Virginia State Parks

The Commonwealth of Virginia like many other eastern seaboard states, offers many recreational experiences for its residents and visitors. From its Atlantic Ocean shores to the Appalachian Mountains, the commonwealth's beauty is rivaled only by its history. The natural features of Virginia's multiple state parks vary as much as the activities available at each park. The Civilian Conservation Corps formed many of the lakes at the state parks during the Great Depression as they constructed hydroelectric plants and dams.

This is certainly true in the Blue Ridge Highlands, where Clayton Lake State Park offers a 21-mile long lake with freshwater fishing, boating, and swimming activities. Grayson Highlands State Park in the same region, offers views from the highest point in the state at Mount Rogers in the White Top Mountains. This park has mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, and freshwater fishing. Paralleling the New River is the New River Trail State Park, part of the Rails to Trails program. This is a park featuring Native American, mining, and railroad history.

In the beautiful Shenandoah Valley with its Skyline Drive, several state parks feature the spectacular views of this region. Sky Meadows State Park with its access to the Appalachian Trail, is but a one-hour drive from Washington, DC. Camping facilities are primitive at this park, and freshwater fishing is available.

Central Virginia has several state parks which were formed in areas known for historical events, particularly those of the Civil War. Holliday Lake State Park is one of those. Located near the Appomattox Courthouse National Park, this area is where General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the North in 1865. Pocahontas State Park near Richmond in the eastern part of the state, is named for the famous Native American who befriended early settlers.

Virginia's largest lake, Biggs Island Lake, is located in the Occoneechee State Park. Named for the Occoneechee Indians, this park is in southern Virginia, as is the Staunton River Battlefield State Park.

On the eastern side of the state is the Chesapeake Bay, known for its crab fishing, with two state parks of note. Both offer saltwater fishing and boating. The Belle Isle State Park has campsites accessible only by canoe, but has tidal and non-tidal wetlands, coves, upland forests, and lowland marshes to explore. Westmoreland State Park, along the Potomac River, encompasses the Horsehead Cliff Overlook.

The Hampton Roads area features Chippotees Plantation State Park, bordering the creek of the same name. This park has one of the oldest working farms in the United States. Bike, hiking, and horseback trails, as well as boating and freshwater fishing are available in this park.

Next to Little Island City Park in Virginia Beach is False Cape State Park, called the "ship's graveyard". This park contains one of the first settlements in the United States, and boats put in the water here can enter the Atlantic Ocean. Not far away is First Landing State Park which is noted as the most popular of the Virginia state parks. In 1607 English settlers landed there before moving up the James River and established Jamestown. This area also accesses the Chesapeake Bay.

For a trip that combines a love of nature with places of historical interest, Virginia has both in its state parks.