Virginia State Outdoors

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State Parks
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Virginia State Parks

Belle Isle State Park
Located in the rural Northern Neck of Virginia, Belle Isle is the first state park to be purchased with funds from the $95 million 1992 Parks and Recreational Facilities Bond Referendum. The 733-acre site is a window to the beautiful lower Rappahannock River in Lancaster County. Waterfront in the area has been developed extensively by private landowners with little public recreational access. This fact made the lower Rappahannock a priority for purchasing land for a new state park. The park has seven miles of frontage on the north shore of the Rappahannock, and it borders Deep and Mulberry creeks. It features diverse tidal and nontidal wetlands, lowland marshes, tidal coves and upland forests. The diverse habitats found in the park provide homes to many predator birds, such as blue herons, osprey, hawks and bald eagles. White-tailed deer, turkeys, groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, moles, reptiles and amphibians. There are eight distinct types of wetlands within the park. These diverse ecosystems make Belle Isle an excellent outdoor laboratory for environmental education. For information call: (804)462-5030


Douthat State Park
Douthat State Park is on the National Register of Historic Places and is located in Bath and Alleghany counties. Douthat was one of the original six Virginia State Parks to open on June 15, 1936. Douthat park is nestled in the Alleghany Mountains and features some of Virginia's most outstanding scenery. In addition, a 50 acre lake offers swimming, boating and seasonal trout fishing. For information call: (540)862-8100


First Landing State Park
This park serves as a Virginia Beach Tourism satellite location and has new displays, three indoor aquariums, restrooms, showers and offers water sports rentals. For information call: (757)481-2131


Hungry Mother State Park
Hungry Mother State Park in southwestern Virginia is noted for its woodlands and lake. In fact, the lake has a reputation for having the best Northern Pike fishing in the state. Easily accessible from Interstate 81, this park has folklore and history, swimming, camping, cabin rentals, boat rentals, horse rentals, hiking and the park system's first conference center, Hemlock Haven. For information call: (540)783-3422


Kiptopeke State Park
The site was purchased by the Virginia Ferry Corp. for the northern terminus of the Virginia Beach to Eastern Shore Ferry. In 1949, when the terminus was moved from Cape Charles, the site was named Kiptopeke Beach in honor of the younger brother of a king of the Accawmack Native Americans who had befriended early settlers to the area. Kiptopeke means Big Water. In 1950 the terminus opened after the completion of a $2.75 million pier, promoted as the world's largest and most modern ferry pier. The Commonwealth of Virginia purchased this ready-made park from John Maddox in 1992. Kiptopeke Birding Areas: Since 1963, Kiptopeke has been the site of bird population studies. Sponsored by KESTA and licensed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, volunteers capture, examine, weigh, band and release resident and migratory birds in September and October of each year. In the raptor research area, hawks, kestrels, osprey and other birds of prey are observed and banded from September through November. Kiptopeke's hawk observatory is among the top 15 nationwide. For information call: (757)331-2267


Camping and Hiking in Virginia

Bear Creek Lake State Park
Nestled in the heart of Cumberland State Forest in central Virginia's Cumberland County, Bear Creek Lake State Park offers the amenities of the larger parks without the crowds. Activities revolve around the 40-acre lake with a boat launch, swimming beach, lakeside picnicking, camping and hiking trails. The park is surrounded by the 16,000-acre Cumberland State Forest, which provides opportunities for a wide range of outdoor activities. Four small lakes in the state forest are managed by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for recreational fishing. A network of gated and ungated forest roads provides hiking, mountain biking and nature observation. For information call: (804)492-4410


Chippokes Plantation State Park
Chippokes Plantation State Park is one of the oldest working farms in the United States. Chippokes is a living historical exhibit located in a rural agricultural area along the James River in Surry County. In addition, the park has a wide variety of traditional park offerings, including a swimming complex, visitor center, picnic facilities, and hiking and biking trails. The plantation has kept its original boundaries since the 1600s and has a variety of cultivated gardens and native woodland. The formal gardens surrounding the Chippokes Mansion are accented by azaleas, crepe myrtle, boxwood and seasonal flowers. The plantation grounds are also home to the Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum. Chippokes Plantation State Park is operated by the Department of Conservation and Recreation in cooperation from the Chippokes Plantation Farm Foundation. The Virginia General Assembly created the foundation in 1977 to establish, administer and maintain the model farm. Funding for foundation efforts are from the General Assembly with matching private donations. For information call: (757)294-3625


False Cape State Park
No vehicular access. Located in southern Virginia Beach, False Cape State Park is a mile-wide barrier spit between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Access is through the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and is limited to hiking, bicycling or boating. The park features primitive camping and an extensive environmental education program in one of the last undisturbed coastal environments on the East Coast. In the 1800s, False Cape gained a reputation as a ship's graveyard. The area got its name because its land mass resembled Cape Henry, luring boats into shallow waters. One of the area's first communities, Wash Woods, was developed by survivors of such a shipwreck. The village's church and other structures were built using cypress wood that washed ashore from a wreck. Vehicular access to False Cape State Park is prohibited because the park is land-locked on the southern end of the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. Those wishing to visit the park for the day must either bike or hike through the refuge (via beach or interior trails, and the interior trail is closed from November 1 through March 31), or boat or canoe in down Back Bay. To get a taste of the park, the Back Bay Restoration Foundation operates a tram that leaves from Little Island City Park, drives through the wildlife refuge and lets visitors explore the park for an hour in the Barbour Hill contact station area. The tram provides a round trip ride and is not available for overnight guests. Overnight guests must either hike or bike through the refuge, or canoe or boat in. Both day use and overnight visitors are advised to read all warnings regarding visiting the park to learn what is expected and about preparation. All visitors must follow refuge regulations while on refuge property. For information call: (757)426-7128


