Fugitives and ghosts and moonshiners, oh my!

Discover the legends and lore of West Virginia State Parks

As if their natural beauty and abundance of outdoor recreation weren’t enough reason to visit West Virginia State Parks and Forests, their colorful histories add another layer of interest. Some of these stories are true and others—well, you’ll just have to suspend your disbelief. Read on and discover colorful tales on everything from outlaws to spirits—both supernatural and the distilled kind.

Historic finds

You probably know Coopers Rock State Forest for its spectacular views of the Cheat River Canyon—but have you ever wondered how the park got its name? Legend has it a fugitive once hid out in a cave near the main overlook. A cooper by trade, the man stole lumber to build barrels that he sold to people in nearby communities. Hike these trails today and you won’t encounter any outlaws hiding out, but you will find an interesting artifact in the woods: a towering blast furnace built in the mid-1800s and used to smelt iron.

Kanawha State Forest is home to several defunct coal mines, one which now provides habitat for the threatened northern long-eared bat. But the sealed mine off the CCC Snipe Trail once served another purpose during Prohibition. Moonshiners hid their hooch here out of sight of the revenuers—the government officials who enforced laws prohibiting the illegal distillation of alcohol. A sign outside the mine entrance reads “Sealed by the CCC in 1941. During work deep inside the mine, CCC crews discovered 26 mash barrels abandoned by bootleggers.”

Stonewall Resort State Park harbors a mystery that has stumped historians and archeologists alike. Scattered throughout the park are 150 manmade stone structures ranging from loose rock piles to carefully built towers and walls. Traditionally, cairns have been used for navigation, fortification, burial markers or natural resource indicators. But no one has been able to determine the purpose of these cairns, or even how old they are. Some speculate that Native Americans might have built them. In the meantime, you can view these rock structures yourself along several hiking trails that wind through the resort.

Ghostly encounters

If you’re on the North Bend Rail Trail after dark, keep an eye out for the Ghost of the Silver Run. The mysterious woman in white was first spotted in the late 1800s by a train engineer near Tunnel No. 19 in Cairo, not too far from where North Bend State Park is today. The locals say she was a bride on her way to meet her groom in Parkersburg when she was killed near the tunnel, and she haunts the tunnel to this day looking for her beloved.

Many a bloody battle was fought in the Civil War, so it’s not surprising there are ghost stories associated with Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park. It was here on Nov. 6, 1863 that Union and Confederate troops clashed over control of the rail lines in nearby Salem, Virginia. The Union prevailed, driving the Confederate army south into Virginia—resulting in several hundred casualties on both sides. Over the years, visitors to the park have reported numerous spooky encounters, including the sound of galloping horses and the ghost of a Confederate soldier sleeping against a tree.

The Lee Family Cabin is one of the highlights of Lost River State Park. Once the summer retreat of Revolutionary War General Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee (father of Civil War General Robert E. Lee), the two-story frame house is now a museum devoted to life in the early 19th century. But it was once the scene of a terrible crime. In the mid-1800s, a livestock trader named Charles Sager was passing through when robbers ambushed him and left him in the unoccupied cabin to die. To this day some say you can still hear the eerie moans of Sager’s restless spirit at the cabin. But he’s a polite ghost: He’s been known to turn the lights on when asked!

Lee Cabin at Lost River State Park

Are you a ghost hunter? Can you solve the mystery of the cairns? Book your lodge or cabin stay and start planning for a hauntingly good time at West Virginia State Parks!

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