The Top 10 Things To Do At Watoga State Park — Part 2

A log cabin build by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the early 1930s is nestled neatly again a backdrop of tall tress as spring and green begins to emerge in 2021. Cabin 34 - the "Honeymoon Cabin," is a Top 10 choice for newlyweds. 📸: John C. Dean
Cabin 34 – the “Honeymoon Cabin,” is also Top 10 choice for newlyweds. Photo by John C. Dean.

In Part One of the Top 10 Things to Do at Watoga State Park, we utilized a musical theme. This blog has a historical angle. This list is not ranked in any particular order.

Stay at a Historic Cabin or at One of Three Campgrounds — A Top 10 Must-Do

To fully enjoy what Watoga offers as the state’s largest park, plan on staying several days or a week or two at one of its 34 cabins or at one of 100 camp sites.

Experience a rustic cabin built with pine and chestnut logs in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Legacy cabins utilized native stone for foundations, chimneys, and fireplaces. All cabins have undergone extensive renovations and updates to kitchens, bathrooms and fixtures, except for Cabins 16 and 19 (Vacation cabins). Classic cabins (Cabins 3, 8-9, 14-15, 18, 28, and 33) feature various room layouts and bedroom options. If you’ve never stayed in a cabin at Watoga, this should be on your Top 10 list.

Interior of a Legacy Cabin (Cabin No. 11) highlights new furniture and interior upgrades. A fireplace takes center state as does the wood work and hewn logs from the 1930s.Photo by John Dean.
Interior of a Legacy Cabin (Cabin No. 11) retains both its historic charm almost 90 years after being built, and has upgraded amenities.
Photo by John C. Dean.

Moreover, for camping enthusiasts who prefer a more rugged experience, you can “rough” it at Laurel Run Primitive Campground. But, the Beaver Creek and Riverside campgrounds have more modern conveniences with electric hookups, laundry centers, and bathhouses.

From the Riverside Campground, you can cast a line into the Greenbrier River or hike on the 78-mile Greenbrier River Trail.

Bordering Beaver Creek Campground is Calvin Price State Forest. Enjoy a nature-filled hike in the eastern part of this 9,500-acre forest along the Allegheny Trail. Meanwhile, you may hunt with the proper license.

Joggers along road at Beaver Creek Campground.  Photo by Watoga State Park Foundation.
Joggers along road at Beaver Creek Campground. Photo by Watoga State Park Foundation.

Locations: Cabins are in strategic locations of the park. Beaver Creek Campground is just past the park’s north entrance. Riverside Campground is near the River Cabin Area, close to Seebert. The Primitive Campground is off of Kennison Run Trail.

Watoga’s Dark Skies

How dark are the skies here? Really, really dark. The pitch blackness envelopes you, making it difficult to see the person standing right beside you. Admire the Milky Way Galaxy, other constellations, Supermoons and a sky unlike any you’ve ever seen before. Scientists estimate the universe is 13.8 billion years old.

On a clear night at Watoga State Park, the 11-acre lake sits below the Milky Way Galaxy. A Top 10 Dark Sky of the Milky Way Galaxy over Watoga Lake on a clear night. Photo by Jesse Thornton©
A Top 10 Dark Sky of the Milky Way Galaxy over Watoga Lake during a clear night. Photo by Jesse Thornton©.

There are so many stars, you’ll have difficulty choosing which ones to wish upon. Catch a glimpse of one of the 13 astronomical zodiac constellations depending on the time of year. For even more amazing sights, bring your binoculars or telescope to focus on a definite Top 10 favorite. Stay tuned for potential history-making news about Watoga’s dark skies.

Just look up while you’re here.

Locations: All around you.

The Swimming Pool

After exploring the park’s many trails and scenic overlooks, you can take a break at the swimming pool, the first-ever built at a state park. It’s also the last major project completed by CCC workers in 1940. Notice the stonework as you walk up the steps to the main entrance to the pool.

