Built in 1978, the Burnsville Dam created 30 acres of shoreline and open water for wildlife. An extensive trail system provides access to more than 12,500 acres of habitat. During March and April, search for wild turkeys in the open fields in early morning. Look for waterfowl on the lake and ospreys overhead. Summer is best for observing white-tailed deer, red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures. During the winter as many as 1,000 ducks have been seen on the lake, including blacks, mallards and buffleheads. Note: Some areas are open to hunting.
Directions: From I-79, take the Burnsville/Glenville Exit 79. Travel south toward Burnsville and Burnsville Dam Recreation Area for 0.3 mile to a T. Turn right and proceed 2.5 miles to the visitor center on the right. Continue 0.5 mile to the campground, picnic areas, parking lot and boat ramp. Closest town: Burnsville
Stonewall Jackson Lake
Canada geese are present year-round on this 2,650-acre lake at Stonewall Jackson State Park, while spring and fall are the best times to observe other waterfowl. In spring, look for ospreys over the lake. The many coves and inlets over this elongated lake provide haven for great blue herons in spring and summer. White-tailed deer are present year-round. Search the more-open forests and fields for wild turkeys. Black bears are present, but are secretive and difficult to see. This is a public hunting area.
Directions: Take Exit 91 off I-79 and travel south on U.S. 19 for 2.6 miles to the entrance of Stonewall Jackson State Park on the left. Proceed 0.5 mile to the visitor center. Closest town: Weston
West Virginia State Wildlife Center
Formerly known as French Creek Game Farm, this state-of-the-art facility is a popular tourist destination. Walk the 1.25-mile loop to observe wildlife that once inhabited the Mountain State, including bison, timber wolves and mountain lions, as well as two introduced species: European wild boars and ring-necked pheasants. Other native species include white-tailed deer, red and gray foxes, bobcats, raccoons, several species of owls, and many small mammals. An impressive river otter display provides a rare glimpse into this aquatic mammal's world from above and below the water.
Directions: At the intersection of W.Va. 4 and W.Va. 20, take W.Va. 20 north two miles to the center's entrance on the east side of W.Va. 20. Closest town: Rock Cave
Elk River Wildlife Management Area
Lying just south of the Elk River and on the east side of Sutton Lake, Elk River Wildlife Management Area consists of steep hills and ridges covered in mature hardwood forests and brushlands. White-tailed deer are present year-round. The area offers excellent songbird viewing in spring and summer. Northern cardinals live here year-round. Wild turkeys frequently forage in open woods or in the clearings, and waterfowl are common on the lake and river. In the Elk River, look for otters between dawn and midmorning, when they are likely to be feeding. This is a public hunting area.
Directions: Take the Flatwoods Exit 67 off I-79 on travel south on W.Va. 4 for 1.1 miles. Turn left onto W.Va. 15 and proceed to the Holly River section of the wildlife management area. Closest town: Sutton
The public land surrounding this lake is the 5.974-acre Summersville Lake Wildlife Management Area. Forest species are abundant here: white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse and wild turkeys. Canada geese use the lake year-round. In the spring, look for ospreys over the lake searching for a meal. In winter, black ducks, mallards and buffleheads frequent the lake. This is a public hunting area.
Directions: From Summersville, proceed south on U.S. 19 for three miles to the entrance on the right. (The sign reads Summersville Lake/Airport Road.) Proceed 1.7 miles to an intersection where you can turn right to the marina and boat ramp or go straight to the campground. Closest town: Summersville
Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park
Located in the middle of the Ohio River near Parkersburg, the island offers 10 miles of shoreline, grassy fields and marshes that provide year-round habitat for white-tailed deer and Canada geese. Ospreys are present in the spring and summer, and bald eagles are present in the spring. Bald eagles fly with flattened wings, unlike vultures that soar with their wings in a V and ospreys that fly with “bent” wings. Identify eagles at a distance by their great size and wingspan of 7 to 8 feet. Mature birds have characteristic white heads; immature birds are dark but may show some white underneath their wings.
Directions: The park museum is located on the corner of Juliana and Second streets near the base of the W.Va. 68 bridge over the Little Kanawha River. Boats leave from a landing on the Kanawha River, at the foot of Second Street, two blocks from the park museum. Closest town: Parkersburg
Muskingum Island, Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge
More than 160 species of birds, 40 species of mammals, 50 species of fish and more than three dozen species of mollusks exist in the Ohio River Islands refuge, many of them on Muskingum Island. In summer, search the beach for mollusk shells discarded by foraging muskrats. Muskrats are primarily nocturnal but are sometimes seen during the day. They can be identified by their laterally compressed, sparsely haired tails; their dens are large mounds of vegetation. The island, accessible via a 2-mile boat trip from Williamstown, is habitat to two of West Virginia’s most beautiful warblers: the more common cerulean warbler and the rarer prothonotary warbler. Bank swallows nest on the main channel side of the island. Belted kingfishers, great blue herons and ospreys are present from spring to fall. There are no commercial boats to the island; visitors must provide their own water transportation. This is a natural area with few facilities and is a public hunting area.
Directions: Access to the island is by boat only. Take Exit 185 off I-77 and travel north 1.4 miles to Williamstown. Turn left onto Riverside Road immediately before the bridge. There is a public ramp in Williamstown. Closest town: Williamstown
Middle Island, Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge
A short bridge connecting Middle Island with the mainland at St. Marys makes it one of the most accessible islands in the refuge. Throughout the year, wood ducks may be seen in the back channel, and Canada geese nest year-round on the island. Great-horned owls are permanent residents; look for them in the mature forest at the head of the island. Great blue herons sometimes are spotted from March to November. Green herons are present in the spring and summer, as are belted kingfishers. In May look for bobolinks in the hay fields and adjacent reforested areas. Bald eagles and ospreys are present in the fall, winter and spring. Red-necked grebes are often spotted on the main channel in February and March. The most common animals on the island are beavers, cottontail rabbits, muskrats, raccoons, woodchucks and red foxes. This is a public hunting area.
Directions: In St. Marys, turn off W.Va. 2 onto George Street and proceed 0.1 mile to the end of the street where the bridge connects to Middle Island. Closest town: St. Marys
North Bend State Park
Named after the North Fork of the Hughes River, North Bend is rife with the shrubs, grasses, berries and nuts that provide year-round sustenance to white-tailed deer. The park also is home to wild turkeys, red and gray squirrels, and eastern chipmunks. For excellent wildlife viewing, take the North Bend Rail Trail, a 73-mile-long recreational trail for hikers and bicyclists, from Parkersburg to Wilsonburg. Formerly a rail corridor, it features 13 tunnels and numerous bridges. Note: Sections of the North Bend Trail have not been completed; use caution.
Directions: In Parkersburg, take Exit 176 off I-77 and travel east on U.S. 50 for 17. 8 miles. Turn right onto W.Va. 31 and travel south, through Cairo, for 4.9 miles. Turn left onto County Route 14 (Low Gap Run Road) and proceed east on C.R. 14 for 3.2. miles to the park entrance. Closest town: Harrisville