OCCONEECHEE STATE PARK
Occoneechee State Park is on Virginia?s largest lake, Buggs Island Lake, also known as John H. Kerr Reservoir. The park features 18.1 miles of trails that allow the guest to experience the history of the Occoneechee Indians and plantation life in the 1800s.
The Commonwealth of Virginia began leasing the land for outdoor recreational use from the U.S. Army in 1944. Occoneechee State Park?s land remains leased from the Army Corps of Engineers.
From 1250 to 1670, the Occoneechee Indians lived on an island on the Roanoke River near what is now Occoneechee State Park. In 1676, Virginia Councilman Nathaniel Bacon led a group of men from Henrico County to destroy the Occoneechees. Bacon?s attack succeeded only in slaughtering Indians that were perhaps the friendliest to settlers in the Commonwealth. Neither Governor Berkeley nor most Virginians approved of Bacon?s actions.
Nearly 200 years after the attack on the Indians, William Townes built a plantation on this land by the water. A 20-room mansion with horse stables, a smokehouse, servants? quarters and beautiful terraced gardens were built on his 3,100 acre plantation in 1839. In 1898 the mansion caught fire and was destroyed. The landscaping of the garden can still be seen in the park today.
No swimming or wading from the shoreline is permitted because of hazardous drop-offs and heavy boating traffic.
Boating: Available year-round. Motorboats are allowed. Three boat launching ramps are available for access to Buggs Island Lake for both motorized and non-motorized boats. Call 1-800-933-PARK to purchase an annual boat launch passport.
The Buggs Island Special Pass provides boat launching and parking for Occoneechee and Staunton River state parks - it's only $33 a year. Call 1-800-933-PARK for more information.
Pontoon and fishing boats, including safety equipment, can be rented at boat ramp #1 from Clarksville Marine Rentals, Inc. It's open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Boats must be returned by 6 p.m. Thirty gallons of gas are included in the rental. Call (434) 374-2525 or (434) 374-2755 to make reservations.
Buggs Island Lake and connecting Lake Gaston are famous for the number and size of fish found there. Striped and largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and perch are plentiful. A valid Virginia or North Carolina fishing license is required.
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The park has two shelters that can be rented from 8 a.m. to dusk (all day). Call 1-800-933-PARK to reserve. Shelter users may use the volleyball area, and the park lends volleyballs as well as horseshoes. The shelters are available for rent from the first weekend in March through the first weekend in December. Parking fees are not included in the rental (see above for details).
Cancellation policy: No refund within 14 days before reserved date. Before then, there's a cancellation fee.
Shelter 1 (small): Accommodates up to 50 people comfortably. It has lights as well as electrical outlets and is near the playground, which makes it ideal for kids. It also features horseshoe pits, a trail leading to a beautiful lakefront view and a modern restroom facility.
Shelter 2 (large): It accommodates up to 125 comfortably and is near the playground, horseshoe pits and restrooms. This shelter is handicapped accessible, has lights and electrical outlets and is on the left just past the visitor center.
About 3.1 miles of walking trails wind through woodlands and past scenic lake views. A one-mile interpretive trail takes visitors to the terraced gardens of the Old Plantation grounds. The park also features a 15-mile multi-purpose trail for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
From I-85, take Route 58 Exit at South Hill. Park is located on Route 58 one mile east of Clarksville.