West Virginia Travel Regions
-Wonders of WVA
|West Virginia: Mountain Lakes: Articles|
Stonewall Jackson's home
outside of Weston
Although born in nearby Clarksburg, Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson grew up at Jackson's Mill, his family's ancestral home north of Weston. The farmstead, part of the Civil War Discovery Trail, is now a year-round conference center and historical district.
You'll find a museum in the original mill structure. A few steps away, at working Blaker Mill, huge stone wheels grind grains into fresh flour and meal you can purchase. The 1793 McWhorter Cabin stands on the site of the Jackson family home. The visitors center and gift shop is a 150-year-old square-hewn, double-peg log house, the Mary Conrad Cabin.
Jackson's Mill hosts one of the region's most beloved festivals, the Stonewall Jackson Heritage Arts and Crafts Jubilee, each Labor Day weekend, and storytellers hold forth in October during the Voices of the Mountains Storytelling Festival.
Big Catch: Wildlife Areas
The center of the Mountain State is one of West Virginia's most abundant wildlife regions - a natural destination for anyone who wants to hunt, fish or simply watch. Interstate 79 and US 19 make for particularly easy access to some of the state's richest wildlife resources.
Within the Mountain Lakes region, more than 60,000 acres are designated for wildlife management by the state's Division of Natural Resources. Hunters will find white-tailed deer, wild turkey, waterfowl and small game, as well as expanding black bear population.
Many of those acres surround lakes. There are five major lakes in this region - Stonewall Jackson, Stonecoal, Burnsville, Sutton and Summersville - comprising more than 8,400 acres for fishing. In addition, two major waterways, the Elk and Gauley rivers, provide excellent opportunities for float and bank fishing. Bass, trout, walleye and catfish are popular catches in West Virginia, and this region has yielded state records for muskie.
At the West Virginia State Wildlife Center in French Creek, the wildlife is for watching, not catching. Visitors stroll a 1.25 mile, paved boardwalk to watch animals in their natural habitat, roaming freely through 300 acres of woods, open meadows and rocks. Among the animals who enjoy this safe haven are elk and bison, a mountain lion, a timber wolf, a coyote, a wild boar and a colony of playful river otters, along with owls, eagles, waterfowl and other birds. Interpretive signs help visitors to learn about each animal's history and biology.
Across West Virginia, the Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Section manages more than 1.5 million acres for wildlife recreation. For more information about fishing, hunting or watching wildlife in West Virginia, call (800)CALL-WVA or contact the Division of Natural Resources directly at (304)558-2771.
Stonewall Jackson's grandfather planned the community of Weston in 1818. A center of commerce on the east/west Staunton-to-Parkersburg turnpike, now US 33, the town boomed shortly before the Civil War when oil and gas were discovered nearby. Weston's ornate late-Victorian architecture still reflects that prosperity.
Genealogists come from far and wide to Weston's Central West Virginia Genealogical and Historical Library in the historic Horner School east of town. A preservation project of the national membership of Hacker's Creek Pioneer Descendants, the library holds records of the region's 18th-century settlers, who later dispersed across the nation.
Civil War Relics
In a place where tradition is a part of everyday life, the past can seem remarkably vivid. It's especially true in two Mountain Lakes locations where the 19th century lingers in the landscape and in local memory. Both are on the Civil War Discovery Trail.
In September 1861, Union General William S. Rosencrans led an attack that forced Confederate General John B. Floyd's troops to abandon their position and flee across the Gauley River gorge just southwest of Summersville. The Confederates never regained their hold on the territory. The Battle of Carnifex Ferry thus cleared the way for the political process that led to West Virginia's formation.
Each fall a re-enactment of the battle fills the air with smoke and thunder. Spring to fall, Patteson House, situated between Union and Confederate lines during the skirmish, remains as an interpretive museum.
Bulltown, an Army Corps of Engineers historic district south of Sutton on I-79 and US 19, marks the site where a community of Native Americans once lived. In October 1863, a 12-hour Civil War battle ensued in the same area. From May through mid-October, living-history demonstrations revive 19th-century lifestyles at the picturesque complex.
