Above Photo credit: Betty Leitch Photo
Nestled in Virginia’s Western Highlands, the County of Bath is home to the George Washington National Forest, Douthat State Park, Lake Moomaw, The Nature Conservancy’s Warm Springs Mountain Preserve, Dominion Back Creek, the Cowpasture and Jackson Rivers. The area offers stunning vistas, dark starlit skies, clear, cold streams and a wide range of recreational opportunities. Expect to see white tail deer, wild turkey, black bear and other game animals within our vast woodlands. Known for our fly fishing, the streams and most lakes are stocked with brown, brook and rainbow trout. Anglers also catch large and small mouth bass, bluegill, crappies, catfish and more.
Bath County is home to Douthat State Park, which opened in 1936. Virginia’s state parks have been voted the best in the nation and Douthat is one of Virginia’s largest. Six hundred men of the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, built Douthat State Park in just two years. The park spreads over more than 4,500 acres, which includes Douthat Lake, as well as 72 miles of hiking trails, an amphitheater, a restaurant, 35 cabins and kayak, canoe and boat rentals. Every first weekend in May, Douthat State Park is home to Middle Mountain Momma Bike Challenge.
Another popular recreation spot is Lake Moomaw. In the 1920s, a man named Thomas Gathright purchased 11 farms in the rich Jackson River Valley – about 18,000 acres. Gathright operated this area as a hunting, fishing and wildlife preserve. After his death, the entire tract was sold to the Virginia Game Commission. The plan to build Gathright Dam – for flood control, as well as recreational opportunities – finally came to fruition. Farmhouses were razed, and in one case, dismantled and rebuilt elsewhere. Entire cemeteries were moved. The land was purposely flooded, and the 2,500-acre Lake Moomaw was completed in 1979. The lake is prized by fishermen and boaters. It is primitive, but does offer camping sites, boat rentals and a marina. Each June, teams from across Virginia and beyond gather for the Bath County Triathlon, competing in a triathlon of swimming, bicycling and running events.
A third recreational lake is in the hamlet of Mountain Grove, near the West Virginia border. It was built during the construction of one of the world’s most powerful pumped storage generating systems. The Dominion Power Pumped Storage Station provides electricity for millions of homes across six states. In 1985, the year it went into operation, it was cited as one of the nation’s outstanding engineering achievements.