Thank you for your interest in the annual Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally. Every year the Naturalist Rally Committee assembles a wide variety of excellent field trips with leaders who are experts in their field. Our goal is to make the Mount Rogers area ecology understandable and interesting for everyone, from inquisitive amateurs to accomplished naturalists.


"Biodiversity in the Southern Appalachians" - Dr. Jennifer Frick-Ruppert is associate professor of ecology and environmental science at Brevard College.  Her much acclaimed 2010 book, Mountain Nature, takes a seasonal look at southern Appalachian natural history.  Published in 2014, her second major work, Waterways:  Sailing Southeastern Coastal Waters, is a testament to experiential education, a philosophy we all share. Dr. Frick-Ruppert was appointed in May 2006 to lead the Appalachian Center for Environmental Education (ACEE). 

Friday night entertainment - Roald and Ellie Kirby will be bringing in the evening with some traditional old time tunes.

Star Watch Special - Evan Worrell (BRDC) will offer a star watch at Grindstone Campground on Friday night after the presentation.  Details will be announced on Friday.

ATTENTION* We are switching time slots for Ed Clayton's and Steve Lindeman's cultural hikes... Steve's will now be in the morning and Ed's in the afternoon.  Apologies, SJ-R.

Saturday morning Field Trips

  • Birding: Allen Boynton, Wildlife Diversity Program Coordinator with the NCWRC (and with BRDC), will conduct  bird watching at Grindstone and the Homestead Road section of Fairwood Valley. 
  • Fly Tying: Ernie Barker will conduct a basic fly tying course in the community center, as a representative of the Mountain Empire Chapter of Trout Unlimited.   There is a $5.00 registration fee to cover the cost of materials for the 4 - 6 flies that will be tied.
  • Salamanders:  Kevin Hamed, Associate Professor of Biology, Virginia Highlands Community College, Abingdon, will lead his popular morning salamander walk.  We will explore the Elk Garden Trail sampling at least two different habitat types. (Limit  25 participants)
  • All day Hike to Mount Rogers: Phil Shelton, Emeritus Professor of Biology at UVA College at Wise, leads this nine mile round trip to Virginia’s highest point. Natural history, including geology, climate, plants, animals and cultural history will be discussed.  Sturdy shoes, dress for  high altitude weather, food and water are necessary. (Reservations, please.)
  • Fairwood Valley: Join forester, naturalist, and history buff, Steve Lindeman and Tom Blevins,  Mt. Rogers NRA Range and Wildlife Technician for a history tour in beautiful Fairwood Valley.
  • Wild Harvest: Join Katie Trozzo, a PhD student studying non-timber forest products, and Lukas Burgher, a seasoned hunter, for a field excursion focused on safely and sustainably providing wild harvested foods. 
  • Geology Walk: Arthur Merschat, PhD, USGS, will lead a short walk along the Creeper Trail at Creek Junction to examine evidence of glaciers as preserved in the Konnarock Formation and discuss whether this glaciation was related to possible global glaciations.  We will also examine the Iron Mountain fault, and roadcuts along VA600. (Limit: 15).
  • Mammals of Mount Rogers: Karen Powers, PhD, Radford University, will check several hundred pre-set live traps in the woods near the community center and on Mount Rogers Trail in hope of examining a sample of the small mammal diversity of the MRNRA.  
  • Wildflowers: Carrie Sparks with Friends of Mount Rogers will lead a walk along the Whispering  Waters Nature Trail at Grindstone Campground.  A hand lens and field guide are appropriate.
  • Fire Management on Whitetop: Join Claiborne Woodall, DCR Division of Natural Heritage, for an in depth study of the ecological benefits of prescribed fire.  Whitetop will be the focus and example.