Grayson Highlands State Park
The park is adjacent to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, a part of Jefferson National Forest. Grayson Highlands State Park was originally named Mount Rogers State Park and was established in 1965. No pets are allowed in the park's public facilities. Camping only. For information call: (540)579-7092


Natural Tunnel State Park
The Commonwealth of Virginia acquired the tunnel and 100 surrounding acres in 1967 from the Natural Tunnel Chasm and Caverns Corp. to establish Natural Tunnel State Park. Approximately 750 additional acres were later acquired and the park opened in 1971. Natural Tunnel, called the "Eighth Wonder of the World" by William Jennings Bryan, has been attracting sightseers to the mountains of southwestern Virginia for more than 100 years. Today it is the focal point of Natural Tunnel State Park, a park which offers visitors not only spectacular sights but also swimming, camping, picnicking, hiking, a visitor center, an amphitheater and interpretive programs. The creation of Natural Tunnel began more than a million years ago in the early glacial period when groundwater bearing carbonic acid percolated through crevices and slowly dissolved surrounding limestone and dolomite bedrock. Then, what is now Stock Creek was probably diverted underground to continue carving the tunnel slowly over many centuries. The walls of the tunnel show evidence of prehistoric life, and many fossils can be found in the creek bed and on tunnel walls. For information call: (540)940-2674


Hunting and Fishing in Virginia

Claytor Lake State Park
Located on the 4,500 acre, 21-mile long Claytor Lake (from which the park was named) in the New River Valley of southwestern Virginia, Claytor Lake State Park offers a wide variety of activities for water and land enthusiasts. Easily accessible from Interstate 81, the park features the only full service marina in the state park system. In addition, there are miles of hiking trails, swimming, camping facilities, cabins and a visitor center. The visitor center is located in the historic Howe House. Motorboats permitted. Bass, catfish, muskie, walleye and striped bass are among the popular sport fish found in the lake. A valid Virginia fishing license is required and is available at the marina when it is open or by contacting the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. For information call: (540)674-5492


Fairy Stone State Park
Fairy Stone State Park is home of the mysterious "fairy stones." It is one of the six original Virginia state parks to open on June 15, 1936. The treasured stone so prevalent in the region, beautiful scenery, rich history and ample recreational opportunities make Fairy Stone one of the favorites of park visitors. Roanoke newspaper publisher Julius B. Fishburn donated the 4,868-acre site, making it the largest of the six original parks and one of the largest to this day. Fishing is allowed with a valid Virginia fishing license on the 168 acre lake. A fishing area is accessible to visitors with physical disabilities. Approximately half the park's acreage is open to hunting. There's a 5,000 acre quality deer management area adjacent to park. For information call: (540)930-2424


Holliday Lake State Park
Holliday Lake State Park, located deep within the Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest, boasts a scenic 150-acre lake amid rolling hills. Activity at the park focuses on the lake, with fishing, boating, swimming, picnicking, camping and hiking. Fishing available with valid Virginia fishing license. For information call: (804)248-6308


Lake Anna State Park
The land in Lake Anna State Park used to be known as "Gold Hill" and contained the Goodwin Gold Mine. Gold was first discovered in 1829 with mining reaching its peak in the 1880s. The last gold to be found was in a zinc mine during the 1940s. In 1971 Lake Anna was created to serve as a water coolant for Virginia Power's nuclear plant. In 1972 work began on the acquisition and development of a water-oriented state park. Lake Anna State Park opened in 1983. While boating and fishing on this beautiful lake are major attractions, these are only some of the park's offerings. Lakefront picnic areas and wooded hiking trails are also popular. During the summer, interpretive programs on the nature and history of the area complement exhibits and displays in the visitor center. Lake Anna State Park has nearly nine miles of hiking trails, lakeshore picnicking, a guarded swimming beach, a children's play area, a boat ramp, a food concession stand, a bathhouse and a children's and handicapped fishing pond. For information call: (540)854-5503


Mason Neck State Park
Mason Neck State Park is situated on a peninsula formed by Pohick Bay on the north, Belmont Bay on the south and the Potomac River on the east. The peninsula is the site of an active heron rookery. The park also attracts several other migrating and non-migrating species of birds, including whistling swans and assorted species of duck. Bald eagles also inhabit the area. The park boasts several hundred acres of hardwood forests consisting of oaks, holly, hickory and other species of trees. In addition, several wetland areas are also found in Mason Neck. Land was purchased over the years from the The Nature Conservancy. The park connects with a National Wildlife Refuge that includes over 2,000 acres. The park opened to the public in 1985. Fresh and brackish water fishing are available. Must have valid Virginia fishing license. Limited deer hunt by lottery only. For information call: (703)550-0362


Other Virginia Outdoor activities

Virginia also offers the following outdoor activities:
  • Bicycling
  • Boating
  • Cave Exploring
  • Climbing
  • Floating
  • Golf
  • Horseback Riding
  • Mountain Biking