ROMNEY —On a mountain in Hampshire County, bobcats and black bears roam under 1730 acres of hardwood forests. Bald eagles flying overhead look out over the meandering South Branch Potomac River, where a network of protected land keeps the fish they feed healthy. Tawny white-tailed deer and scarlet tanagers drink from 3 miles of perennial streams and 4 miles of ephemeral streams that trickle past delicate, rare wildflowers into the Potomac—and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. This wild wonderland is known as White Horse Mountain.
According to Emily Warner Senior Director of Land Conservation at the Potomac Conservancy “5 years ago, developers planned to raze the intact forest and construct 70 homes in the area.” Instead, with the help of wildlife advocates and donors, the Potomac Conservancy purchased and permanently protected the land with a conservation easement. In May 2018, the land was officially transferred to the state of West Virginia and is now open to the public for recreation.
Warner said, “We fought to preserve the mountain’s wildlife habitat, forests, and streams for their conservation value, but also so that people could connect with one of the wildest parts of our watershed,” adding, “So next time you’re heading to our headwaters state, skip Harpers Ferry and partake in one of the many activities White Horse Mountain offers––yes, horseback riding is one of them.”
The W.Va. Division of Natural Resources opened the property for hunting on Sept. 1, 2018. Before planning an excursion on the mountain, it is recommended you take a moment to review the updated hunting season dates/times.
Everyone can still enjoy the land year-round, but during active hunting seasons, officials advise wearing blaze orange apparel. For hunting regulations on Wildlife Management Areas and safety information, contact the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources with any questions.
There’s a little something for everyone on the mountain. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy a variety of activities from hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, bird watching, hunting and fishing.
While camping is not allowed on White Horse Mountain, Warner noted, “there are dozens of campsites across the state of West Virginia or travelers could also consider staying in the historic towns of Winchester, VA, Shepherdstown, WV, or Harpers Ferry, WV.”
White Horse Mountain (or the “Springfield Wildlife Management Area” when searching on GPS) is about a 2.5-hour drive from downtown Washington, DC, making it an easy day or weekend trip. The journey will also give you the chance to explore the beauty of the highlands.
The Potomac Conservancy (a non-profit, non-governmental organization) advocates for local, state, and federal policies that support clean water; engages volunteers in trash removal and tree plantings; helps private landowners protect and enhance land for clean water; and encourages residents to get out and enjoy the lands and waters of the Potomac River watershed. For more information about the non-profit visit www.potomac.org