Saturday afternoon Field Trips

  • Ecology: Dr. Gerald Bresowar, Assistant Professor of Biology at EHC will compare the tornado damaged areas of the Grindstone Campground to those areas unaffected. The group will investigate the differences in plant and community types between the areas. There will be discussion on the role of disturbance in increasing species diversity. (afternoon, meet at Grindstone at 1:15, by office)
  • Mushrooms: Join NAMA members Ken Crouse and Rebecca Rader, past president of the Blue Ridge Mushroom Club and president of the New River Valley Mushroom Club, on a high elevation foray! On our walk we’ll look for the first mushrooms of the year, see their plant partners, talk about their relationships and the vital role they play in the overall health of the ecosystem.
  • Aquatic Center Tour: Join Megan Bradley, biologist with the VDGIF, at the Buller Hatchery on the banks of the South Fork Holston River.  See how the VDGIF is recovering rare freshwater mussels, the Eastern hellbender, and the spiny river snail.    1-30 participants…must provide their own transportation.
  • Appalachain Trail Hike: Join Carol and Chris of the Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club for a longer AT hike: 6.4 miles from Elk Garden to Buzzard Rock and back. We'll share AT, trail club, & natural history while we stretch out.
  • Wildflower Walk: Join John Kell on a wildflower jaunt in Grindstone Campground.  Expect an abundance of blooms.  Bring a hand lens and camera.
  • Troutdale Cultural History: Join Ed Clayton, U.S. Forest Service Volunteer and history aficionado to learn about Troutdale from its founding to the present, including the railroad, churches, the bank, VA’s first female mayor, writer Sherwood Anderson, and more. Several Troutdale residents may join us to share stories.
  • Naturalist Walk: Join Jennifer Frick-Ruppert, our Friday night speaker, on a relaxed walk to identify as many different organisms as possible. From wildflowers to pollinators to birds, we'll take whatever comes our way. Location to be determined.
  • Tenkara Fly Fishing: Aaron Floyd will be teaching the simplest form of fishing you can ever learn.  A japanese tradition, Tenkara is a minimalist form of fly fishing and a backpacker’s dream. Kids (8+) & beginners welcome. ALL EQUIPMENT PROVIDED including waders and rods. (Limit: 10)

*Kid Activities*

  • Bear Hunt: Roald Kirby as "The Old-Timer" will take kids of all ages on a bear hunt.  (1:00 to 1:45) 
  • Spring Comes to the Mountains: Ellie Kirby will help children and adults use pencils and crayons to create a moving panorama or "crankie" of nature in the MRNRA, shown at the end of the program. (2:00-3:00) 

***All of our field trip leaders volunteer their time for the Naturalist Rally, so let them know you appreciate their sharing their time and knowledge with us.***


The Friends of Mount Rogers will be offering some items for sale that you would find in the visitor centers in the Mount Rogers NRA: T-shirts, sweatshirts, caps, maps, identification books, nature books. Be sure to bring extra money if you'd like to purchase any of these items.


Dinner & Registration

Dinner is by pre-paid reservation ONLY. There will be no dinners sold at the door. Registration for the rally events and dinner is due by May 1st. You can register/pay online here  or download and print the registration form and send it to:

Scott Jackson-Ricketts
253 Little Big Horn Ln.
Independence, VA 24348

Please make all checks payable to:

Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally


How to Take a Field Trip

All field trips leave from the parking lot of the Konnarock Community Center unless otherwise indicated or announced on Friday evening. All times listed are actual departure times. Please allow extra time if you still need to register and to sign up with the field trip leader. (Some leaders take sign-ups on Friday evening and some trips fill quickly.) All trips will go out regardless of weather conditions. Come prepared with good boots or shoes, a sweater or jacket, raincoat or poncho.


Two Forest Service campgrounds - Grindstone (VA Route 603) and Beartree (US Route 58) are within 10 miles of Konnarock. To reserve a site, call 1-877-444-6777 or online at www.ReserveUSA.com. There are numerous bed and breakfast inns and rental cabins in the area.  Try www.virginiablueridge.org for information. Motels are available in Abingdon, Chilhowie, Glade Spring, Marion, all with places to eat.

MRNR Facebook Page


The 41st Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally is dedicated to Dr. Jim Organ and his wife, Della, both of whom passed away recently.  Jim and Della conducted salamander research in the Mount Rogers/Whitetop area going back to the 1950's. Jim had the honor during his lifetime of having a salamander named for him. The pygmy salamander in this area (originally Desmognathus wrighti) was determined to be different enough from the species on the other side of the French Broad River to be a separate species and since Jim had written several papers about his findings, they renamed this one Desmognathus organi. Jim presented the rally program in 1996.

MRNR T-shirts for sale at the Rally!

MRNR T-shirts for sale at the Rally!

Download Brochure


Friday, May 8

  • 5:00 PM - Registration begins, Konnarock Community Center. Fee is $8 for each person 18 or older.  Registration online is greatly appreciated! 
  • 5:30-6:30 PM: Chicken supper prepared and served by the Konnarock Community Association at the Konnarock Community Center. Prepaid reservations for supper are required. Tickets for the dinner will be limited to 150 so make sure you reserve early. The cost is $13.50 per plate. 
  • 6:45 PM: Welcome, introductions of field trip leaders, last-minute announcements.
  • 7:30 PM: Featured speaker: Jennifer Frick-Ruppert

Saturday, May 9

  • 7:00 AM: Continuing registration. Anyone who has not registered should do so. 
  • 8:00 AM: Morning field trips. Signs will be on the building for the field trips, so meet at the one you are interested in. 
  • 11:30 AM: Lunch break (hot dogs and drinks are for sale at the center or bring your own.)
  • 1:00 PM: Afternoon field trips