The Naturalist Notebook — An Insider’s View of Watoga State Park

Naturalist Notes by Kayla may tell you more than you want to know about dogwood, and then some. Photo by Angie Hill
Naturalist Notes by Kayla may tell you more than you want to know about dogwood, and then some. Photo by Angie Hill.

Hello everyone! Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Kayla Bowyer, the new naturalist here at Watoga State Park. This is the debut of the Naturalist Notebook. My name is Kayla Bowyer.

As a naturalist, it’s my job to talk so please allow me to tell you a little bit about myself. I have been at Watoga for about a month. Already, I can say that it feels like home. The rolling hills and valleys, and the winding curves that are a blast to drive, at least now in the summer, remind me of my childhood growing up in the smaller hills and valleys of Northeast Ohio.

I grew up in a small town in Ohio, where it was basically a stop light and a flea market. My home base was about 45 minutes south of Youngstown and about 45 minutes to an hour west of Pittsburgh. But possibly the best point of reference for folks that grew up in the Mountain State is that I grew up 30 minutes from Newell, the home of Fiestaware. And yes, it’s just as beloved across the river as it is here.

If you have visited this part of Ohio, you’ll recognize that it’s not flat and is full of forests and creek valleys. This is the place my education truly began, with the trees and the wildlife.

I was lucky enough to live at the top of a hill. From there, I could see all kinds of wildlife, from indigo buntings to flying squirrels to deer who followed my horse in his daily travels. It was a wonderful place to grow up. Watching Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin only helped to fuel my interest in the environment and nature.

My Career Passion

I followed this passion all the way to college. I attended the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, a Division 3 school just outside of Canton. There, I pursued a degree in Environmental Science graduating in May of 2020, a Class of Covid grad.

I ended up pursuing a naturalist career after meeting and working with the naturalist at Beaver Creek State Park. Since then, she has moved forward to Wingfoot State Park in Akron. Importantly, teaching has always come much more naturally to me, but I never had the passion to be a classroom teacher. So, I felt rather stuck in trying to figure out what to do with my passion.

Once I met the naturalist at Beaver Creek, I knew that I had found a name for what I wanted to do, and I pursued it as my heart’s desire. I have been able to follow this passion to many beautiful places, from Lake Erie to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Initial Musings from Watoga’s Naturalist Notebook

Few places feel as wonderful and welcoming as Watoga State Park. The hills and the hollers are gorgeous, filled with beautiful Appalachian flora and fauna. I have been taking a hike once a week on my days off . They’ve been the highlight of my week. From the Anne Bailey Trail to the Dragon Draft Trail, this park is full of satisfyingly rugged hikes and adventures.

My goal as a naturalist is to introduce many folks to adventures that they may not realize are here in Watoga. From hikes to campfires, I plan on including weekly adventures that guests can explore and experience, with each one different from the last. When you come down to the programs, bring family and friends and a willingness to learn and explore. I also encourage guests to ask questions and tell their stories; I may be the one talking but I want to learn as much from you as you can learn from me. There will be some Naturalist Notes you have never read about before at Watoga.

This Naturalist Will Keep You Informed

To find out what programs that I am hosting, follow the Foundation’s web page and Facebook page, The Pocahontas Times, or stop by the office for a pamphlet on what programs will be going on that weekend. My naturalist programs are scheduled for Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, unless there is a special event during the week.

I look forward to meeting you as you come down to visit this beautiful and one of a kind park. It’s a large and wondrous place and I will gladly guide you through it.

Editor’s note

When Kayla is not busy crawling in and around Watoga’s creeks or trying to find several Dragon’s Tails in the Brooks Arboretum, she will share more musings with you in the Naturalist’s Notebook. Watoga welcomes you to her magical woods, Kayla.

Watoga Naturalist Activities — 4th of July Weekend, 2021

Happy 4th of July from Watoga State Park. We have some phenomenal Watoga naturalist activities during the 4th of July weekend for all ages to enjoy. For more information, please contact the office at (304) 799-4087 or email Naturalist Kayla Bowyer at kayla.r.bowyer at The following schedule is just for July 2 through July 4. We’ll be releasing a full slate of programs and activities soon.

A nice summer day greets a young visitor as he slides down the slide. Youngsters always list the pool in their Top 10. The swimming pool is a popular spot on the 4th of July at Watoga. Photo by Stanley Clark©.
The swimming pool is a popular spot on the 4th of July at Watoga. Photo by Stanley Clark©.

Friday, July 2nd

Beautiful Birds-11 a.m.

Meet Naturalist Kayla at the boat dock for a birding walk around the lake. Bring your own binoculars or some will be provided.

Butterflies and Moths-2 p.m.

Stop by the Nature Center to learn about the differences between butterflies and moths and the species that call Watoga home! Take home a butterfly craft and coloring sheets as part of a memorable 4th of July!

Creek Crawl-3:30 p.m.

Join Naturalist Kayla at the Nature Center to learn about the critters that call our creeks home. Get wet and catch amazing creek creatures.

Saturday, July 3rd

Lend a Helping Hand-10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Learn about several worthwhile endeavors and projects underway by the volunteers of the Watoga State Park Foundation. These “Helping Hands” have a special 4th of July surprise in store for you.

Roving Ranger-1 p.m.-3 p.m.

Find Naturalist Kayla floating around the office and CCC museum. Feel free to ask her questions about the park, programs, and critters that call Watoga home.

Follow the Dragon’s Tail-4 p.m.

Join Naturalist Kayla for a hike along Dragon Draft Trail through Brooks Arboretum. We will cross multiple creeks with moderate to difficult terrain. Wear closed toed shoes, bring water, and walking sticks are highly recommended. You won’t be disappointed as this is one our favorite Watoga naturalist activities.

Starry Night Stories-8 p.m.

Join the Watoga State Park Foundation behind the Riverside campground check-in station to honor the age-old tradition of telling stories under the stars. Enjoy both the beauty of the night sky and the entertaining tails woven by our story tellers.

Sunday, 4th of July

Slimy Crafts -11 a.m.

Stop by the picnic tables near the swimming pool to make Americana slime. All ages are welcome to come and create glittering slimes.

Corn Hole Games-1 p.m.

Join us for corn hole fun and games. No entry fee. Bring the whole family. Meet at the playground by the pool.

T-Shirt Tie Dye-3 p.m.

Join us to create your very own tie dye t-shirt. We have onesies, ladies t-shirts, children’s, and adult t-shirts. Sizes range from youth medium to adult 3XL (numbers may be limited). Please purchase your shirt in the gift shop before coming to the swimming pool, near the picnic tables.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at our Watoga Naturalist Activities from July 2 through July 4. Happy 4th of July from Watoga State Park and the Watoga State Park Foundation.

Your Smiles for Watoga State Park Make A Difference

Smiles for Watoga make a difference. This Old Growth Forest is one of the Foundation's projects to preserve and protect so you too can enjoy. Photo by The Watoga State Park Foundation, Inc.
This Old Growth Forest is one of the Foundation’s projects to preserve and protect so you too can enjoy. Your smile helps Watoga. Photo by The Watoga State Park Foundation, Inc.

Do you know how easy it is to help The Watoga State Park Foundation make worthwhile improvements at the park? On the positive side, it doesn’t cost you a penny! In fact, it takes just a minute or two to change a couple of settings on your Amazon account. Voila! In essence, help us make your smiles for Watoga memorable.

Moreover, a portion of all your future purchases at the online retailer goes directly to the Foundation to help the park. Without a doubt, that definitely counts as several smiles for Watoga.

Besides it’s so easy that we’re going to let Amazon’s step-by-step directions explain how to do this on your phone or computer:

You Too Can Help Watoga While You Shop

AmazonSmile is a way customers can support their favorite charitable organization every time they shop with Amazon, at no additional cost.

Customers who shop at will find the same Amazon they know and love, with the added bonus that AmazonSmile will donate a portion of the eligible purchase price to the charity of your choice.

Signing up is easy!

