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Virginia Outdoors Fact Sheet

Virginia Outdoors by the Numbers:          

  • Virginia is home to more miles of the Appalachian Trail than any other state. With 544 miles, Virginia has more than one-fourth of the famed 2175-mile footpath.  

  • Cyclists can pedal among amazing views on the 470-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, while mountain bikers push through 3,000 feet of climbing on the epic 32-mile Southern Traverse ride.  

  • For water lovers looking to dip their paddles, Virginia holds nearly 1,000 square miles or surface water in its lakes, rivers and bays, 25,000 miles of rivers and streams.  

  • Find a list of lakes in Virginia on this list from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website:   

  • Find a list of rivers and streams in Virginia on this list from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.

  • There are over 4,000 caves in Virginia. Virginia is one of only six states in the United States with over 2,000 known caves, according to this information from Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. 

  • The Chesapeake Bay watershed is the largest estuary in the United States.  

  • The New River, the second oldest river in the world and one of the only North flowing rivers in the world, runs through Virginia.  

  • Virginia has portions of the East Coast Greenway, Trans America, and US Bike Route 1.   

Facts on Virginia National Parks from the National Park Service, Virginia page:

  • 22 national parks
  • 23,348,544 visitors to national parks (in 2011)
  • $578,288,000 economic benefit from national park tourism (in 2010)
  • 2,840 National Register of Historic Places listings
  • $2,012,325,375 of historic rehabilitation projects stimulated by tax incentives (since 1995)
  • 255,347 hours donated by volunteers (in 2011)
  • 2 National Heritage Areas
  • 10 National Natural Landmarks
  • 119 National Historic Landmarks
  • $82,694,213 in Land & Water Conservation Fund grants (since 1965) »

Fun Facts on Virginia State Parks from The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation   The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation manages a diversity of lands:

  • 35 state parks
  • 6 undeveloped parks
  • 59 natural areas
  • More than 120,000 total acres, mostly in state parks
  • More than 500 miles of trails
  • 260 cabins (located at Bear Creek Lake, Belle Isle, Chippokes Plantation, Claytor Lake, Douthat, Fairy Stone, First Landing, Hungry Mother, James River, Lake Anna, Natural Tunnel, Occoneechee, Shenandoah River, Smith Mountain Lake, Southwest Virginia Museum, Staunton River, Twin Lakes, Westmoreland)
  • 22 five and six-bedroom cabins (Bear Creek, Belle Isle, Claytor Lake, Douthat, Fairy Stone, Hungry Mother, James River, Kiptopeke, Natural Tunnel, Occoneechee, Shenandoah River, Westmoreland)
  • 1,608 campsites in 25 different parks
  • 88 picnic shelters
  • 20 visitor centers
  • 11 swimming beaches
  • 5 swimming pools
  • 2 restaurants; 19 snack bars

  State park attendance

  • 8,366,179 (2012)
  • 7,836,246 (2011)
  • 8,065,558 (2010)
  • 7,534,960 (2009)
  • 7,250,019 (2008)
  • 7,452,271 (2007)
  • 7,077,217 (2006)
  • 6,996,375 (2005)
  • 6,997,889 (2004)
  • 6,296,108 (2003)
  • 7,008,004 (2002)
  • 7,017,052 (2001)
  • 6,319,300 (2000)
  • 5,885,910 (1999)
  • 5,491,269 (1998)
  • 5,147,477 (1997)
  • 4,723,558 (1996)
  • 4,747,108 (1995)
  • 4,397,988 (1994)

Water, water everywhere Virginia State Parks have small (50- to 170-acre) man-made lakes at Bear Creek Lake (Cumberland County), Douthat (Clifton Forge), Fairy Stone (Patrick County), Holliday Lake (Appomattox County), Hungry Mother (Marion), Pocahontas (Chesterfield County) and Twin Lakes (Prince Edward County).   Each offers sandy swimming beaches with lifeguards from Memorial Day to Labor Day (no swimming at Swift Creek Lake at Pocahontas) and boat rentals. Gasoline motors are not allowed on these lakes to insure the safety and enjoyment of all those using the lakes. All are regularly stocked by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Guarded swimming beaches are also features of Smith Mountain Lake, Claytor Lake and Lake Anna State Parks. These lakes allow gas-powered boats. First Landing and Kiptopeke have unguarded swimming beaches on the Chesapeake Bay.  

