Monongahela National Forest has what are known as “developed-dispersed” campsites available free of charge in several areas across the forest. In general, these sites are not as developed as traditional campgrounds, but may include some amenities such as bathrooms or fire rings.
These types of campsites are often associated with popular fishing areas and get a lot of use, especially when the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources is stocking streams and lakes with fish. Since these areas are not categorized as formal developed campgrounds, they are not on the same maintenance schedule and may not be mowed or maintained like a developed campground.
It is the responsibility of all visitors to know and understand the regulations related to camping and storing food in the national forest.
The following is prohibited on Monongahela National Forest:
- Discarding or abandoning any food or refuse unless it is disposed in a trash receptacle which has been provided by the forest service for that purpose.
- Leaving camping equipment or personal property unattended for more than 24 hours.
- Exceeding the 14-day maximum length of stay within a 28-day period.
- Abandoning any personal property.
- Occupying national forest land for residential purposes.
- Placing camping equipment in any manner that poses a safety hazard.
- Constructing or placing any unauthorized structures on national forest lands.
- Possessing, discharging, or using any kind of fireworks or other pyrotechnic device.
- Possessing, consuming, or distributing, in violation of West Virginia State Law, a beverage which is defined as an alcoholic beverage by state law.
- Having dogs that are not on a leash. Dogs are permitted if on a leash at all times; leash must be six feet or shorter. Approved service animals are allowed.
- All vehicles must remain on or adjacent to roadways that are open to public travel. Vehicles must be parked in a manner that does not damage vegetation.
- Discharging and draining gray water and black water (sewage) onto national forest lands is illegal and punishable by fines.
Properly store food and other attractants in an enclosed hard-sided vehicle or a certified bear resistant container or suspend at least ten feet clear of the ground at all points and four feet horizontally from any supporting tree or pole. Do not burn or bury any food or refuse.
Where can I find developed-dispersed campsites?
Cheat-Potomac Ranger District (304-257-4488 or 304-478-2000): Gandy Creek Dispersed Camping (County Route 29), Lower Glady Dispersed Camping (Forest Road 162) and Canaan Loop Road (Forest Road 13);
Greenbrier Ranger District (304-456-3335) in the Bartow area: Little River Dispersed Camping (Forest Road 17), Mower Tract (Forest Roads 227 and 235), Stonecoal Dispersed Camping (Forest Road 209) and West Fork Dispersed Camping (Forest Road 44);
Gauley Ranger District (304-846-2695) in the Richwood area: Bear Run Dispersed Camping (Forest Road 223), Third Bridge and North Bend Dispersed Camping (State Route 55) and North Bend Dispersed Camping (State Route 55, adjacent to North Bend Picnic Area); and
Marlinton-White Sulphur Ranger District (304-536-2144 or 304-799-4334) in the White Sulphur Springs area: Anthony Creek Dispersed Camping (State Route 21/2) and Lake Sherwood Recreation Area entrance road dispersed camping (State Route 14).
Where can I find true dispersed camping? The generally accepted definition of dispersed camping is camping at least 100 feet (or in some cases 300 feet, these areas are signed) from any administrative site to include trails, buildings, roads, parking lots, and designated recreation areas, which is free of charge anywhere in the national forest outside of a designated campground. True dispersed camping means there are no toilets, no structures, no trash cans, no treated water, and no fire grates. There are extra responsibilities required to enjoy this type of camping. Camping in or near a parking lot, which is often seen, is not allowed since a person is required to be at least 100 feet away from developed areas or 300 feet where signed.
If a person is going to an area of the forest where others have camped, pick a site that has been used before. If there is no existing campsite, then camp on bare soil, if possible, to avoid damaging or killing plants and grass, 100 feet away from any water source, and 100 feet (300 feet where signed) away from any administrative site, such as trails, roads, recreation areas and buildings.
Always leave a campsite cleaner than one found it. Pack out everything one packs in. Pack out all the garbage, including aluminum foil, cans, toilet paper, cigarette butts and plastic, and trash that others may have left behind.
Properly store food and other attractants in an enclosed hard-sided vehicle or a certified bear resistant container or suspend at least 10 feet clear of the ground at all points and four feet horizontally from any supporting tree or pole. Do not burn or bury any food or refuse.
Many wildfires are caused by human activity, including escaped fires from dispersed campers. Campfires are allowed unless there are fire restrictions in effect. Know before a person goes!
- Use camp stoves when possible.
- Use existing fire rings and be sure to never leave a fire unattended.
- Use water to put a fire out, not soil.
- Be sure the fire is completely extinguished before leaving. One is responsible for keeping fires under control.
- Collect only dead and downed wood. Never cut live trees.
Water gets contaminated by those who do not take care of waste, garbage or food refuse properly.
Dispose of feces in a hole at least six inches deep and at least 100 feet away from water; when one is done, fill the hole with the dirt and pack out the toilet paper. Do not leave waste or toilet paper on top of the ground for people or animals to find.
Wash one’s body and other items at least 100 feet away from water sources; soap should never touch water sources. Use only biodegradable products.
The only way to ensure that water from a natural source is safe to drink is to treat it.
For more information about Monongahela National Forest visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/mnf or contact a district office at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mnf/about-forest/offices.