Occoneechee State Park

Some of the most fun words to say are the hardest to spell. That is certainly the case with the name of this state park. For the life of me, I cannot spell Occoneechee. I have to look it up every single time. But I sure love saying it. While visiting the fun Visitor Center, I was delighted to learn that I am not the only one who had trouble spelling the unique name of this tribe. Likely due to the Europeans’ struggle to spell it, the Occoneechee (or Occaneechi, Akenatzy…) people went by a variety of spellings. But no matter what spelling or pronunciation you choose, the park named after these Native Americans of the 17th century has done a great job preserving the history and unspoiled natural beauty of this area. Tip: Read about The Occaneechi Story on the Virginia State Parks blog.

Speaking of names, the lake that borders this state park also boasts a name combo. This can be slightly confusing to a non-native-Virginian such as myself, but I am learning. Known as either Bugs Island Lake or John H. Kerr Reservoir, Virginia’s largest lake is located in the Commonwealth and North Carolina. And due to the fact that it is owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers, this beautiful body of water is not as commercialized or developed as other lakes. And we love that aspect. 

The well-designed C Campground allows for several waterfront campsites on a peninsula, and we were able to enjoy one of those during this Spring Break trip. Our eyes feasted on sunrises over our cove during breakfast and the fish feasted on the worms on our hooks from the banks of our campsite. We watched both birds and boats glide over the water while we relaxed hammock-style. The kids, and the neighbor friends they made, embarked on treasure hunts along the water’s edge that produced more freshwater snail shells than I can count. In the evenings, if we ventured just a few feet to the other side of our camper, we were met with a double sunset. One in the sky above and one reflected in the lake below. 

A site next to a body of water is probably my favorite type of campsite. And if there are also plenty of trees on that site, well, to me that is prime real estate in the camping world. The only thing that could have elevated this spot would have been mountains. But the hills were lovely. And they sure felt like mountains while biking the trails. Tip: Make sure your young kids are up to the challenge before planning a ride on Panhandle Multi-Use Trail. It was almost too much for our 9-year-old.

The park offers a few short trails near the two campgrounds for hiking only, but our favorites were the longer Panhandle Multi-Use Trail and the lollipop trail, Beaver Pond, that spurred off of it. The park also offers third-party boat rental at the park marina. Tip: Reservations are required during the off-season. We had quite the crew on this camping trip, with our oldest two boys, their girlfriends, a puppy, and my parents all joining the fun at various points. One of the guys, his girlfriend, and his pup rented a tandem kayak and had fun exploring and picnicking out on the lake one afternoon. Several enjoyed biking around the park and hanging at one of the two playgrounds. Everyone took turns fishing and playing cornole. A great feature of both Campgrounds C and B is the shaded grassy area in the center of the loop. The campsites are fairly small, and several are multi-level, including ours. So the space right across the street from us was greatly appreciated and enjoyed. A lot of cornhole went down in this spot. There is even a pavilion with picnic tables and overflow parking. 

We love to learn about the area surrounding each state park, however, we aren’t always able to venture out and explore. But the adorable downtown of Clarksville is exactly one mile and a half from the entrance of Occoneechee. It is definitely worth the short commute across the bridge. We perused a couple of the shops and devoured ice cream at The Cottage Barn before driving around the streets admiring a few of the historic homes and churches. Tip: Ask which of the flavors are from Homestead Creamery. And order one of those. You’re welcome. Signs of festival setup were taking place for the upcoming weekend, and we were told that this quaint town sees many visitors during those times, as well as the peak season of summer. 

We would love to visit again during the summer. Maybe rent a boat, go skiing, cool off at the park splash pad, or partake in ranger-guided activities and the town’s festivities. Perhaps rent one of the beautiful cabins with an amazing view. We will return someday. But, I have to say, this Spring Break visit was pretty near perfect.

Fast Facts (and Opinions)

Location: Occoneechee State Park - Clarksville, VA

Equipment: Travel Trailer and Tent

Date: April 2023

Weather: Chilly and rainy, strong winds, then sunny and warmer

Kid-Friendly: Yes (ours were ages 10 and 9)

Dog-Friendly: Yes (our 3.5-year-old dog was joined by a 4-month-old puppy)

Site: C-32 W


Cell Service: Yes (Verizon)

Park Highlights:

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Things to Do Next Visit (Because There's Just Never Enough Time!):

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