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West Virginia Wildlife Magazine
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Pipestem State Park

A view of the Bluestone River Gorge, looking down on the Mountain Creek LodgeDescription: Oak-hickory forests laced with grassy fields, rock outcroppings, and sweeping views of the 1,000 foot-deep Bluestone River Gorge beckon exploration at Pipestem. Named after the hollow pipestem bush that Native Americans and early settlers used for making pipes, this park offers wildlife viewers more than 17 miles of trails through and near the four major habitats of the park: open water, wetland, old field, and hardwood forest.

Viewing Information: Excellent wildlife viewing has been made even better through interpretive programs and educational materials at the nature center wildlife observation area. Approximately 161 species of birds have been recorded at the state park, and the area has some of the highest densities of wild turkeys in the state; they can be seen at several locations. Waterfowl can easily be seen between March and November on Long Branch Lake . From the lookout tower, look for turkey vultures and several species of hawks. In September broad-winged hawks migrate in large flocks, sometimes numbering several hundred. From December to April look for bald eagles from this spot, and from December to February, you might be lucky enough to see a golden eagle.

Thirty species of warblers have been identified in the park, 20 of which nest here. Mammals include white-tailed deer, several species of shrews, moles, bats, squirrels, red and gray foxes, minks, bobcats, and mice. Look for woodchucks in clearings along the park road.

In 1996 and 1997, two female and three male river otters were released in the Bluestone River by the Wildlife Resources Section. Several invertebrates can be seen here. In summer in the milkweeds, look for monarchs with their characteristic burnt-orange color and black veins. At night and early morning, look for dobsonflies, luna moths, polyphemous moths, and regal moths near Mountain Creek Lodge (located at the base of the canyon).

Directions: Take Athens Exit 14 off Interstate 77, and travel east on County Route 7 to West Virginia State Route 20. Go north for 10 miles to the park entrance, on the left.

Ownership: Division of Natural Resources (304) 466-1800

Size: 4,023 acres

Closest Town: Pipestem