The Virginia Department of Forestry purchased what is now the Channels State Forest from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in early 2008. The purchase was made possible through funding from the Virginia Land Conservation Fund. TNC had purchased the property a few years earlier for the purpose of protecting and conserving this unique and valuable resource. Within the boundary of the 4,836-acre property is a 721-acre parcel that has been dedicated in perpetuity as the Channels Natural Area Preserve under the provisions of the Natural Area Preserve Act of 1989 to be managed by the Department of Forestry in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
At the crest of the mountain, within the Natural Area Preserve, are the Great Channels of Virginia, impressive formations of 400-million-year-old sandstone outcroppings. Geologists conclude that the Channels were likely formed while the high-elevation sandstone cap was under the influence of permafrost and ice wedging during the last ice age. These forces shattered and enlarged joints in the sandstone caprock.
Located on the southern slope of Clinch Mountain, elevations on the Channels State Forest range from 1,800 feet to more than 4,200 feet. Ecological communities and forest types change significantly with elevation. A diversity of forest types from cove hardwoods to northern hardwoods are present.
Continuing studies indicate the presence of rare and imperiled plant species.
Like all of Virginia’s state forests, the Channels is managed for multiple uses. One management goal is sustainable timber production. Management activities on the Channels State Forest demonstrate sound forestry and conservation practices. Wildlife habitat, recreation, and watershed protection are all compatible with sound timber management strategies.
In the past, through several ownerships, the forest was subject to unregulated logging resulting in the diminished quality and productivity of the land. The Channels State Forest will be managed to continually restore and improve the forest, encourage natural biodiversity, protect water quality, provide wildlife
habitat and provide recreational opportunities.