Eidolon Nature Preserve
The Eidolon Nature Preserve is located along the summit and east and west sides of Sideling Hill, west of Berkeley Springs in Morgan County, West Virginia.
The property was owned for many years by Louis and Marguerite Zapoleon who lived in Washington, D.C. and Florida. Mrs. Zapoleon willed it to the Nature Conservancy when she passed away in 2003 with instructions that it be used as a place to promote greater understanding and appreciation of the natural world. Today, it is owned by The Nature Conservancy and co-managed by the Potomac Valley Audubon Society. It has been open to the public since the spring of 2007.
Characteristics of the property
The Eidolon Preserve is 354 acres in size. The elevation at its highest point is about 1,600 feet, affording sweeping views to the east and west. Like much of the land in the area, parts of Eidolon were both farmed and logged in the past. Today, it is once again mostly forest with oaks and maples predominating.
The preserve provides habitat that supports a wide variety of plant and animal species, No especially rare or endangered species have been identified so far but species of concern like the Cerulean Warbler (which nest there in the spring) can be found there.
Over the years, the Zapoleons, the Conservancy, and other partners developed about four trails throughout the property. These trails make the preserve an ideal place to visit.
What is the preserve's mission?
Speaking generally, the overall mission of the preserve is twofold: to protect the land forever from future development and to fulfill Mrs. Zapoleon's wish that it be used for quiet contemplation, study, and education. Over time, it is expected that PVAS will use Eidolon as an outdoor classroom to educate children about nature, as it does at the Yankauer Nature Preserve. In the meantime, members of the public are welcome to visit Eidolon anytime.
GPS Coordinates: N39 36.637 W78 21.142 The preserve's physical address is 2146 Orleans Road.
The directions to the preserve from Berkeley Springs are as follows: From the intersection of Routes 522 and 9, take Route 9 west over Cacapon Mountain and through the village of Great Cacapon until you reach Detour Road (a total of 7.6 miles). Go right on Detour Road for 9/10s of a mile to Orleans Road. Go right on Orleans Road and follow it up Sideling Hill for 2.1 miles; the entrance to Eidolon will be on your right—a light-green metal gate flanked by two low, square stone pillars. Those who visit are asked to park outside the gated entrance and proceed into the preserve on foot.
View an up-to-date Eidolon Trail map (PDF)
View a 1982 plat of the property (JPG)
Visitors are urged to use appropriate discretion and caution during hunting seasons (especially the late November-early December deer season), as hunting is permitted on the property and hunters may be encountered there.
Fall Hunting and Hiking Schedule
In the interest of maintaining a healthy forest and viable animal populations, the Eidolon Nature Preserve permits hunting on the property during hunting season. To balance the safety of hikers and the interests of deer hunters during deer season, we ask all visitors to observe the following rules:
- Hunters must be licensed by the state and follow all applicable state laws and regulations.
- For their part, hikers should exercise appropriate caution during hunting season and wear at least one item of blaze orange clothing.
- In accordance with state law, no hunting will be permitted on Sundays.
- The Eidolon Nature Preserve will close its trails to hikers for the entire first week of the firearm season for deer hunting and every Saturday thereafter until the season ends.
- On all other days during the firearm season for deer, the trails will be open to hikers from 10 am until 3 pm only.
View the most current Eidolon hunting/hiking schedule (PDF)
Emergency Contact Information
If you need to call 911 while visiting the preserve, tell the dispatcher that the entrance to the preserve is "the gated lane to the FAA tower on Orleans Road" and the entrance's 911 address is 2146 Orleans Road.
The Eidolon property was purchased in 1945 by Louis and Marguerite Zapoleon who used and cherished the property as a weekend and summer retreat. They named it Eidolon after phantom women of Greek mythology who were created by Zeus from mist and light. Translated from the Greek, the word means "image of the ideal."
The Zapoleons were keen observers of the natural world. They documented what they encountered at Eidolon, keeping a long and detailed record of the plants, animals and natural communities they found. In addition, Marguerite Wykoff Zapoleon wrote a book about their times at Eidolon - "Everyone Needs a Mountain, or, Skylife at Eidolon" which was published in 1985.
Mr. Zapoleon died in 1969. Shortly after his death, Mrs. Zapoleon began working with The Nature Conservancy to ensure that Eidolon would be preserved for public use. Mrs. Zapoleon passed away in 2003 and deeded the land to TNC in her will. TNC took possession of the property in early 2006, and at that time began discussions with the Potomac Valley Audubon Society about co-managing the property. An agreement setting forth the terms for co-management was signed by both organizations on October 16, 2006. The establishment of the property as the Eidolon Nature Preserve was announced publicly on November 9, 2006, and a formal opening ceremony was held on May 19, 2007.
The human history of the Eidolon property is quite interesting. Among other things, the property includes the remnants of an old 18th Century coach road and a quarry that supplied stone for the C&O Canal in the 1840s. From as early as the 1870s, the property was the home of a Confederate veteran and his family, and several other families resided there through the mid-1930s. Click here for more information about Eidolon's history.
There is very little surface water in and around Eidolon, so the variety of bird life there is not as great as it is in some other locations. The most notable bird species to be found at the preserve is the Cerulean Warbler, a species of concern, which nests in the area around the property's old stone cottage in the spring.
Download a complete list of 58 other birds that are commonly found on the property. (PDF)
Zapoleon Card Files on Eidolon Fauna and Flora
Thanks to many hours of painstaking work by volunteers in 2008 and 2009, an extensive set of old, hand-written card files documenting fauna and flora at the Eidolon Nature Preserve has been transcribed into searchable, digital database files.
The card files were maintained for many years by the long-time former owner of the Eidolon property, Mrs. Marguerite Zapoleon, who died in 2003. Mrs. Zapoleon used them to record the many different plants and animals she and others had observed at Eidolon over many years. Some of the entries date as far back as the 1940s but most are from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
In all, there are seven different sets of files. In addition to providing details about the occurrences of different plant and animal species, the files also contain occasional personal anecdotes that add to our understanding of human comings and goings on the property during Mrs. Zapoleon's time.
Before she died, Mrs. Zapoleon expressed a wish that her card files be preserved and made available to future generations. The transcription of the files has ensured that this will be the case.
The transcription was done by PVAS volunteer and West Virginia Master Naturalist Marcyanna Millet, of Berkeley Springs. She used an Excel database format recommended by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Volunteer Elliot Kirschbaum, of Shepherdstown, assisted in refining the formatting of the files.
To access the .xls files, click on the links below: