Cooking by the campfire headlines this week’s Watoga State Park naturalist activities. But, be sure not to miss owls, dragonflies, and turtles presented by Kayla Bowyer, park naturalist. Kayla will even help you sharpen your nocturnal skills.
Nature Journaling and a Creek Crawl too!
Thursday, August 26 Nature Journaling 4 p.m. Stop by Riverside Campground check-in to learn about Nature Journaling. All you need is a pen and a paper plate (which will be provided)!
Sunset Hike 7:30 p.m. Join Naturalist Kayla at the pool parking lot for a short hike to the top of the dam to observe the sunset. Take in the lovely views of Watoga Lake and learn about some of the critters who hang out at dusk. Expect an hour to an hour and a half hike. Feel free to bring headlamps for the hike back.
Friday, August 27 Creek Crawl 2 p.m. Gather at the pool parking lot to learn about the critters that inhabit our creek. Learn why scientists collect these critters and you can collect some yourself. Be prepared to get wet and wear appropriate footwear.
Watoga Wildlife: Owls 4 p.m. Come to Beaver Creek Campground to learn about the top predators of the night; Owls! Kayla will talk about some of the common West Virginia owl species and their calls.
Campfire Cooking 8 p.m. Stop by Riverside Campground check-in to try some campfire cooking. Learn a new recipe and feel free to share your own.
Naturalist Activities to Remember!
Saturday, August 28 Turtle Talk 2 p.m. Come on down to the main park office to experience West Virginia’s Turtles! See some shells and walk away with a turtle craft!
Dragonfly Hunt 5 p.m. At the pool parking lot, we’ll hunt for dragonflies. We will be walking around the backside of the lake to try to catch these acrobatic hunters.
Night Hike 8:00 p.m. Join Naturalist Kayla at the Boat Dock for an hour to an hour and a half night hike! Learn about our nocturnal skills and the world after dark. We will be focusing on using natural vision, so we will be limiting the use of headlamps. Please feel free to bring red light headlamps for the hike and headlamps for the walk back to the car.
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.
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.
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 wv.gov. The following schedule is just for July 2 through July 4. We’ll be releasing a full slate of programs and activities soon.
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.
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.