Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park

The Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA) Program provides framework, funding, and publishing support to parks to aid in the synthesis and documentation of natural resource conditions. Condition assessment reports are a tool to describe selected park resources, and record a snapshot of their current condition, identify trends, and identify potential or current threats and stressors. Understanding the condition and trend of natural resources is key for parks and NPS planners to appropriately prioritize and allocate stewardship resources.

Trees with bright yellow and orange leaves; mountains are in the background.
Bolivar Heights in the fall.

NPS/Autumn Cook.

Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, within Maryland, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. The park commemorates many historic events and eras including the failed 1859 raid by abolitionist John Brown on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, the development of modern industrial production using machine manufacture and interchangeable parts, and the Civil War period during which the town changed hands eight times. The park also commemorates African American history including the 1867 founding of Storer College, the nation’s first integrated school designed primarily to educate former slaves but open to students of all races and both genders. The park contains riparian habitats, floodplains, agricultural fields, geologic exposures, rare limestone glades, developed areas, and upland forests.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2013

In an effort to better understand the natural resources and processes present in this park, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was conducted and published in 2013. National Park Service representatives and the University of Maryland collaborated to determine park needs and available data. This team chose four resource topics, and their related indicators, to evaluate:

- Air quality

- Water resources

- Biological integrity

- Landscape dynamics

Overall, the assessment showed that the resources in Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park were in degraded conditions. Water resources and landscape dynamics were considered to be in conditions of moderate concern, while air quality and biological integrity were considered to be in conditions of significant concern. This park faces threats from overpopulation of deer, surrounding land development, and poor regional air quality. In addition, a warming climate is expected to present more challenges in the coming years, including increasing ozone, increasing water temperature, and affects on exotic pest species and diseases.

For other reports and natural resource datasets visit the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Collection 7765 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: February 25, 2022


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