Claytor Lake State Park
Elevation: 1856 ft.
Claytor Lake, formed from the damming of the New River, sits just above the City of Radford. The dam forming the lake was completed in 1939 to produce electricity for the Appalachian Power Company. It still provides this service today and contributes to flood control along the New River. The lake and dam were named for Graham Claytor, a native Virginian and former vice-president of American Electric Power Company. Claytor Lake State Park sits on the northern shore of Claytor Lake, just minutes from I-81.
The park provides access to Claytor Lake as well as 472 acres of associated fields and woodland. Throughout the park, several nature trails provide access to a variety of habitats. The park’s visitor center, located in the historic 1870s Howe house, includes several excellent displays of the area’s history and ecology, including detailed interpretation on the diversity of fish found in the reservoir. The lakeshore is always worth checking when visiting the park since uncommon water birds could turn up at any time of year. Waterfowl are most prevalent during migration and winter months while gulls and terns are more likely during migration. An osprey could pass by at any time of year. The quiet inlets along the lake’s north shore offer prime habitats for eastern painted turtle, great blue and green herons and a variety of damsel- and dragonflies, including widow skimmer, blue dasher and black-shouldered spinylegs. Swallows gather in large numbers along the lakeshore in late summer with barn, tree and northern rough-winged swallows joining purple martins in coating almost every available perch while each takes a turn skimming the lake surface for food and drink.
There are several nature trails in the park that allow the visitor to access a variety of woodland habitats. These support birds such as downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, northern flicker, eastern wood-pewee, great-crested flycatcher, blue jay, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, Carolina wren, blue-gray gnatcatcher, red-eyed vireo, northern cardinal, chipping sparrow and American goldfinch. The fields around the visitor center and swimming area support northern bobwhite, which can be heard giving their characteristic call throughout the day. While walking the nature trails through the forest, take the opportunity to look at the diversity of mushrooms and other fungi growing out of the ground at your feet. These woods are especially good for such distinctive species as fly agaric and American Caesar, with numerous less distinctive polypores lining the fallen and decaying tree trunks.
Take Exit #101 from I-81 and turn south on Rt. 660/State Park Road. Travel 2.3 miles to the entry gate. Physical Address: 6620 Ben H. Bolen Dr., Dublin, VA 24084.