Holly River State Park, located in the northeastern corner of Webster County in West Virginia, originated as an effort by the federal government to reclaim land ravaged by timbering in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The park, its present heavy woodlands a sharp contrast to the early 1900s, offers extensive fishing, camping, hiking, and other recreational opportunities.
Immigrants from Switzerland settled the region about 1870, clearing and farming the eastern portion of the present park, which adjoins the Swiss-settled section of Randolph County. The area was severely affected by timbering, and it became progressively poorer with the timber gone, the game diminished, and most of the fish destroyed by silt and runoff.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, under the direction of the Farm Security Administration, in 1937 began purchasing property to reforest the land and reclaim streams. For the next five years, the federal government continued the effort, purchasing additional land and building recreational facilities. Holly River State Park was created in 1938, under the management of the State Conservation Commission. The state took full control in 1954 when the federal government transferred the deed.
Additional land purchases in the 1970s and early 1980s brought the state park to its current size, including the 104-acre Potato Knob-Falls Run tract, purchased with help from the Nature Conservancy. In 1981, an experimental liming device was installed on Laurel Run to neutralize the stream’s acidity, which had caused fish kills. It was one of the first liming devices created to combat acid rain’s effects on West Virginia trout streams.
Holly River State Park, which includes more than 8,000 acres, has vacation cabins, campsites, a restaurant, and other attractions.
This Article was written by Elizabeth Jill Wilson
Last Revised on August 20, 2012
Where People and Nature Meet: A History of West Virginia State Parks. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1988.
Anderson, Stanley "Judd". The Kanawha Head Project: A History of Holly River State Park. Utica, KY: McDowell Pub., 1993.