Straddling the VA/NC border is Virginia’s largest lake. Some call it Buggs Island Lake and others call it Kerr Lake, or even Kerr Reservoir. I call it one of the most beautiful places this side of heaven.
You can approach this 50,000-acre paradise from multiple directions, but U.S. Route 58 is the most well known. It crosses the lake in Clarksville, the main destination on the lake and Virginia’s only lakeside town. It’s there that you can gather your food and supplies for what is sure to be an amazing experience at these three parks.
See the map (the aqua blue pins) below.
— OCCONEECHEE STATE PARK | CLARKSVILLE—
Occoneechee State Park. [email protected]
Nearly 2,700 acres of land are your playground at Occoneechee, but this is also the place the Occaneechi tribe was decimated by Nathaniel Bacon and his illegal militia. A “rebellion,” you may have heard it called. Do take the time to locate the replica Occaneechi dwelling in the park and see artifacts in the visitor center.
At Occoneechee, you’re welcome to bring your horse, rent a boat, and get comfortable at a lake view cabin or waterside camp site. Twenty miles of multi-use trails are at your disposal, as well as three miles that are designated for hiking only. You’ll definitely want to explore the coves by boat. Did you know Buggs Island Lake holds the world record for a blue catfish catch? I’ll bet you can beat it.
There is no designated swimming area at Occoneechee. Learn More
ALSO SEE: Six Coastal & Bay State Parks You Need to Make a Beeline For
— STAUNTON RIVER STATE PARK | SCOTTSBURG —
Staunton River State Park. Photo courtesy of Virginia State Parks.
Where the Dan River meets the Staunton River (designated a Virginia Scenic River) sits Staunton River State Park, 2,336 acres of woods and meadows. It’s at this convergence that the Roanoke River is considered to begin, as well as Buggs Island Lake. The Roanoke River continues past the lake at Kerr Dam and eventually flows into Lake Gaston, another lake Virginia shares with North Carolina.
Like Occoneechee, Staunton River State Park welcomes equestrian campers with a designated camping area, stalls and trails. For the rest of us, there are seven wooded cabins and 47 camp sites, as well as a camping lodge that accommodates up to 14 people.
Recreation at Staunton River includes fishing, of course, but also two pools and ten multi-use trails. An outfitter just outside the park rents canoes, kayaks and jon boats; the park has launches on the Dan River. Learn More
ALSO SEE: Seven Northern Virginia State Parks for Summer Fun
— STAUNTON RIVER BATTLEFIELD STATE PARK | RANDOLPH —
Staunton River Battlefield State Park. Photo courtesy of Virginia State Parks.
Farther up the Staunton River is one of Virginia State Parks‘ historic parks, Staunton River Battlefield State Park. At 300 acres, this park is about Civil War preservation. It was here that 700 Confederates held the Staunton River Bridge from the grasp of 5,000 Union cavalry in June 1864.
When you explore this park, you’ll encounter earthworks, a fort and the historic bridge trail (a rail trail), as well as historical exhibits in two visitor centers. Do be sure to check out the observation towers for tremendous wildlife viewing in the wetlands.
There are no accommodations at this state park, but at only 20 minutes from Staunton River State Park, it’s a fantastic day trip. What’s even better is the idea of throwing a tube in the water and floating the afternoon away until you arrive downstream at Staunton River State Park. If you do, it’s at your own risk. Sure sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Learn More