Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
- Site Contact: Park Manager; (434) 374-2210
- Site Access: Fee, camping
- Visit Website
Site PDR10: Occoneechee State Park
The Park is named for the Occoneechee Indians who originally lived here on an island in the Roanoke (Staunton) River since the mid-1200s. The Occoneechee were friendly to Virginia's first settlers and did quite well for themselves by supplying a thriving trade in animal skins. The same cannot be said for the settlers who in 1676, attacked the Occoneechee, killing many and forced the rest to settle further south in North Carolina. The Roanoke (Staunton) River remained an important artery for transportation, and its regularly flooded bottomlands supported a productive agricultural community. Just after World War II, construction began on the dam that eventually flooded Buggs Island (Kerr) Reservoir, creating the largest freshwater lake in the state. Occoneechee State Park sits on the northern shore of the lake, near where the Occoneechee Indians once lived. The park plays an important role in the culture of the surviving Occoneechee and regularly hosts traditional ceremonies. This part of Southside Virginia has long been known for its abundance of wildlife. The shoreline, fields and woodlands of the park host an impressive variety of wildlife. Starting along the lakeshore, look for wading birds such as great egrets and great blue herons, as well as occasional shorebirds when water levels are low and the lake's muddy banks are exposed. Further out in the deeper water, grebes and loons occur in winter and double-crested cormorants can be seen year-round. Watch overhead as ring-billed gulls cavort with ospreys, and bald eagles soar past from time to time.
From Old Soudan WMA, return south on Rt. 822/Mistletoe Lane 1.4 miles to Rt. 721/State Line Road. Turn right (west) for 0.6 miles to US 15. Turn right and go north 5.0 miles to US 58/US 15. Go right (east) for 2.2 miles to Occoneechee Park Road. Turn right and go east into Occoneechee State Park. Return to US 58 and head south where you can begin the Christanna Loop.