Swimming pools:

  • Chippokes (Surry County)
  • Natural Tunnel (Duffield)
  • Pocahontas (Chesterfield County)
  • Staunton River (Halifax County)
  • Westmoreland (Montross)

  State parks offer gas powered boating access to the following bodies of water

  • Smith Mountain Lake
  • Claytor Lake
  • Buggs Island Lake (Occoneechee and Staunton River State Parks)
  • Lake Anna
  • York River
  • Potomac River (Westmoreland and Leesylvania State Parks)
  • Chesapeake Bay (Kiptopeke and First Landing State Parks)
  • Rappahannock River (Belle Isle)
  • James River

Vital statistics

Oldest - Virginia is the only state in the country to have opened an entire state park system at one time. On June 15, 1936, the Virginia State Park System opened to the public with six parks covering 19,000 acres. The six original state parks are:

  • Douthat
  • First Landing
  • Fairy Stone
  • Staunton River
  • Hungry Mother
  • Westmoreland

Newer - High Bridge Trail State Park (Cumberland, Nottoway and Prince Edward counties) resulted from a 2006 donation from the Norfolk Southern Corp. The first portions of the 30-mile linear, multi-use state park were opened in 2008. Today, about 20 miles are open. DCR also has parcels of land that will become state parks in the future. They are Biscuit Run in Albemarle County, Mayo River in Patrick and Henry counties, Middle Peninsula in Gloucester County, Powhatan in Powhatan County, Seven Bends in Shenandoah County and Widewater in Stafford County .

Largest - Pocahontas (7,604 acres)

Smallest - Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park, 1.5 acres Highest - Grayson Highlands, 5,084, feet above sea level

Lowest - False Cape State Park, sea level Most visited - First Landing with more than 1.7 million visitors annually

Easternmost - False Cape (Eastern most part of mainland Virginia; is east of state's only Eastern Shore park, Kiptopeke).

Westernmost - Wilderness Road State Park in Lee County is farther west than Wheeling, W. Va., Pittsburgh, Pa., and Canton, Ohio.

Northernmost - Sky Meadows State Park in Fauquier and Clarke counties is on the same latitude as Annapolis.

Southernmost - False Cape State Park - Southern boundary is the North Carolina state line.    

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests·        

  • The George Washington National Forest in west central Virginia and the Jefferson National Forest in southwest Virginia were administratively combined in 1995 to form the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.    
  • The two national forests contain nearly 1.8 million acres; one of the largest blocks of public land in the eastern United States.  
  • The forests include 1,664,110 acres in Virginia, 123,629 acres in West Virginia, and 961 acres in Kentucky.
  • The forest headquarters is the Forest Supervisor's Office in Roanoke, Virginia.  The forests include the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and seven Ranger Districts.  
  • The forests are primarily Appalachian hardwood and mixed pine-hardwood forest types located within the Blue Ridge, Central Ridge and Valley, Allegheny, and Cumberland Plateau provinces.    

The forests are home to:

  • 40 species of trees,
  • 2,000 species of shrubs and herbaceous plants,
  • 78 species of amphibians and reptiles,
  • 200 species of birds,
  •  60 species of mammals,
  • 2,340 miles of perennial streams,
  • 100 species of freshwater fishes and mussels,
  • 53 federally-listed Threatened or Endangered animal and plant species.

The forests are managed for multiple uses and provide many products and benefits.  Developed recreation opportunities are offered at over 200 sites on the forests (including campgrounds, picnic areas and boat launches), along with nearly 2,200 miles of trails, and 1,700 miles of open roads.  Elevations range from 5,729 feet at Mount Rogers to 515 feet along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.  Highlights include:

  • 325 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail,
  • 12 National Recreation Trails totaling 143 miles,
  • the 140,000 acre Mount Rogers National Recreation Area,
  • 3 National Scenic Areas,
  • 3 National Forest Scenic Byways,
  • nearly 3 million annual recreation visits,
  • 23 Wildernesses,
  • 700,000 acres of lands actively managed for the production of timber and wood products,
  • Over 1 million acres classified as generally remote areas where a variety of activities may occur.

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