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Beech Fork officials hope event sparks interest in a water trail

June 27, 2018 GMT

BARBOURSVILLE — Since Beech Fork State Park is built around a creek and a lake, parks officials want visitors to spend more time paddling around in them.

On Tuesday, June 26, the park will host an event designed to do just that.

“We’re celebrating National Canoe Day with a float trip down through the park,” said Dillard Price, the park’s superintendent. “It will be a 3-mile float, and it will follow the same route where we hope to establish a designated water trail.”

Water trails have become all the rage of late. On June 16, an estimated 1,400 canoeists and kayakers participated in the annual Tour de Coal float trip on Kanawha County’s portion of the popular Coal River Water Trail.

Price said he’d like for Beech Fork to become a destination for water sports enthusiasts in West Virginia’s western counties.

“We have a nice lake, and a great place for paddling,” he said. “People need to know about it.”

He believes the upcoming float is a natural way to introduce them to the resource.

“It’s a great way to tie National Canoe Day in with raising interest in the new trail,” he said.

The float will begin at 4:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Price said participants should meet at the boat-launch ramp inside the park. People who show up without boats will be able to rent canoes or kayaks.

“We’ll load the boats up and take them up Beech Fork Road to the put-in site,” he said. “From there, we’ll do about a 3-mile flat-water float down Beech Fork Creek to the edge of Beech Fork Lake. Our naturalist will act as the guide.”

Price said the float should take 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

“We’ve been researching local history, and we’ll incorporate some of that into the event,” he said. “People should expect to see wildlife — deer, beaver, great blue herons, geese and ducks. If anyone wants to fish, that’s perfectly OK. The fishing’s pretty good in the creek and in the Beech Fork arm of the lake.”

Price said the number of canoeists and kayaks using the park has risen dramatically in recent years.

“Paddling is really popular right now,” he said. “Kayaking has just exploded. We think having an established water trail will add to the experience.”

Parks officials are currently waiting for approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to seek a water-trail designation. If corps officials approve the idea, the West Virginia Recreational Trails Authority will then decide whether Beech Fork should be added to the state’s trail list.

“We’re excited about it,” Price said. “We’ve been working on this for quite a while, and things are starting to happen.”