Photo courtesy of Watoga State Park
This photo is sure to bring back memories for those who, for many years, braved the cold water in the pool at Watoga. Come back and try it again. Thanks to The Watoga Foundation, the pool is now heated by solar panels. The foundation also purchased a slide to add to the fun.

Laura Dean Bennett
Staff Writer

After a long winter, it’s finally time for Pocahontas Coun-ty’s hills, valleys, forests and rivers to come alive with the sounds and sights of spring.

In anticipation of the changing season, Cranberry Nature Center, Cranberry Glades and Watoga State Park have lots of fun events and activities scheduled for young and old alike.

Get out your calendar and start planning your spring outdoor explorations and adventures now.

Encompassing 10,100 acres, over 40 miles of hiking trails, 34 cabins, and two major campgrounds, Watoga State Park has a lot to offer.

“Visitors coming to Watoga for the first time fall in love with the beauty,” Watoga Park activities coordinator and naturalist Chris Bartley said. “We have a lot of visitors who have been coming back year after year – some for 40 years.”

Showing guests how to have a good time in Wa-toga is one of Bartley’s specialties.

“I started here in 2016,” Bartley said, “and I truly love being here.

“When asked why they keep coming back, visitors usually cite the great hiking trails, the presence of so much wildlife, the friendly staff, the activities and events and the family-friendly atmosphere.”

The park engages the next generation through its Young People for Parks program. Bartley said it has been a great way for young people to learn about nature and earn a certificate and a patch in the process.

Whether you’re young, or just young at heart, you can have fun fishing, boating, hiking, playing laser tag or disc golf or enjoy the solar-heated swimming pool.

“Watoga’s pool was once considered the coldest pool in West Virginia, but not anymore,” Bartley said with a smile.

The pool is, of course, available to guests staying in the cabins or camping in the park, but it has always been available as well for local residents and visitors staying elsewhere in the county.

It’s open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Season-long swim passes, and daily swim passes are available.

Watoga has a rich history dating back to the 1930s, which can be explored in Watoga’s CCC museum. 

Rustic cabins nestled in the woods and campsites near the Greenbrier River are popular throughout the year at Watoga – especially this time of year, as the weather starts to warm up.

If you are interested in booking a cabin or campsite at Watoga State Park, contact the main office at 304-799-4087.

Dogs are welcome, as long as they are kept on a leash.

The campgrounds are pet friendly, and there are some pet friendly cabins available, as well. 

Weekly naturalist activities are hosted from April through Labor Day, which, along with special events, and the draw of the spectacular autumn colors in the fall, means that Watoga has something for everyone in every season.

Bartley likes to welcome and work with groups at the park.

“School groups, 4-H clubs, scouts, clubs or other organizations can contact me and we will work out details in regard to your visit,” Bartley said.

Spring at Watoga State Park

Photo courtesy of Watoga State Park
The Gold Rush in on! Head to Watoga Lake Saturday, April 6, and cast your line for one of these beauties. Bring the kids and make some memories.

Saturday, April 6
Gold Rush

Calling all anglers!  The water in Watoga is going to run with gold April 6 with a special, golden-rainbow-trout-only stocking, at the same capacity as a regular stocking. 

Be sure to get to the park early so that you don’t miss the gold rush. Catch one of these beauties and make some springtime fishing memories.
 
Thursday – Saturday, April 11-13
Quilter’s Weekend Retreat with Debbie Walker

Quilters of all experience levels will come together during this three-day retreat. You’ll enjoy hands-on experience and advice from an expert quilter.

For more information on specific workshops, contact Debbie Walker at 304-653-4150.  Space is limited for this retreat, so reserve your spot now.
 
Friday – Sunday, April 26 – 28
Stitchin’ Across West Virginia

Enjoy a weekend with like-minded folks who are wild about yarn and enjoy the great outdoors with the Kanawha City Yarn Company. 

In addition to a tapestry class, activities for the weekend include campfire cookery, an owl walk, hiking, yoga, good food and just hanging out.  

