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Places to Explore Cumberland State Forest & Bear Creek Lake State Park
Bear Creek Lake SP, Cumberland State Forest
Bear Creek Lake SP, Cumberland State Forest © Virginia Department of Conservation and Resources

Virginia's Cumberland State Forest and Bear Creek Lake State Park offer visitors a wide diversity of activities, from boating and archery facilities, to hiking and wildlife viewing on rugged backcountry trails

Oak and Hickory trees in Cumberland State Forest, VA
Back swamp of the Willis River, Cumberland State Forest
Campsite at Bear Creek Lake
The Beach at Bear Creek Lake SP
A kayaker on Bear Creek Lake

Located in the Piedmont region of Virginia, the 16,233-acre Cumberland State Forest demonstrates that wildlife habitat, recreation, and watershed protection are compatible with sound timber management strategies. In addition to a providing a variety of recreational activities such as hiking, fishing and fall hunting, management activities on the State Forest demonstrate good forestry and conservation practices and provide sites for applied research in forestry. This is excellent news because the State Forests of Virginia receive no taxpayer funds for operation. These lands are self-supporting and operating costs must be covered by the sale of forest products.

A Park Within the Forest

Bear Creek Lake State Park is nestled away in the heart of the Forest and serves as the perfect gateway for novice visitors. Activities center on the park's 40-acre man-made lake—complete with boat launch, fishing pier, boat rentals and a swimming beach. The park also offers permanent campsites, cabins, a 10-lane archery range with 3D targets, lakeside picnicking with grills, restrooms, and playgrounds. The surrounding Forest proper supplies four smaller lakes for recreational fishing and two multi-use self-guided trails—perfect for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

The 14-mile Cumberland Multi-Use Trail weaves through both park and Forest and can be accessed from either the park or the Cumberland State Forest office. The 16-mile Willis River Hiking Trail meets the Willis River as it goes from one end of the Forest to the other. Hikers will observe several different and unique environments. Oak-hickory forests, stands of Loblolly Pine, and harvested areas will attract many different forms of wildlife. Be sure to bring a camera and share your best pics with the world. Visitors may also make use of the network of forest roads.

Cumberland State Forest is open from dawn to dusk; and while there is no fee to walk, hike or canoe, a State Forest Use Permit is required for people over 16 who want to ride bikes or horses, hunt, trap, or fish. Visitors are strongly urged to adopt a "leave no trace" ethic when visiting the forest, as there are no restrooms or trashcans outside the Bear Creek Lake area.

The swimming beach at Bear Creek Lake has a bathhouse and a concessions stand that offers a variety of sandwiches, snacks and drinks. The 40-acre lake also supports largemouth bass, crappie, bream and channel catfish for fishing. A boat ramp is available for non-gasoline powered boats. The park also has a handicapped-accessible fishing pier. Boat rentals are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Pieces of History

The land that comprises Cumberland State Forest has a long history of farming. Evidence of the land's former inhabitants can be seen in the cemeteries and old homesteads scattered throughout the forest. When farming ceased in the 1930s, native pines colonized the abandoned fields. Today, the Cumberland State Forest contains a diversity of timber types, including loblolly pine stands and mature oak-hickory forest.

The Charles Irving Thornton tombstone, with an inscription written by Charles Dickens, is on the National Register of Historical Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

Also at Cumberland State Forest, a marker is placed on the site of Jesse Thomas' homestead. Colonel Jesse Thomas rode his famous horse "Fearnaught" through the night to warn Baron Von Steuben that General Cornwallis was approaching, thus saving Von Steuben with his 800 men and the Continental Army's sole remaining supplies in Virginia.

Bear Creek Lake was built in 1938 as a project of the Virginia Department of Agriculture through the State Forestry Division. Although this project was undertaken during the closing days of the Great Depression, the 100 men who built the lake were not members of the Civilian Conservation Corps. They were simply carpenters, farmers and unskilled laborers seeking jobs. The land was given to the Division of State Parks in 1940, and it was operated as a day-use recreation area. In 1962 the division added campgrounds and the area's name was changed to Bear Creek Lake State Park.

For more information about the Forest, visit the Cumberland State Forest homepage on the Virginia Department of Forestry website.

To learn more about the use of facilities at Bear Creek Lake, visit the Bear Creek Lake State Park homepage on the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation website.


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