Once there, relax, grab a bite to eat at the snack bar, or complete a few laps as the children enjoy the water slide. The main pool’s depth ranges from three feet to eight feet, with a separate wading area for toddlers. While the water was brisk in year’s past, it is much warmer now thanks to solar panels.

A nice summer day greets a young visitor as he slides down the slide. Youngsters always list the pool in their Top 10. Photo by Stanley Clark©.
Without doubt, youngsters list the pool in their Top 10. Photo by Stanley Clark©.

Location: Next door to Cabin No. 20, near the Activities Center.

Lightning Bugs — An Enlightening Top 10

Remember when you were younger and chased after lightning bugs as soon as darkness fell? You may still want to do so. We know your children will, especially at Watoga where different species of those mesmerizing lightning bugs thrive. We think the fascination with lightning bugs is a perennial mainstay of the Top 10 things to do at Watoga.

Recently, the Division of Natural Resources confirmed the existence of a colony of synchronous fireflies in a still-secretive location. Time will tell if Watoga will be the next Great Smoky Mountains National Park for firefly watching. However, there could be a firefly festival in the Watoga’s future. One state expert thinks that Watoga and West Virginia may become the new lightning bug capital of the U.S.

In a secluded area at Watoga, a synchronous firefly (Photinus carolinus) pauses before liftoff to search for a mate. Photo by Tiffany Beachy©.
A synchronous firefly (Photinus carolinus) pauses before liftoff to search for a mate. Photo by Tiffany Beachy©.

Likewise, we’ll be releasing more details about this Watoga wonder in June’s issue of Wonderful West Virginia magazine.

Location: Almost everywhere in the park you can see different species of fireflies. But the location of the synchronous fireflies will not be revealed until a conservation management plan is put into place at Watoga to protect their habitat.

Have A Top 10 Get Together With Friends And Family

Watoga gets you away from it all. You can feel the stress melt away. So take a walk. Enjoy your surroundings. Listen to how quiet it is. Relax.

Since Watoga’s opening in 1937, it’s been a place to get together [link to book maybe] For decades, families have held family reunions and picnics at many different places in the park.

Presently, the remodeled Activities Center, is the new gathering place for weddings, receptions, birthday parties, meetings, and more.

The brown sided wood building at 2,100 square feet is atop a hill not far from the swimming pool. This is a photo in the early fall of 2020.
With more than 2,100 square feet available, the former Rec Hall building (now the Activity Center) hosts a variety of events. Photo by John Dean.

Locations: Pick your spot in the expanse of 10,100 acres.

Create Your Own Top 10 At Watoga

When you visit Watoga, immerse yourself in a bygone era, complete with today’s modern amenities. Create your Top 10 (or 50), make lifelong memories, and catch a lightning bug or a shooting star. Relax and sit around the campfire roasting marshmallows. Maybe later tell a captivating ghost story or two. The dazzling display of lightning bugs and star-filled skies are awaiting your arrival at Watoga.

Then when you are home, let us know what your Top 10 things to do at Watoga are.

About the Author

For his first 16 years, John C. Dean lived in the park. Even today, he’s fascinated by the hypnotic display of majestic lightning bugs. John’s inspiration to be a writer came from many nights looking upward at Watoga’s dark sky treasures. Recently, he was elected to the Watoga State Park Foundation’s Board of Directors, but will continue writing about park news and its history. You can reach John at .

Watoga State Park Photos Capture a Winter Paradise

A buck and a doe glance through the forest at the photographer as if they are posing for the winter snapshot near a stream with snow all around. Photo by Stanley Clark©.
Out for a stroll on a winter day? Photo by Stanley Clark©.

Since spring is about to arrive, we say goodbye to winter at Watoga State Park with these photos. In fact, even the cold and snow could not keep photographers from capturing magical scenes at this winter wonderland.

Special thanks to photographers Angela Hill, Stanley Clark, and Ann Groves for their unique perspective of Watoga State Park.

If you would like to submit photos for our next blog, please email for more information.

