Our Treasured Watershed
There is still a place where water runs clean in creeks and expanses of productive farmland rise up to meet forested mountains. There is a place where rare species are thriving, dark skies command the night, and people cherish their rural community.
This is the Cacapon & Lost Rivers watershed.
- 85% forested
- Nationally recognized as one of the most ecologically beneficial tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay
- A productive farming & forestry region
- Home to more than 50 rare and endangered species
- A vital wildlife migratory corridor and recognized for its resiliency in the face of climate change
- A recreational destination for hikers, birders, fishermen, hunters, and dark sky enthusiasts
- A source of clean water for millions of residents in the Washington DC metro area.
An Ecologically & Socially Rich Place
Spanning Hampshire, Hardy, and Morgan counties, our heavily-forested watershed is one of the most ecologically diverse in the eastern United States and is highly rated for climate resiliency and as an important wildlife migration corridor. We strive to protect the richest ecological and economically beneficial areas of our watershed by linking hubs and corridors of protected public and private land.
- The word “Cacapon” is believed to translate from its original Native American language to medicine or healing waters.
- The Lost and Cacapon Rivers are the same river! The aptly named Lost River, which originates in southern Hardy County, suddenly disappears into a one-mile underground course between the towns of Baker and Wardensville, WV. When the Lost River resurfaces, it is called the Cacapon River.
- In total, the Lost/Cacapon River travels 125 miles to join the Potomac River at Great Cacapon, WV. The North River joins along the way.
- Together, these rivers drain the 680 square miles of our watershed- an important headwaters to the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.
- Forests make up ~ 85% of the watershed, part of the great “lungs” of the East, providing oxygen, regulating the water cycle, sequestering greenhouse gases, and moderating climate.
- The relatively unbroken forestland of the watershed is critical for wildlife and plants.
- Our forests support our communities and visitors through a thriving timber industry, hunting of game, recreational opportunities, and scenic vistas.
- Forests are good for our streams, providing nutrients, maintaining water quality, and regulating water quantity and temperature.
- For example, shady streams help brook trout, Appalachia’s only native trout, survive in some of the Cacapon River watershed’s smaller streams.
Resiliency & Biodiversity:
- Our forests, ridge and valley geography, unique geology, and other factors make the Cacapon watershed biodiverse and more resilient to climate change and other threats.
- The Cacapon Watershed supports native brook trout populations and is home to over 45 species of plants and animals classified as rare, threatened, or endangered.
- The Cacapon River is one of the most biologically diverse tributaries of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.
- The Lost/Cacapon River watershed is threatened.
- Sprawling, unplanned residential development is one of the biggest threats, spurred on by rising populations and land values in adjoining counties and the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Corridor H and other proposed highway and industrial facilities are also a threat.
- Invasive plants and effects of climate change, such as prolonged droughts and more intense storms, are also affecting the watershed.
Fortunately, protecting the land itself is something we can do. Our watershed is uniquely resilient. If we can protect the land, the land very well may be able to heal itself.