Great family camping opportunities abound in the Mountain Lakes. Holly River State Park, established in 1938 as a game refuge, is a popular family camping park with a restaurant, pool and game courts.
Nearby, at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center at French Creek, a 1.25-mile trail meanders through a 300-acre sanctuary where elk, bison, mountain lions, bobcats, wolves, birds and reptiles roam. An exhibit of playful otters is a special treat.
On the western side of the region, families set up camp in tents or RVs at Cedar Creek State Park. In addition to the park's pool, playground and miniature golf course, a staff naturalist plans recreational and educational programs.
Take time to scout for local treasures in the Mountain Lakes region. You'll find high-quality handcrafts as well as charming souvenirs at festivals. The county seats of the region still have slow-paced, old-timey business districts where antique stores and specialty shops await your discovery. As you drive the region's country roads, you'll find nooks and hollows full of homegrown herbs and wines, crafts and yesterday's treasures.
West Virginia's most famous product, glass, is also available. Masterpiece Crystal in Jane Lew is a working glass factory, and both Weston and Jane Lew have glass specialty stores and outlets.
Lakes to Love
Five lakes and several rivers lure thousands of visitors to the Mountain Lakes each year.
The famous Gauley River takes several forms, attracting different kinds of outdoor lovers in different seasons. Impounded behind one of the world's largest earthen dams, it becomes Summersville Lake, the biggest reservoir in the region. Its broad expanses are perfect for water skiing, windsurfing and sailing. Sheer sandstone cliffs rise above the water for scenic splendor.
Below the surface, scuba divers plunge into unusually clear depths. Cold and deep, the lake challenges anglers who fish for smallmouth bass in summer and walleye in winter and early spring.
In spring and fall, the Gauley is unleashed through three mammoth valves in the Army Corps of Engineers' dam. It careens down a boulder-strewn canyon, creating 100 major rapids in a 28-mile course consistently rated among the world's best whitewater streams. Many professional outfitters guide adventurers down the Upper and Lower Gauley during these scheduled releases from Summersville Lake.
The Gauley and the gnarly, continuous rapid called the Meadow River are part of the Gauley National Recreation Area that adjoins the New River Gorge National River, creating the largest federally protected watershed in the East.
Fish Are Jumping
At the northern end of the region, near Weston, the magnificent Stonewall Jackson Lake is the nucleus of a state park.
Motor boaters and anglers love the 2,650-acre lake with 82 miles of shoreline. It jumps with large- and smallmouth bass, crappie, walleye and muskellunge. Boats may be moored year-round in 360 slips at the lake's marina, 92 of which are equipped with electricity and running water.
Or enjoy the lake on the Stonewall Jackson Paddlewheel cruiser, which seats up to 50 for lunch or dinner tours. It follows the shoreline into the remote inlets and wooded coves of an 18,000-acre wildlife management area. Here, where no motorized traffic disturbs the stillness, passengers often glimpse birds and animals, sometimes even a black bear.
The park accommodates small conferences and public gatherings as well as campers, and a resort lodge is under construction.
Wildlife and Water
In the very center of the state, Braxton County holds two lakes with adjoining wildlife management areas. Burnsville Lake, a 968-acre impoundment off I-79, teems with largemouth bass, crappie, muskie and channel catfish. The 12,000-acre Burnsville WMA surrounds it, harboring migrating waterfowl, grouse, quail, turkey and deer.
A marina and boat rentals are additional attractions at neighboring Sutton Lake, also off I-79. Many warm water fish flourish here, along with award-winning muskie and pike at the dam's Elk River tailwaters. Flanked by the 18,185-acre Elk River WMA, Sutton claims a healthy share of Mountain Lake sports.
The Heartland of Almost Heaven
The Mountain Lakes call you with a soft voice. For flatwater fishing, sailing and motor boating. For canoe trips along the meandering Elk and Little Kanawha rivers. For trout fishing in crashing spring torrents. For world-class whitewater. This is the rural heartland of West Virginia, where traditions are sheltered and celebrated in dozens of community festivals all year long.