KANAWHA STATE FOREST
Located just seven miles south of Charleston, West Virginia, this forest's close proximity to the heavily populated Kanawha Valley has made it a recreational haven. Some of the state's most popular picnic areas are here, along with significant hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing opportunities. Kanawha's swimming pool and playground attract families during the summer season, and the fully equipped campground is one of the few in the Charleston area.
The 9,300-acre forest is noted among naturalists for its diverse wildflower and bird populations. Rich cove forest sites provide nesting habitat for 19 species of wood warblers, a feature which draws birders from as far away as Canada.
- In the early 1900s, logging activities were prominent in the area around Kanawha State Forest. Many timber companies operated in the region, causing deforestation and damage to the land.
- In 1923, the West Virginia Conservation Commission was established to address these ecological concerns. The commission aimed to protect the state's natural resources, and one of its initiatives was the creation of state forests.
- Kanawha State Forest was officially established in 1937. Its primary purpose was to restore the forested landscape, support wildlife conservation, and provide recreational opportunities for the public.
- The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) played a significant role in the development of Kanawha State Forest. From 1933 to 1942, CCC workers were assigned to the forest, where they constructed numerous facilities, such as roads, trails, cabins, and picnic areas. The CCC's work greatly contributed to the forest's infrastructure.
- During World War II, Kanawha State Forest was temporarily repurposed. It served as a recreational area for soldiers stationed at Camp Kanawha, a military camp adjacent to the forest.
- Over the years, Kanawha State Forest has undergone various expansions and improvements. The addition of adjoining land and the acquisition of private properties have expanded the forest's size and protected more natural habitats.
- Today, Kanawha State Forest spans approximately 9,300 acres and offers a wide array of recreational activities. Visitors can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, fishing, camping, picnicking, and cross-country skiing, among other activities.
- The forest also serves as an important educational and research site, providing opportunities for nature study and scientific exploration.
Overnight visitors enjoy the forest's 46-site, fully equipped camping area. The campground is served by two bathhouses and coin-operated laundry facilities. All sites have fireplaces and picnic tables. In addition, 25 sites feature electricity and water hookups. Firewood and ice are available. A dump station is available for campground guests.
The campground is open from mid-April to the end of October (weather permitting). Only one tent or trailer is allowed per site and check-out time is 12 noon. An attendant is on duty from 2:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. daily. Campers may select a site that is not taken or reserved and the attendant will stop by and register you.
Reservations are only being accepted for periods that include a major holiday, two day minimum.
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The popular swimming pool opens to visitors on Memorial Day weekend and closes for the season on Labor Day.
Properly licensed individuals are welcome to hunt or fish in-season, in specified areas. No hunting zones surround all forest recreational facilites. Fishing opportunities are available at the two-acre Ellison Pond. Fishing is restricted to children 10 years of age and under and Class Q license holders from March 1 through May 31. The remainder of the year is open to anyone properly licensed. The pond is stocked with trout, bass and bluegill. Other neaby fishing areas include: Kanawha River, Ridenour Park, Coonskin Park and Wine Cellar Park.