You should definitely check out the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area if you're in Pocahontas County, WV. One of West Virginia's largest wetlands, this 750-acre area features open bogs, with the surrounding moutains -- Black, Cranberry and Kennison -- creating a natural bowl.
With an elevation of 3400 feet, the Glades resemble an Artic tundra, only conveniently in West Virginia. As its name implies, it's also the southern most cranberry bog. We were impressed with its beauty, even on a foggy, rainy day in early spring.
The half-mile boardwalk leads you around the bogs, introducing you to the unique, and often rare, flora and fauna that the area supports. Plan to take an hour -- you'll be doing a lot of bending and looking at interesting plants.
|We were fascinated by the skunk cabbage sprouts. Skunk cabbage is a favorite bear food!|
Signs note that the spongy ground consists mostly of peat, in other words, decaying plant material, that in places can form a layer nearly 20 feet deep. Wet, acidic soil; high elevation; and cool temperatures have created this unique environment.
But don't think it's all wide open spaces, despite being a wetlands. While there are open expanses, there are also thickets of alder and swamp forests of red spruce and hardwood deciduous trees.
|Marsh marigold and its cheerful yellow flowers were prevalent throughout the bog.|
As its name implies, you'll see plenty of small cranberry plants, but you'll also see sphagnum moss, flesh eating purple pitcher plants, Canada mayflowers, and others.
|The purple pitcher plant is one of the two carnivorous plants in the bog.|
We were fascinated by the skunk cabbage, just emerging from its winter slumbers.
|We loved the rain droplets on the green false hellebore.|
Because it was still newly spring at the Glades, we focused on the emergent life, taking our time as we walked around the boardwalk. This is a place to focus on the small details, to appreciate the uniqueness of this special environment.
Getting there: Access to the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area is from Route 39/150 just north of the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center. From Route 150 take Forest Service Road 102 north approximately one mile.
Hours: Dawn through dusk