Gaudineer Knob Virgin Spruce Forest

May 2, 2012 |
Gaudineer Knob

Photo by Drew Tanner

With the smell of spruce in the air, travelers can walk  beneath the shadows of these vast trees and imagine these forests as they once stood.  But the story behind this forest of virgin timber is just as incredible as the enchantment of its beauty–the trees here were spared the lumberman’s ax due to a surveying error.Huge Red Spruce once covered the high Allegheny ridges, and except for the rare virgin spruce forest at Gaudineer Knob, the largest and oldest of these vast giants were all cut during the lumber boom of the early 20th Century. Two competing lumber companies both failed to include this land on their land surveys, and it was left unclaimed and unspoiled for future generations to enjoy.

To get here: Take US Rt. 219 to Huttonsville, then continue on 25o East for about 17 miles. On the left will be a sign for Gaudineer Knob, at Forest Service Road 27, continue another 1.5 miles.

Gaudineer Knob was named in honor of Don Gaudineer, who served as forest ranger in the Monongahela National Forest from 1926 till the early 1930s.In 1936, he died in a house fire while attempting to save his family. Rob Whetsell, of Elkins, said this of Don Gaudineer:

“The only person to survive the fire was his wife whom he helped escape from the second floor window of their house. Don Gaudineer returned to try to save his three girls all under age 12. Upon returning to the upstairs he and the children were overcome by the smoke and perished. The fire was more smoke that flames. The house still stands in parsons. Don and his daughters were buried at Maplewood Cemetery in Elkins. His wife Mary was at the ceremony dedicating the lookout tower and knob in his honor. She later remarried and moved out of state and died not long ago.”

There used to be a fire tower at the top of Gaudineer Knob, just at the line between Randolph and Pocahontas Counties. Visitors to the Knob can see a commemorative plaque where the tower once stood. Its views of the valleys below provided a good lookout for forest fires. Visitors today can see the forests extending far into Pendleton County–on a clear day, Spruce Knob is visible from the overlook at Gaudineer Knob.

photo by Lauren Sequin

Two rare and endangered species make their home in the virgin spruce forest at Gaudineer Knob- the Cheat Mountain Salamander-with its black back speckled with gold , and the West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel. The West Virginia northern flying squirrel was isolated from the other northern flying squirrel species when ice sheets covering North America receded about 10,000 years ago.

For more information about Gaudineer Knob, contact the Greenbrier Ranger District:  (304) 456-3335. Or read the feature article in Wonderful WV

Sources: “Gaudineer Scenic Area,” Pamphlet. U.S. Forest Service, Monongahela National Forest.

Grafton, William N. “Red Spruce Forests.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 22 October 2010.

Breiding, George H. “Gaudineer Knob.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 02 August 2012. Web.

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Category: Elkins to Marlinton

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