Even though today’s hunting and fishing opportunities are great, did you ever wonder what it would have been like to have pursued the field sports back when sporting camps catered to the needs of traveling sportsmen? This was a time when a trip to the mountains invariably included hunting or fishing, and after a fulfilling day, one relaxed in a leather chair in front of a fire, recounting the day’s adventures.
While the clock can’t be turned back, sportsmen and women can still take advantage of some top-rate lodges across the Mountain State, as state-administered parks provide a variety of options for lodging, many of which are located right by some of the best hunting and fishing in the state.
STONEWALL JACKSON LAKE STATE PARK RESORT
It would be challenging to find a spot in West Virginia with as diverse fishing and hunting opportunities, combined with lodging options, as Stonewall Jackson Lake and the surrounding wildlife management area. There’s something for the outdoor enthusiast nearly year ’round.
The lake covers over 2,650 acres and is one of the state’s top fisheries for largemouth bass, spotted bass, crappie and muskie. During the spring focus efforts in Stonewall Jackson’s many bays and coves, many of which feature standing timber. In summer, expect gamefish and panfish to have moved to the main-lake structure.
Stonewall Jackson WMA encompasses over 18,000 acres, and surrounds the impoundment with a wide variety of habitats, including reverted farmland and a mixture of hardwood forests. The deer population is excellent, and bear numbers are good as well. Habitat improvement efforts in certain areas have increased the quality of cover for grouse and woodcock. Waterfowling is also a good option, if trips are timed for when winter weather drives ducks south.
From a lodging standpoint, Stonewall Jackson Lake has about everything. The resort features a lakeside lodge, lakeside cottages and a campground that operates 12 months of the year.
For those simply looking for a place to park an RV or throw up a tent, Briar Point Campground is an excellent value choice. The campground offers 30-amp RV sites, 50-amp RV sites and deluxe tent sites.
Now “cottage” is a conservative description of Stonewall Jackson’s high-end units, which vary in size from 960 to 2,260 square feet, and can accommodate from six to 12 guests.
Stonewall Jackson Resort’s lakeside lodge features 191 guest rooms, and while the typical hunter or angler might not require the level of luxury provided, the lodge is a great choice when combining a spring or summer fishing trip with a family vacation. While the more serious anglers in the family are out on the water, others can hike trails, visit the fitness room, enjoy a round of golf, swim or hit the spa. Rooms feature big-screen TVs, king size beds, refrigerators and much more. The resort’s marina includes a boat launch and boat rental (pontoon boats), and fuel and boat slips are available.
The resort also offers a variety of packages and specials where visitors can save money. A resort fee (price ranges from $15 to $30 depending on type of accommodation) includes admission to the nearby state park, use of pool, fitness center, high speed Internet and a host of other amenities.
940 Resort Drive – Roanoke, WV 26447 – 304-269-7400
Lakeside Lodge: 191 rooms, $179 and up
Cottages: Five, $499 and up
Campground: RV sites, $47; deluxe tent sites, $30
On-site Amenities: Indoor/outdoor heated pool, fitness center, golf course, marina, dining, steam and sauna rooms, high speed internet, shuttle service
CANAAN VALLEY RESORT STATE PARK
The Mountain State has its share of unique settings, of which Canaan Valley most certainly qualifies. Its high elevation location provides a climate similar to northern states, which is reflected in the habitats found, including the shrubby, moist terrain found within the nearly 16,550 acres of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Students of grouse and woodcock shooting revel in the writings of George Bird Evans, and his stories — “The Upland Shooting Life” — of the great bird hunting action within the Canaan Valley.
Of course, much has changed in the Canaan Valley since Evans penned these words. The woods have matured, and free-ranging cattle no longer help keep the cover prime. Grouse numbers are lower, but woodcock shooting can still be outstanding — something more likely to occur in late October or early November.
The nearby Canaan Valley Resort and Convention Center is a fine place to use as a base camp for a Canaan Valley hunt. And there’s certainly more to pursue than just upland birds, as deer and wild turkey also call the place home.
