skyline Drive, hiking a wilderness trail, joining a ranger program, completing the 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.
Three 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 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day. Shenandoah National Park 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 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 2:30 each day. These programs will explore the history and significance of Shenandoah’s wilderness. The third event will be an evening campfire program Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Big Meadows amphitheater (located in the Big Meadows picnic grounds). This ranger program will provide visitors with the opportunity to discover the meaning of wilderness throughout American history.
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 and safe for hikers. Activity guides are available for free at Byrd Visitor Center (milepost 51) and Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 4.6) or online at http://www.nps.gov/shen/forkids.
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. 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. For more information about Shenandoah National Park and wilderness, visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/shen.