DOTW: Occoneechee State Park

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-22-2003
DOTW: Occoneechee State Park
Mon, 09-01-2003 - 8:16pm
With fun names like Occoneechee State Park and Buggs Island Lake, this place must be a

fun time!

Occoneechee State Park is on Virginia’s largest lake, Buggs Island Lake, also known as John H. Kerr Reservoir. The park features 18.1 miles of trails that allow the guest to experience the history of the Occoneechee Indians and plantation life in the 1800s.

The Commonwealth of Virginia began leasing the land for outdoor recreational use from the U.S. Army in 1944. Occoneechee State Park’s land remains leased from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Overnight Facilities: Camping only. Some water view sites, but not guaranteed. There's no swimming at this park. Boat launch is free for campers. Most campsite areas are shaded.

Campsites have round grills on a cement pad on the ground. The grill can be used to make a campfire or for cooking.

Firewood is $3 per bundle; recommend bringing starter log and/or kindling to start fire.

Campgrounds have a bathhouse with hot showers and flush toilets.

Two vehicles are allowed per site. Extra vehicles must pay the daily parking fee and park in overflow parking areas. Only those registered on the site may stay the night; other guests must pay the parking fees and leave the park by 10 p.m.

Size: 2,698 acres. Buggs Island Lake (Kerr Reservoir), 48,000 acres. Panhandle Area is 1,900 acres. The Occoneechee Panhandle Area provides public hunting for those with a valid state hunting license; you must register at the area's access gate.

Fishing/Boating: Fishing: Buggs Island Lake and connecting Lake Gaston are famous for the number and size of fish found there. Striped and largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and perch are plentiful. A valid Virginia or North Carolina fishing license is required.

Boating: Available year-round. Motorboats are allowed. Three boat launching ramps are available for access to Buggs Island Lake for both motorized and non-motorized boats. Canoes, paddleboats and one- and two-person kayaks are available for rent from Memorial Day through Labor Day by a private concessionaire, GoodSports.

No swimming or wading from the shoreline is permitted because of hazardous drop-offs and heavy boating traffic.

Boat and bike rentals are available on weekends Memorial Day through Labor Day. Fishing/ski boats with motors, canoes, paddleboats, seven-speed off-road bikes, and one- and two-person kayaks are available for rent. Merchandise, snacks and ice also are available.

Interpretive Programs: Weekend summer interpretive programming offered from Memorial Day to Labor Day includes Old Plantation Interpretive Trail, night hikes, Native American Heritage Festival and Pow Wow and Junior Rangers.

Junior Rangers - This program is held once a week from June to August. Staff members teach children about the wonders of nature.

Picnic area: The park has one picnic shelter, parking, restroom and a handicapped accessible walkway.

Boat launch: Boat ramp #1 provides access for handicapped visitors, a parking area and a walkway system.

Although motorized vehicles are not permitted on park trails, electric wheelchairs and electric scooters that meet the federal definition for wheelchairs are allowed to enable people with disabilities to use the trails.

Trails: About 3.1 miles of walking trails wind through woodlands and past scenic lake views. A one-mile interpretive trail takes visitors to the terraced gardens of the Old Plantation grounds. The park also features a 15-mile multi-purpose trail for hiking, biking and horseback riding. No swimming or wading from the shoreline is permitted because of hazardous drop-offs and heavy boating traffic.

Picnicking: The park has two shelters that can be rented from 8 a.m. to dusk (all day), or 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. to dusk (half day). Shelter users may use the volleyball area, and the park lends volleyballs as well as horseshoes. The shelters are available for rent from the first weekend in March through the first weekend in December. Parking fees are not included in the rental.

Shelter 1 (small): Accommodates up to 50 people comfortably. It has lights as well as electrical outlets and is near the playground, which makes it ideal for kids. It also features horseshoe pits, a trail leading to a beautiful lakefront view and a modern restroom facility.

Shelter 2 (large): It accommodates up to 125 comfortably and is near the playground, horseshoe pits and restrooms. This shelter is handicapped accessible, has lights and electrical outlets and is on the left just past the visitor center.

Visitor Center: Camper registration. Also, the center features Native American history, "The Occoneechee Story," a living hut and artifacts. Also within is a year-round gift shop featuring Native American merchandise, t-shirts, hats, souvenirs, postcards and educational material.

Estimated Driving Time to Park from: Northern Virginia, three and a half hours; Richmond, two hours; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, three hours; Roanoke, two and half hours

Events: Clarksville Bluegrass Festival, early April. Native American Heritage Festival and Powwow, early May. Click here to learn about specific park events. Click here to view all park system events, festivals, workshops and interpretive programs.

Park History: From 1250 to 1670, the Occoneechee Indians lived on an island on the Roanoke River near what is now Occoneechee State Park. In 1676, Virginia Councilman Nathaniel Bacon led a group of men from Henrico County to destroy the Occoneechees. Bacon’s attack succeeded only in slaughtering Indians that were perhaps the friendliest to settlers in the Commonwealth. Neither Governor Berkeley nor most Virginians approved of Bacon’s actions.

Nearly 200 years after the attack on the Indians, William Townes built a plantation on this land by the water. A 20-room mansion with horse stables, a smokehouse, servants’ quarters and beautiful terraced gardens were built on his 3,100 acre plantation in 1839. In 1898 the mansion caught fire and was destroyed. The landscaping of the garden can still be seen in the park today.

This park sounds great. The historical aspects make up for the lack of swimming. I love

learning about our country's history this way.

Have a great week!