Canaan Valley Resort’s main lodge features both rooms and suites, all well appointed with modern conveniences, such as flat screen TVs, refrigerator, microwave, high-speed Internet and more. Some suites also have fireplaces. Unfortunately for bird hunters, canine companions are not permitted, so other kennel arrangements are required.
Hunters also have the option of bunking in one of the resort’s family cottages or cabins. These are available in a variety of sizes including two, three and four-bedroom configurations to match the size of a party. Pets are welcome in some of the cottages and cabins; just be sure to review the resort’s pet policy, which includes an additional $50 charge per dog (two dog maximum) for the first night and $5 per additional night. Cabin guests also have access to the golf course, ski slopes, restaurant and other amenities.
Besides the lodge rooms and cabins, Canaan Valley has a year-round campground, with full hook-up sites designed to handle 20- to 35-foot campers. Dogs are welcome, but must be on leash while in the campground. Like Stonewall Jackson, Canaan Valley also offers seasonal specials and packages.
Hunting within the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge requires obtaining a permit, which can be printed from the refuge’s website (www.fws.gov/refuge/canaan_valley/) or at one of several kiosks located within the public area. The permit, which also contains the hunting regulations, must be signed and carried when hunting. Also know that all game checked in via the Electronic Game Checking Station must be specified that it was taken on the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
The nostalgia of the area, as well as having the nearby resort to serve as a home base, makes a fall trip to Canaan Valley a great choice this year.
230 Main Lodge Road, Davis, WV 26260 – 304-866-4121
Lodge: 161 rooms and suites, $124.99 and up
Cabins: $189.99 and up
Campground: $32 per site during peak season (May 1-Oct.31), $25 per night off season
On-site Amenities: Skiing, ice skating, snow-boarding, biking, hiking, sporting clays, outdoor pool, golf
Nearby Amenities: Canaan Valley State Park; Blackwater Falls State Park
BEECH FORK STATE PARK
Beech Fork State Park, Beech Fork Lake and Beech Fork Wildlife Management Area all combine to provide a host of great hunting, fishing and lodging options.
The 720-acre Beech Fork Lake plays host to a solid warm-water fishery, highlighted by largemouth and spotted bass. However, it is also an excellent hybrid striper lake. The many underwater points formed by this twisting reservoir tend to collect gamefish, particularly during the summer months. One trick to try on hybrids, which was discovered by anglers targeting catfish, is chicken on a bait hook. Also, from February through May, the lake’s tailwaters section is stocked with adult trout, adding to the fishing options.
Much of the area surrounding the lake is within Beech Fork WMA. Its more than 7,500 acres of oak-hickory-pine forest provide excellent habitat for deer and wild turkey. The hillsides surrounding the lake are steep and heavily forested. Some opportunity for waterfowl and woodcock exists along the bottomlands of the tract.
Whether hunting or fishing, Beech Fork State Park’s lodging can accommodate. Six luxury cabins, located along a ridgeline overlooking the lake, are one option. The airy cabins, of open-trussed design, feature a fully equipped kitchen complete with dishwasher and microwave, along with an outside grill and central heating and air. Also, free Wi-Fi and TV will keep folks occupied when not on the water or in the woods.
For those who prefer camping, Beech Fork State Park has 275 sites in four areas, with 80 sites on the lake. The Old Orchard section features year-round 49 sites. Site options at Old Orchard include water, sewer and 20-, 30- and 50-amp service. Though Old Orchard is open throughout the year, by November 17 (or earlier if cold weather sets in) only electric service is available. Moxley Branch, Four Coves and Lakeview camping all have electric hook-up sites, with mooring posts available at some of the lakeside sites. Also, Beech Fork’s cabins are popular, so making early reservations is recommended.
Of course, there are other parks across the state that provide excellent access to hunting and fishing; just do a little research and find the one best for you and yours.
5601 Long Branch Road – Barboursville, WV 25504 – 304-528-5794
Cabins: Six cabins, starting at $168 per night, $1,056 per week during peak season
Campground: 254 sites, $19 per night and up non-electric; $30 and up electric
On-site Amenities: Swimming pool, store, basketball, tennis, horseshoes, softball, volleyball, hiking and picnicking.
Near-site Amenities: Beech Fork Lake, Huntington Mall, restaurants and movie theater