How to sign up for AmazonSmile

If you shop using the Amazon app on your mobile phone:

1. Open the Amazon Shopping app
2. Navigate to the main menu (=)
3. Tap on Settings and then select “AmazonSmile”
4. Select your charity and then follow the on-screen instructions to turn ON AmazonSmile in the mobile app
5. Once AmazonSmile has been activated in your app, future eligible app purchases will generate a donation for the charity you have selected.

If you prefer to shop using a web browser:

1. Visit
2. Sign in with the same account you use for
3. Select your charity
4. Start shopping! Remember to checkout at to generate donations for your chosen charity. Tip: Add a bookmark to make it easier to shop at


Keep Watoga Smiling

Please choose The Watoga State Park Foundation as your designated charity. Without a doubt, it is greatly appreciated. Please share this information or link with your friends and family. When you donate smiles to Watoga, we smile too.

Happy shopping! Remember to smile today.

Watoga State Park Foundation logo
The Watoga State Park is a 501(c)(3) organization.
Your donations may be tax deductible.

Our Volunteers Have Big Hearts At Watoga State Park

The volunteers at Watoga State Park work tirelessly behind the scenes to improve your experience at the park. Consequently, individuals and businesses graciously donate time, services, talents, materials, and yes, monies too. After all, they never expect anything in return. Above all, here at the Watoga State Park Foundation, our volunteers, donors, organizations, and businesses selflessly help the park.

Volunteers at Watoga are nearing completion of restorative efforts on the Workman-Jarvis Cabin. It's in a wooded setting with a green metal roof. Hand-hewn rails line the new porch. Photo by the Watoga State Park Foundation.
Volunteers at Watoga are nearing the completion of restorative efforts on the Workman-Jarvis Cabin. Photo by the Watoga State Park Foundation.

Built in 1887: A Cabin Well Worth Saving

Significantly, in 2018, the Watoga State Park Foundation began discussing the deteriorating condition of the historic Workman-Jarvis Cabin off of the Anne Bailey Trail. Without intervention, money and volunteers, this pioneer cabin, built in 1887, certainly would no longer be a part of Watoga’s rich and storied history.

Further, by the summer of 2019, critical foundation work began on the historic Workman-Jarvis Cabin off the Anne Bailey Trail. Of course, skilled tradespeople and our volunteers were on site.

Extensive foundation repairs were required to be completed on the Workman-Jarvis cabin. Photo by The Watoga State Park Foundation.
A “before” photo of the foundation of the Workman-Jarvis Cabin. Photo by The Watoga State Park Foundation.
An "after" photo of this log cabin shows the extensive foundation work that was necessary to save this historic cabin from certain ruin. Photo by The Watoga State Park Foundation.
An “after” view of the foundation work completed at the Workman-Jarvis cabin site. Photo by The Watoga State Park Foundation.

There’s still some work to do. After all, we’ll get there. But now, because of all of you, the finish line is in sight for the Workman-Jarvis Cabin restoration project.

These Thanks Are For Our Volunteers and Donors!

The following quote aptly describes the volunteers at Watoga State Park.

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they have the heart.” – Elizabeth Andrew, author

With that in mind, the Watoga State Park Foundations extends its sincere appreciation to the following volunteers, businesses, and donors for your help with this project. Without you, this never would have been possible.

Ethan Burgess
Vada Boback
David Elliott
Gail Hyer
Wayne Pollard
Paul Speyser
Ken Springer
Anne and Sollie Workman
The Workman Family

Beckwith Lumber Company
Glades Building Supply
Interstate Lumber Company
Jim C. Hamer Lumber Company
Judy Fencecraft
Mon Power
Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Pocahontas County Historical Society

News You Can Use To Volunteer Or Donate

Moreover, we will keep park visitors, volunteers, and donors updated on completion dates, activities under development, and what this cabin may mean to you in the near future.

If you would like to volunteer your time and/or services to help Watoga, please click here. Also, donors can find more information here.

We close with a quote by Jim Rohn, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and author: “Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have.”

About the Author

John Dean is a writer, editor, and journalist. He is a member of the Watoga State Park Foundation Board of Directors. You can reach John at .