Eastern teaberries (Gaultheria procumbens) along the north branch of Buckhorn Trail. The bright red seems even brighter against the backdrop of snow. Photo by Angela Hill©.
Eastern teaberries (Gaultheria procumbens) along the north branch of Buckhorn Trail. The bright red seems even brighter against the backdrop of snow. Photo by Angela Hill©.
The photographer loved how this park bench near the Brooks Memorial Arboretum seemed to be inviting her to take a seat and enjoy the snowy view. Snow lines both sides of the stream as rhododendrom are on a hill across from the creek.Photo by Angela Hill©.
The photographer loves how this park bench near the Brooks Memorial Arboretum seems to be inviting her to take a seat and enjoy the snowy view. Photo by Angela Hill©.
The Brooks Memorial Arboretum leading to trails at Watoga is encased in snow. No footprints can be seen in the snow in this winter scene. Photo by Stanley Clark©.
The Brooks Memorial Arboretum leading to trails at Watoga is encased in snow. Photo by Stanley Clark©.
Cabin 1 draped in a layer of snow. Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Cabin 1 is across from the Greenbrier River. Photo by Stanley Clark©.
Cabin 1 draped in a layer of snow. Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Cabin 1 is across from the Greenbrier River. Photo by Stanley Clark©.
An otter along the banks of the Greenbrier River near Watoga State Park. Note the natural color of the river in this winter scene. The water is of a rich blue hue with the otter at the end of the river on a snow-packed surface.Photo by Stanley Clark©.
An otter along the banks of the Greenbrier River near Watoga State Park. Note the natural color of the river in this winter scene. Photo by Stanley Clark©.

Winter Photos on the Rocks

A rock outcrop taken along the northwestern branch of the Honeybee Trail shows snow lying in various places of the cragged rock formation.. The photographer snapped this pic from the Dragon Draft Trail and noted how far away this group of rocks seemed to be. Photo by Angela Hill©.
A rock outcrop taken along the northwestern branch of the Honeybee Trail. The photographer snapped this pic from the Dragon Draft Trail and noted how far away this group of rocks seemed to be. Photo by Angela Hill©.
Even though it is an open shelter at the intersection of Buckhorn and Dragon Draft trails, it does provide some relief from the blowing flurries and cold winter air. Photo by Angela Hill©.
Even though it is an open shelter at the intersection of Buckhorn and Dragon Draft trails, it does provide some relief from the blowing flurries and cold winter air. Photo by Angela Hill©.
Photo captures an icy scene along the stream on Dragon Draft Trail on a chilly day at Watoga State Park. Photo by Angela Hill©.
A Watoga State Park photo moment: an icy scene along the stream on Dragon Draft Trail on a chilly day at Watoga State Park. Photo by Angela Hill©.
The morning sunshine peeks across the frozen Watoga Lake. Ice anglers cast a line or two to try to catch a fish on this frigid winter day. Ice fishing enthusiasts enjoy a winter day at 11-acre Watoga Lake. Photo by Stanley Clark©
Ice fishing enthusiasts enjoy a winter day at 11-acre Watoga Lake. Photo by Stanley Clark©
A curvy mountain road along Island Creek depicts rocks covered with stone. The retaining wall was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s. Photographer Angela Hill© commented on this scene that "it just seemed like a magical place."
Watoga State Park road along Island Creek depicts rocks covered with stone. The retaining wall was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s. Photographer Angela Hill© commented on this scene that “it just seemed like a magical place.”
At a picnic table at Watoga, more than 18" of snow pile atop the table. When it snows at Watoga, scenes like this one are common. Photo by Stanley Clark©.
When it snows at Watoga, scenes like this one are common. Photo by Stanley Clark©.
Watoga State Park photos include a snowy drive to work along Island Creek Road for the morning drive of park employee, Ann Groves. Photo courtesy of Ann Groves, Facebook.
Watoga State Park Road as depicted on the morning drive of park employee, Ann Groves. Photo courtesy of Ann Groves, Facebook.
Watoga State Park photos depict a deer in a snowy scene amongst a backdrop of freshly fallen snow. Photo by Stanley Clark©.
At Watoga, even the wildlife seem to pose for photographers. Photo by Stanley Clark©.

