Core Aboretum’s varied habitats and location along a major north-flowing river provides numerous wildlife-viewing opportunities throughout the year. More than 160 species of birds can be found here. Waterfowl that rest on the river during migration include tundra swans, green-winged teals, northern pintails, ring-necked ducks, lesser scaups, common goldeneyes, buffleheads, red-breasted mergansers and ruddy ducks. The lagoon area is home to great blue herons, and, in summer, green herons. The arboretum hosts 35 species of warblers as well as several species of woodpeckers. Bank, barn and cliff swallows also have been spotted here. Mammals common to the area include fox squirrels, beavers, muskrats, woodchucks, raccoon, foxes and deer. This is a natural area with no facilities.
Directions: From I-79, travel south on U.S. 19 (also W.Va. 7) to the West Virginia University Evansdale campus. The Core Arboretum is located on the right 0.1 mile from the coliseum entrance. Closest town: Morgantown
Coopers Rock State Forest
Coopers Rock State Forest offers spectacular views of the Cheat River Gorge, which is home to the federally threatened species, the flat-spired three-toothed land snail. Sixteen trails crisscross this state forest and the adjacent West Virginia University forest, offering wildlife viewers excellent access throughout the two forests. From one of the Cheat River Gorge overlooks at midday, watch for hawks “kettling” – circling and soaring on columns of warm air. The land surrounding the archery range is some of the best in the area for viewing songbirds and butterflies in summer. Some areas are open to hunting.
Directions: From Morgantown, travel east on I-68 for 11 miles to Exit 15. Turn right off the exit ramp and travel 0.3 miles to the park. Once in the park, follow the road three miles to the overlook. Closest town: Morgantown
Cranesville Swamp Nature Preserve
This 15,000-year-old peatland bog on the West Virginia-Maryland border is home to white-tailed deer and black bear. The end of May is best for seeing warblers returning from points south to breed and summer at Cranesville. Hike one of four maintained trails to see and hear red-eyed vireos back from the Amazon basin in South America, golden-winged warblers back from Guatemala, yellow warblers from Mexico and hooded warblers from Central America. Northern saw-whet owls nest here, too.
Directions: From I-68, take the Keyers Ridge Exit 14 and travel south on U.S. 219 for 19 miles. South of Deep Creek Lake, turn right off U.S. 219 onto Mayhew Inn Road and proceed four miles. At the stop sign, bear left onto Oakland-Sang Run Road and continue for about 0.3 mile. Turn right onto Swallow Falls Road (follow signs for Swallow Falls State Park) and continue for 2.6 miles to a fork. At the fork, turn sharply right onto Cranesville Road. After 4.2 miles, turn left onto Lake Ford Road. Travel on Lake Ford Road for 0.2 mile and turn right at a fork to the preserve entrance, 0.2 miles on the right. Closest town: Terra Alta
Cathedral State Park
Cathedral, known for its ancient stand of thickly-forested virgin hemlock, provides habitat to tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches. Identify the chickadee by its “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” or “dee-dee-dee.” The gray titmouse, with its tufted crest, chants “peter, peter.” The red-breasted nuthatch is recognizable by its nasal “yank-yank.” The bird often creeps down one of the large hemlocks head-first. Other animals common to the area include red squirrels, deer mice, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, barred owls, common screech owls, and red and gray foxes. Native brook trout are sometimes visible in the small stream that flows through the area.
Directions: From the intersection of W.Va. 32 and U.S. 219 in Thomas, travel north on U.S. 219 for nine miles. Turn left on W.Va. 24 and proceed north for 5.5 miles. Turn left onto U.S. 50 and travel west for 0.4 mile to the park entrance, on the right. Closest town: Aurora
Teter Creek Lake Wildlife Management Area
This area, which encompasses 35-acre Teter Creek Lake, is home to white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse and several species of reptiles. Songbird viewing is particularly good around the lake. Several species of amphibians can be seen and heard along Teter Creek and the lake. Listen for northern spring peepers beginning in early March; they are easily identifiable by the dark-brown X on their backs. Bullfrogs and green frogs live here at permanent water sources while the mountain chorus frog is a woodland species. The abandoned farmlands adjacent to the lake are excellent for butterfly viewing as well. This is a public hunting area.
Directions: From Meadowville, travel east on County Route 9 (Midway/Kirt Road) for 2.6 miles. At the intersection of C.R. 9 and C.R. 26, turn right and travel south for 0.2 mile into the wildlife management area. Closest town: Meadowville
Pleasant Creek Wildlife Management Area
The bottomland that comprises Pleasant Creek is home to white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, waterfowl and many types of songbirds. Look for Canada geese in early or late winter and in spring on the lake or in the wetlands. Look for beaver or a sign of their presence, such as dens and dams. Although mostly nocturnal, they are sometimes seen during daylight hours. This is a public hunting area.
Directions: From Grafton, travel south on U.S. 119 for eight miles. Turn left off U.S. 119 onto County Route 119-32 (Pleasant Creek Road) at the wildlife management area sign. Closest town: Grafton
Tygart Lake is a popular destination for outdoor recreationists, so get up early when the wildlife is most active and humans aren’t. Patient divers on the lake are likely to see bass, walleyes, muskies, crappies and perch. The lake’s irregular shoreline is a haven for great blue herons, and the numerous inlets are good for seeing several species of waterfowl: black ducks, mallards and Canada geese. Look for wood ducks in the quieter inlets and backwater areas. The steep, wooded mountainsides alongside the lake provide habitat for white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, and numerous reptiles and amphibians. In spring, breeding neotropical migratory songbirds fill the woods.
