National Forest Foundation

Wilderness Restoration with Naval Midshipmen

Supported by REI

America’s southern Appalachian Mountains are rich in history and legend. From famous frontiersmen like Daniel Boone to folk singers like John Denver, these rugged mountains have inspired generations of Americans. They’re also remarkably wild given how close they are to major population centers on the East Coast. Numerous Wilderness Areas provide solitude and respite for year-round visitors.

Through a unique partnership between the NFF, Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) and the Naval Academy, many of the Wilderness Areas on Virginia’s George Washington-Jefferson National Forest will be receiving much needed trail and campsite maintenance and visitor use monitoring in 2018.

Throughout the summer, three crews of Naval Academy midshipmen worked with SAWS to organize and lead restoration efforts on trails, rehabilitated unauthorized campsites and engaged with visitors. The Wilderness Areas benefited and the midshipmen gained valuable leadership skills that they can use as future Naval Officers. With its close proximity to Washington, DC and other eastern cities, the George Washington-Jefferson National Forest is one of the most visited Forests in the East.

This innovative partnership highlights how bringing together diverse groups can reap benefits for all.


  • 7.64 miles of trail improved or maintained
  • 36 downed trees removed from the trail
  • 84 trail drainage structures installed or repaired
  • Built a half mile of new trail
  • 25 rocks steps or check dams installed

Project Updates

The SAWS and Naval Academy Crews worked across several Wilderness Areas on the George Washington-Jefferson and Cherokee National Forests, with a focus on trail improvements. This unique partnership gave the Midshipmen leadership training, while immersing them in our National Forests. The crew also led volunteer days focused on equestrian trails in the Thunder Ridge and James River Face Wilderness Areas. Thanks to SAWS and the Midshipmen for their dedicated work this summer!