Park Focus: Hawks Nest

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Hawks Nest State Park, at Ansted, West Virginia, in northern Fayette County, is among West Virginia's most popular state-park destinations -- partly because of its breathtaking panoramic views of the New River Gorge. The park protects 276 acres in the heart of whitewater-rafting country. Its name comes from the numerous osprey, also known as fish hawks, that once nested on its cliffs. The canyon is now home to many hawks, turkey vultures, black vultures, peregrine falcons, and some bald and golden eagles.

The park's stone structures, including the main overlook visitor complex and park museum, were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. Below a 31-room lodge, built in 1967, the New River forms Hawks Nest Lake. Its historical significance goes beyond its CCC heritage. Its main overlook, Hawks Nest, was known as Marshall's Pillar during the period of 1812-1840, so named for U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall, who visited the site in the early 1800s in connection with plans for canalization of New River. By the era of the Civil War through the 1920s, the rock pillar was known as Hawks Nest Rock. A small community located at the bottom of the New River Gorge known as Hawks Nest was established circa 1873. Although much of the settlement had long since been abandoned, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) continued to maintain the Hawks Nest station until the late 1930s.

Visitors may enjoy the park's aerial tramway, restaurant, hiking, jetboat excursions, nature center, golf course, picnic areas, playground, paddleboats, fishing, and biking.

Park Focus author Audrey Stanton-Smith is a West Virginia writer and journalist.