Laura Dean Bennett
The Cranberry Nature Center is always a welcoming and a worthwhile stop for both visitors and residents of Pocahontas County.
A knowledgeable staff of Forest Service employees is happy to answer questions about Cranberry Glades, the Falls of Hills Creek, the Highland Scenic Highway and other points of interest in and around the Monongahela National Forest.
They can point you in the right direction for a day of outdoor fun and will help you map out all kinds of adventures in the county, whether you’re interested in hiking, picnicking, sightseeing or studying local flora and fauna.
The Nature Center contains many interesting nature-oriented Pocahontas County and West Virginia exhibits.
There is a taxidermy exhibit of West Virginia birds of prey and common West Virginia animals.
The exhibit hall also includes interactive displays – both educational and entertaining to visitors of all ages.
The nature center’s store shelves are well-stocked with lots of nature-oriented reading material and gift items for adults and children.
There’s always something special to pique the interest of the younger set – animal and nature books, stuffed animals, toys and even a permanent display of live, local snakes.
Upon request, the auditorium offers short films on topics ranging from the Smokey Bear story, to the Jewels of the Monongahela, Cranberry Glades, wildflowers and many others.
“Springtime at the Nature Center is a good time for bird and butterfly watching.
“We have a resident pair of blue birds who will be nesting in their blue bird box in the spring, and we have hummingbirds arriving from points south shorty after the Center opens in April,” Cranberry Nature Center Director Diana Stull said.
“Visitors are always welcome to take a break and relax at the picnic table on the Cranberry Nature Center trail.”
This is an interpretive nature trail which winds along the edge of the campus, where trees, wildlife and, depending on the season, a varied display of colorful wildflowers can be viewed.
For those looking for a more extensive hike, the trail connects with the Pocahontas Trail, which leads to the Fork MountainTrail and goes all the way – 22 miles – to Richwood.
The Cranberry Nature Center staff welcomes inquiries about the special programs and guided tours can be arranged upon request.
The newest feature of the nature center is the Native Plant and Pollinator Garden.
Planted in May 2008, spring begins with the plants bringing the garden to life.
There are wildflowers, which attract bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.
Fans of flora will identify columbine, wild bergamot, coreopsis, aster, blazing star, beardtongue, oxeye daisy, black-eyed Susan, bee balm, phlox and wild geraniums.
A section of butterfly milkweed attracts West Virginia’s state butterfly, the Monarch.
The wildflower meadow areas close by the Nature Center will be dressed in their spring colors.
The nature center’s garden area, which is handicapped accessible, features a birdbath and a finch feeder. Hummingbird feeders at the building draw in the busy little birds who always put on a show.
A flagstone separation in the garden leads to the shade of a large maple tree – a perfect picnic spot for visitors.
At one end, the garden path turns into the interpretive trail. At the other, you’ll find benches at the butterfly milkweed garden, with views of the hummingbird feeders, the finch feeder and the beautiful Highland Scenic Highway.
The Cranberry Nature Center opens for the season on April 15 and will be open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday through mid-October.
This spring, the Nature Center invites visitors to several special events.
Sunday, May 26, Memorial Day
Roy Moose’s Snakes of West Virginia
This live snake show has been a crowd pleaser for several years now and is usually very well attended.
The snake shows take place at 1 p.m. most Sundays.
“Roy usually has one of several species of West Virginia snakes on display, including our poisonous snakes,” Stull said.
Guests may hold as many of the snakes as possible, except, of course, the poisonous ones.
Sunday, May 26, Memorial Day
Memorial Day Tour Cranberry Glades
The Memorial Day Snake Show at 1 p.m. will be followed by a guided tour of Cranberry Glades.
Sunday, June 23
Scenic Drive Day
Cranberry Nature Center Classic Car Show with Music by the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys.
Visitors are invited to come and enjoy the classic car show and bring a car of their own to display.
At noon the festivities commence with music by Mountain Music Trail Musicians – the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys – brought to the Nature Center courtesy of a Calvin W. Price Enrichment Series grant.
Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the grounds.
Saturday, June 29
West Virginia Native Orchids Tour
The presentation and program will begin at 10 a.m. and will be presented by Rosanna Springston, forest service and nature center employee.
Springston is well-versed in our native flora, especially our beautiful native orchids.
The program will be followed by a guided “orchid viewing” walk through Cranberry Glades and surrounding vicinity in search of the sometimes elusive exotic flowers.
For more information about the Cranberry Nature Center, the Falls of Hills Creek, the Highland Scenic Highway or the Monongahela National Forest, contact Stull at 304-653-4826 or by email at email@example.com
You may also contact the Gauley Ranger Station near Richwood at 304-846-2695.
Audio tour CDs of the Highland Scenic Highway are also available at the center for those who would like to learn more about the area.
The Cranberry Mountain Nature Center is located in Pocahontas County, 23 miles east of Richwood, and 14 miles west of Marlinton, at the junction of WV Rts. 39/55 and Rt. 150 (Highland Scenic Highway).