Directions: From Grafton, take U.S. 50 west 0.3 mile to W.Va. 40 (Riverside Road), which is immediately over the bridge. Turn left onto Riverside Road. Travel 1.9 miles to a T and take a right onto Beech Street. Travel another 0.2 mile and turn left onto Walnut Street. After 0.2 mile, turn right onto Grand Street, then go 1.9 miles and turn left. Proceed 0.5 mile to the Visitor Center for the Army Corps of Engineers, Tygart Lake. Continue 0.3 mile to the entrance of the state park. Closest town: Grafton
Valley Falls State Park
Valley Falls State Park is known for its excellent songbirds. In spring and summer, the forest canopy is active with neotropical migrants; look for vireos, warblers and flycatchers in the early morning or evening in the forested areas along the river. White-tailed deer, eastern gray squirrels and ruffed grouse are abundant. Wild turkeys also are present; listen for the familiar “gobble” in the breeding season of late April. In the fall, the area is a migration route for northern saw-whet owls. Raccoons are present year-round and are active in the evening.
Directions: From I-79, take W.Va. 310 (Exit 137 South) for 7.7 miles. Turn right onto County Route 31-14 (Rock Lake-Valley Falls Road) and proceed 0.7 mile. Turn left and proceed 0.8 mile to the park entrance; the park office is another 0.1 mile on the left. Continue one mile to the falls and parking area. Closest town: Fairmont
Lewis Wetzel Wildlife Management Area
Forest species predominate in this management area. Commonly occurring animals include white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, raccoons, several species of owls, and songbirds. During the day, search near streams and ponds for great blue herons. At dusk in summer, watch for bats feeding over streams and open areas. The eastern pipistrelle, red bat, and little brown myotis are common here; it has been reported that the little brown myotis can consume 500 mosquitoes per hour. Note: This is a public hunting area.
Directions: From New Martinsville, travel east on W.Va. 7 for 2.7 miles. Turn right onto W.Va. 20 and proceed south for 18.1 miles to Jacksonburg. Turn right onto County Route 82 (Buffalo Run Road) and travel south for 3.2 miles. An office with camping information is on the left. Closest town: Jacksonburg
PPG Industries, Natrium Plant
Several hundred acres adjacent to two large chemical plants contain an Ohio River backwater area and an extended interface with the forested upland forests and hills characteristic of this region. The Wildlife Habitat Council recently has designated this as a wildlife management area. White-tailed deer, gray and fox squirrels, red and gray foxes and beavers are present, as well as several flocks of wild turkeys. On summer afternoons, the backwater area offers excellent viewing opportunities for ducks, geese and a variety of shorebirds. Great blue herons and green herons frequent the marsh areas, and it is not unusual to see an osprey hovering overhead in search of fish.
Directions: From the intersection of U.S. 250 South and W.Va. 2 in downtown Moundsville, travel south on W.Va. 2 for 17.9 miles to the site, which is between the Pittsburgh Paint and Glass Plant and the Bayer facility. Closest town: New Martinsville
This small day-use area provides panoramic views of the Ohio River. During winter, waterfowl frequent the river. Shorebirds are sometimes seen during spring migration and great blue herons are common because there is a rookery on nearby Fish Island. These magnificent birds (up to four feet tall) are sometimes seen standing at the edge of quieter waters in search of a fish or frog to eat.
Directions: From the intersection of U.S. 250 south and W.Va. 2 in downtown Moundsville, travel south on W.Va. 2 for 11.3 miles to County Route 27 (Graysville Road). Turn left onto C.R. 27 and proceed 100 feet to the dirt road on the left. Drive under the bridge to the day-use area. Closest town: Graysville
Oglebay Park (A.B. Brooks Nature Center)
The A.B. Brooks Nature Center at Oglebay Park features wildlife, nature and environmental education exhibits and programs. Visit the nature center and the 15,000-square-foot butterfly and wildflower exhibit or hike along the four miles of interpretive trails to learn about and view wildlife. The center is well-known for its children's programs. Call for details.
Directions: At the intersection of U.S. 40 and W.Va. 88 in Wheeling, travel north on W.Va. 88 for 2.2 miles to the entrance of Oglebay Park. Closest town: Wheeling
Hillcrest Wildlife Management Area
Look for white-tailed deer in the fields in the early morning and evening in the summer, and in the apple orchards in winter. In spring, come early in the morning to hear ring-necked pheasant cocks crowing, a loud double “kork-kok.” or search the hedgerows for these beautiful game birds with their long,pointed tails. In spring and summer, the hayfields here support bobolinks and Henslow's sparrows, uncommon to West Virginia. Bluebirds also make use of the open fields. In the apple orchard, look for Baltimore orioles, meadowlarks and bluebirds. In summer, the fields are full of dragonflies and butterflies. In winter, birds of prey migrating down the Ohio River stop at Hillcrest to rest and feed in these same open fields. This is a natural area with no facilities and a public hunting area.
Directions: From the junction of U.S. 30 and W.Va. 8 south of Chester, travel south on W.Va. 8 for 2.2 miles to Middle Run Road. Turn left onto Middle Run Road and proceed for 0.9 mile. The area runs along the right and left sides of the road.
Closest town: Chester
Castleman Run Lake Wildlife Management Area
Water, woodlands and open fields here are excellent habitats for many species of birds and butterflies during the summer. White-tailed deer are best seen along the forest edge in early morning and evening. Turkeys are abundant, and chances of seeing these large birds are excellent. Listen for the males at dawn and early morning in the spring as they beckon to the females of their harems. This is a public hunting area.
Directions: Travel west on W.Va. 67 from Bethany until just outside of town, about 0.2 mile. Turn right onto County Route 32; this intersection is not marked and is before the soccer field. Travel south on C.R. 32 for 3.5 miles to the lake. Closest town: Bethany