The recovery of natural ecological processes after disturbance is poorly understood. Some disturbances may be so severe as to set ecosystems onto a new trajectory. The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia protects a unique high-altitude wetland that was heavily disturbed by logging 100 years BP and has since transitioned to a new ecological state (shrub wetland). Refuge managers interested in preserving and restoring ecosystem states expressed concerned about lingering impacts of previous disturbances (logging, railroads, beaver, deer, fire). Available data suggested hydrologic impacts from the remnant rail grade but managers had insufficient quantitative data to assess these impacts. We initiated a fine scale assessment of topography, vegetation distribution, and hydrology to assess impacts from the remnant rail grade using lidar data, vegetation surveys, and piezometers. We developed topographic models, hydrological models, and mapped vegetation distribution. We developed statistical models to assess relationships between vegetation communities, hydrology, and distance to the rail grade. Surprisingly, we found that hydrologic flow paths did not conform to expectation and were not restricted by remnant land use features. For the most part, vegetation communities are responding to topographic and environmental gradients that existed prior to disturbance. Use of highly detailed topographic data (lidar), field hydrology, and vegetation studies allowed us to more accurately assess hydrologic and vegetation regimes, eliminating the need for mitigation, saving significant resources.