Blackwater Falls is less than an hour southwest of Deep Creek Lake. Blackwater Falls State Park is the centerpiece the West Virginia state park system. Strikingly beautiful, this enchanting park contains a dense hardwood and pine forest, half-mile wide 500 foot deep canyon and several cascading waterfalls. The region offers outdoor enthusiasts a wide array of activities to choose from including: hiking, kayaking, bicycling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, nature photography and wildlife observation.
Blackwater Falls State Park History
Blackwater Falls State Park is named for the falls of the Blackwater River whose amber-colored waters plunge five stories, then twist their way through an eight-mile long gorge. The river’s “black” water is a result of tannic acid from fallen hemlock and red spruce needles. Although they are a natural component of the ecosystem, the tannins cause the river to be highly acidic. In order for aquatic species to survive, lime is added to the river to counteract the acidity.
Until the 1880’s, Blackwater Canyon was seen as a wild and mysterious tract of land that was entirely unsettled. With the advent of the railroad during the latter part of the 19th century, the area entered one of the most destructive periods in the history of West Virginia. Virgin forests were cut and coal mines were dug, leaving the canyon and Canaan Valley completely barren by the early 1920’s. Eventually, these areas became a part of the Monongahela National Forest and were allowed to recover. The canyon became a state park in 1937 and is currently covered by second-growth forest. Considered one of the most scenic areas in the East, it has recovered from its exploitation quite well.
Features of Blackwater Falls State Park
Offering a variety of overlooks, it’s relatively easy for visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. The park’s namesake falls are one of the most photographed sites in West Virginia. There are two convenient spots to view them. Enter the park from the west, and over 200 steps along a custom built causeway lead you to the base of the falls and back up again. From the east, you can follow the gentle handicap-accessible trail from the parking area to a viewing platform perched high above the gorge. Other scenic highlights of the park include:
Elakala Falls – The waters of Shay Run reach the Blackwater Canyon’s edge and cascade down the canyon’s wall as Elakala Falls. A short walk along the Elakala Trail from the main lodge takes you to the upper section of Elakala Falls.
Lindy Point – 45 acres of pristine mountain views into the Blackwater Canyon – one of the most famous views in all of West Virginia.
Pendleton Falls – Pendleton Falls can be viewed at a roadside pull-off about one-half mile from the lodge.
Blackwater River – Scenic and wild river that runs through the heart of Blackwater Falls State Park.
Recreation at blackwater falls state park
Blackwater Falls State Park offers recreation for every age and ability level. Each season provides its own unique experience: superior fishing opportunities in spring, cool mountain air in the summer, a frosty wonderland in winter and exceptional scenic vistas in fall.
Hiking – The park offers over 20 miles of hiking trails.
Bicycling – There are two biking trails located within park boundaries. A majority of the trails are designated for foot travel only.
Nature and Recreation Programs – Park naturalists offer a variety of programs on the park’s natural and cultural history. Also, programs and tours can be arranged for groups and are available year round.
Nature Center – The Nature Center offers displays, programs and information on the park’s natural resources.
Boating – Boating is offered at Pendleton Lake from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day.
Fishing – The Blackwater River is stocked weekly with trout from early spring through early summer. The section of the Blackwater River that runs through the park is a catch and release area. It is stocked regularly with trout. Fishing is also allowed at Pendleton Lake. Proper license and stamps are required.
Cross Country Skiing – Over ten miles of park trails can be enjoyed by beginning as well as more experienced cross country skiers. Many of these are groomed and maintained specifically for cross country skiing. A full service cross country ski center offers lessons and equipment rental. The Sled Run & Cross Country Ski Center are open from mid-December through mid-March weather permitting.
Sledding – The sledding hill is one-quarter mile long and is accessed by a rope tow, available on weekends when snows are sufficient. The hill and tow area are groomed and maintained for sledding. Sleds are available for rent at the cross country ski center.
An easy day trip from the Deep Creek Lake area, Blackwater Falls State Park perfectly demonstrates all that is wild and wonderful about the state of West Virginia. It is easy to understand why it is one of the most frequently visited and photographed spots in West Virginia.