Bear Creek Lake State Park, Virginia

by swampnut

This is a little gem of a park located about an hour or so west of Richmond, Virginia. It provides great hiking, bird watching, and fishing opportunities.

This little park sits on the edge of the Cumberland National Forest. As a result one might get to see a black bear passing through as well as deer and other "critters of nature". For those who enjoy bird watching, this is a good place to flee the urban sprawl of the Washington area and get out and relax. For those who travel the US with their travel campers, you really should add this park to your list, especially if you like hiking and fishing.

Snapshots along the way

Anhinga sitting out in the lake.
Anhinga sitting out in the lake.
Clint Bowman
Gray Squirrel digging for a goody
Gray Squirrel digging for a goody
Clint Bowman
Pileated Woodpecker hard at work
Pileated Woodpecker hard at work
Clint Bowman
Trails are well marked and easy to follow.
Trails are well marked and easy to fo...
Clint Bowman
The park has many helpful signs and warnings  to help you know what to do if you encounter a bear.
The park has many helpful signs and w...
Clint Bowman

Bear Creek State Park: A Great Location for Relaxing

Great get-away spot for bird watching, photography, and fishing. Great family spot as well!

About an hour's ride west of Richmond, Virginia, along U.S. highway 60 and running along the east side of the Willis River lies what is possibly one of the closest locations for Richmond's urbanites to glimpse a free roaming wild black bear or an occasional panther. The name of this popular location is Bear Creek Lake State Park. Close enough to the big city to allow someone to do a few hours of fishing or birding and wildlife watching; this special park is far enough away to give one that sense of being well out of the rush of big city life.

The park is around 326 acres in size and sports a 40 acre lake with small boats available for rental. While taking a break there one recent afternoon on a bird watching trip with my wife, I saw a few serious fisherman and one very serious anhinga all competing for the fish which appeared to be very actively hitting whatever small insects made the mistake of landing on the lake's surface. The lake and some adjacent day use facilities were constructed in the 1930's and 40's. The park has been operated as a state park since 1962 and borders the nearby Cumberland State Forest where hunting is allowed. In fact, some trails in the park are clearly marked to warn both hunters and hikers about where hunting is allowed and on which trails the use of 'hunter orange" clothing is required or highly suggested for the sake of safety. On the day of our visit, one of the park's very friendly employees noted that most of the bears and other larger animals might not be visible due to small logging operations in the immediate area which had seemed to drive them back across the boundary into the state forest.

Though we saw no evidence of the aforementioned logging operations, we did spot a good number of birds and one very quick moving gray fox as we hiked along parts of the Channel Cat Loop, Kestrel, and Lakeside trails. In one area we saw and heard several Pileated Woodpeckers making their presence known as they loudly hunted for insects in various spots here and there high up in the forest canopy. Various water birds were also in evidence. The possibility of sighting much larger and potentially hazardous game is highlighted by the fact that the park offers brochures giving good advice on how to relate to such critters as the black bears which may likely be seen at almost any turn of the trail. Be sure to hike with cameras at the ready!

The park boasts 48 camping sites of various types. A swimming beach is located along the lake shore and a well constructed outdoor archery range is available, also. Fishermen and those looking for a relaxing time on the water can rent one of several types of boats which are available from kayaks and canoes to paddleboats and rowboats.

For this slower moving couple in need of a day off out in the woods enjoying a good hike and whatever wildlife and birds which might appear, this little park was a true breath of literal fresh air! And the exciting thought that any turn of the trial might bring us into possible camera range of some of the Eastern U. S.'s largest wild animals was especially invigorating! If you are planning a camping trip down the eastern side of the Appalachian Mountains, adding this little park to your route could be a very rewarding experience.

 

Updated: 06/20/2015, swampnut
 
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