Photos of Watoga State Park — When Fall Arrives

A curving road separates trees of yellow, magenta and tall pines lead the way along a leaf-lined road at Watoga State Park. A picturesque fall scene unfolds near T.M. Cheek Memorial at Watoga State Park. Photo by Stanley Clark©.
A picturesque fall scene near the T.M. Cheek Memorial at Watoga State Park welcomes visitors. Photo by Stanley Clark©.

Do photos of Watoga State Park mesmerize you no matter the time of year?

So with that in mind, we decided to feature fall’s parade of colors from this year and prior years. Nonetheless, Watoga is West Virginia’s largest recreation area at 10,100 acres. Since 2010, Watoga has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Moreover, it is located in scenic Pocahontas County in the Appalachian Mountains.

Indeed, There Were Star-Filled Nights and More

Specifically, from Watoga Lake to the Ann Bailey Lookout Tower and beyond, our photographers captured images of what Watoga offers visitors in the fall. During late September through November, we experienced crisp mornings, sunny afternoons, and star-filled nights exploring Watoga’s vistas. Consequently, we hope that you will enjoy these photos of Watoga as much as we did taking them.

But, as each season fades and a new one begins, we will publish even more sights and sounds of Watoga from photographers and videographers. Also, for information about submitting your photos and videos of Watoga State Park for use in a future pictorial, please email .

An array of fall colors presents itself up a stone walkway leading to a mountain cabin at Watoga State Park.Framed ever so perfectly by fall's foliage is a cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Photo by the Watoga State Park Foundation©.
Framed ever so neatly by fall’s foliage is a Watoga cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Photo by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources©.
Tall tees of green, red, orange and yellow are captured in a reflection on Watoga Lake. Reflections on Watoga Lake on a fall day. Photo courtesy of Tana Shifflett - Facebook.
Reflections at Watoga Lake on a fall day. Photo courtesy of Tana Shifflett – Facebook.
Hues of orange red and yellow highlight the foreground of TM Cheek Memorial Overlook where you can see Kennison Mountain and the Greenbrier River Valley in the distance. Always worth a photo no matter the season is the overlook at T.M. Cheek Memorial. Photo by Stanley©.
Always worth a photo no matter the season is the overlook at T.M. Cheek Memorial. Photo by Stanley Clark©.
Stunning fall views await. Seeing the vistas on the other side of the Ann Bailey Lookout Tower is well worth the hike on a crisp October day. Photo by John Dean©.
Seeing what’s on the other side of the Ann Bailey Lookout Tower is well worth the hike on a crisp October day. Photo by John Dean©.
You can see for miles and miles with this fall scene. This is just one of the many stunning views at Ann Bailey Lookout Tower. In the distance are the Greenbrier River Valley and the Little Levels District of Pocahontas County. Bench was donated by the Young family. Photo by John Dean©.
This is just one of several stunning vistas at Ann Bailey Lookout Tower. In the distance are the Greenbrier River Valley and the Little Levels District of Pocahontas County. Bench was donated by the Young family. Photo by John Dean©.
A star-filled night sky captivates watchers near the Beaver Creek Campground one clear October night. Photo by the Watoga State Park Foundation©.
A star-filled night sky captivates watchers near the Beaver Creek Campground on a clear October night. Photo by the Watoga State Park Foundation©.
Taking a break to admire the view of the Watoga swimming pool on a 70-degree fall day are John Dean and his two labs, Jack and Max. 📸: Flora Jane Bott, October 7, 2020
John Dean is a writer, editor, blogger, and journalist. On visits to Watoga, John is always accompanied by his two Labrador retrievers, Jack and Max. He lived on-site at the park in the 1960s and 1970s, and now resides near the New River Gorge National River. Photo by Flora Jane Bott©.