Each person who attends the tapestry weaving class will go home with their own unique wall hanging.  No prior knowledge or experience in tapestry weaving is necessary. 

Registration for the retreat should be done through Kanawha City Yarn Company at 304- 926-8589. 

To make cabin reservations, contact Watoga State Park at 304-799-4087.

Friday and Saturday, May 3 – 4
The Annual Wild Edibles Festival

Join us for a taste of the wild!

The Wild Edibles Festival begins on Friday evening with a hike around the lake at 3 p.m., followed by a presentation by key note speaker Georganne Derick at 7 p.m. 

Saturday festivities commence at the picnic shelter area at 10 a.m. with vendors, demonstrations, live music, opportunities to hike, and much more! 
 
Saturday, May 11
B.A.R.K. in the Park

This day is dedicated to you and your furry friends. Bring your dogs, and enjoy the beauty Watoga has to offer. 

Begin the day with a short group hike. Meet at 10 a.m. by the boat dock near the main office to take a beautiful walk around the lake and learn how you and your pet can become better stewards of the outdoors. The total distance of the walk is 1.5 miles, and it is perfect for all ages.

Please dress for hiking, be sure to have your dog on a leash and bring water and snacks for yourself and your dogs.

Seven year old Eowyn Smith shows off her catch at the 2018 Kids Fishing Derby.

 
Saturday, May 18
Kid’s Fishing Derby

Kids under 15 will enjoy this special angling contest just for them.

The young people will have the lake to themselves during the Derby. 

Register between 9 and 10 a.m. at the park office.

The derby takes place from 10 a.m. to noon. Prizes and certificates will be given shortly thereafter. 

Join us for what is sure to be a great day of fishing, fellowship and fun. 

Saturday, June 1
National Trails Day

Explore the vast trail system of Watoga State Park – home to more than 40 miles of hiking trails.

Meet at 10 a.m. at the Ann Bailey trailhead parking lot, just beyond the T.M. Cheek Overlook. 

We’ll explore the Ann Bailey Watchtower and the historic Workman Cabin. Total distance is five miles, and the hike is great for all ages. 

Please dress for hiking, bring your water, and wear closed toe shoes.

Photos courtesy of Watoga State Park
First time fishing, or want to learn secrets for a better catch? Let the experts help you Saturday, June 8, at Watoga Lake.

 
Saturday, June 8
Casting Call! 
Learn How to Fish

For those who have wanted to learn how to fish, but never knew where to start, look no further.

Bret Preston will lead the workshop. Open to all ages. If you’ve never been fishing – this is your opportunity to give it a try for free. 

For more information, or to reserve your spot, call 304-799-4087.
 
Saturday, June 15
Three Rivers Avian Center Presents,Wings of Wonder

The Three Rivers Avian Center’s presentation, “Wings of Wonder” will take place at 7 p.m. in the activities building.

This is your chance for an up-close look at live birds of prey, including owls, hawks, falcons and a bald eagle. 

This is an excellent program for an audience of all ages.
 
Saturday, June 22
History ALIVE! with Mark Twain

History comes to life when Mark Twain visits Watoga. The famed humorist and author of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” will speak about his life and his work. The program will be presented in the activities building at 7 p.m.

Friday, June 28
History ALIVE! with Theodore Roosevelt

Enjoy a history lesson from the famous 26th President of the United States. Theodore Roosevelt served from 1901 to 1909.  Roosevelt was an avid conservationist, writer and American statesman. Meet the man, discover what his life was like and experience living history.

The program will be presented in the activities building at 7 p.m.

Come to Watoga State Park and enjoy blooming trees and flowers, crisp mornings filled with birdsong, shady walks on trails burgeoning with wildlife and long, leisurely days.

Call ahead to the main office, 304-799-4087, and ask about programs and activities happening during your stay.

Contact Christopher Bartley at Chris.R.Bartley@wv.gov