Cacapon State Park offers a 4-star resort experience for anyone visiting nearby historic Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. But I wanted to experience what life was like 90 years ago when the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built the cabins, stables, lake, dam, and beach at Capapon State Park.
Now for anyone who doesn’t know about the CCC, it was a service-in-America option for young men during the Depression in the 1930s. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) established the New Deal as a way to keep Americans gainfully employed.
“Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. The CCC or C’s as it was sometimes known, allowed single men between the ages of 18 and 25 to enlist in work programs to improve America’s public lands, forests, and parks.”National Park Service
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Three Key CCC Facts
CCC planted more than 3 billion trees.
The organization built shelters and trails in 800 American parks.
CCC ran for nine years (until 1942).
National Register of Historic Places
Cacapon State Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Located in Morgan county, the 6,115-acre state park is situated in the northeast corner of the state (near the Maryland border. It spans the Eastern Panhandle. Key geographical elements are the Cacapon Mountain as well as the Cacapon River (in the west). The is a main entrance to the park near its beach.
The CCC built a dam along with Capacon Lake. But the park’s historic district also includes legacy cabins and playgrounds built between 1933 and 1942 in West Virginia. The historic designation includes rustic style architecture and landscape design.
According to the West Virginia Department of Commerce, “Cacapon Resort State Park was the first CCC state park to be completed. Camp Morgan was established October 4, 1934 in what is now the main picnic area in the park. The land was devastated by clear-cutting of the timber and by poor agricultural practices of small subsistence farmers during the Great Depression. The men were responsible for the construction of 27 miles of roads and trails within the park, bath house, lake, dam and beach, picnic areas and shelters, stables, supply house, staff residences and rental cabins. The 12-room Old Inn was the first lodge in the WV Park system.”
North Fork Cabin Area
So I decided to vacation in West Virginia’s mountains in July. My main mission was to find a dog-friendly hotel so I could take Parker to see Berkeley Springs. I was so excited to discover that Cacapon State Park was located just nine miles down the road.
I chose to stay in the North Fork Cabin Area. There are five rustic cabins, numbered 8-12. As some of the cabins are pet-friendly, I was able to bring my Golden Retriever on this West Virginia vacation. (But the resort does charge a $40 pet surcharge.)
Check-in is set at 4 p.m. so Parker and I had to wait in the parking lot at the hotel. But there is a wonderful outdoor patio where you can rest in the shade. Parker was quite happy to eat ice cubes out of a thermos and nose around for any sticks on the ground.
After the staff provided me with the cabin keys, we had to drive up the mountain to reach the North Park. The log cabins are nestled in groves of trees near the meandering roads. They sit on stone foundations. During the colder months, you can build a fire in the stone chimneys.
The CCC built all five legacy cabins. They vary in size. There are two 2-person cabins, two 3-person cabins and a 6-person cabin. The CCC also built a playground in the North Fork Cabin Area.
I stayed in the “1-person/1-dog” cabin. This rustic log cabin features saddle notching and cement chinking. There is board and batten siding in the gable ends. There are six pane wood windows. The cabin is one and one-half story high. It had an asphalt shingle roof. The interior stone chimney dominated the room.
My favorite feature about the cabin was the wooden rocking chair. I was so tired after walking about 7 miles around Berkeley Springs that I just collapsed in the chair. It reminded me of poem entitled “My Rocking-Chair” written by Robert Service.
“When I am old and worse for wear
I want to buy a rocking-chair,
And set it on a porch where shine
The stars of morning-glory vine . . .”Robert Service
While I didn’t pull the rocking chair out on the front entrance porch, I was tempted. In fact, the porch was my second favorite thing about the cabin. Parker and I love to take long walks at the U.S. Capitol grounds each morning where he likes to sit on a bench with me. On our West Virginia getaway, we shared the porch.
Now I always carry a fold up chair in my Suburu so Parker and I were able to watch the sunset outside. Fireflies danced their ballet among the conifer and evergreen trees. A rabbit darted around the wildflowers and grass.
Staying in a CCC-era legacy cabin was hardly “roughing it.” The cabin featured electricity and air conditioning. There is no telephone in the room but cell service can be found throughout the park. The double bed is extremely comfortable. There are window blinds to pull down at night. The mini kitchen featured a refrigerator and stovetop. My shower didn’t work (no water) so I did have to skip it. I’m glad I decided not to take Parker swimming in Cacapon Lake because a wet dog is a smelly dog.
I was delighted to experience New Deal history with my one-night stay deep in the West Virginia’s woods in a legacy cabin.
“Despites some changes, Cacapon State Park retains its overall, original New Deal-era landscape design. The park’s 6,115 acres are primarily covered with forests of native hard- and softwood trees, both deciduous and coniferous.”
There is so much to do Cacapon State Park that I can imagine a family could easily spend a week’s vacation. First stop is the sandy beach and lakeside swimming. On a weekend, the beach is packed with families on a hot July day. Parker and I decided to find a picnic table so he could sit and watch the children swim in the lake.
All paying, overnight guests get a free beach pass valid throughout their stay. The beach operation is seasonal.
Bikers will lose themselves riding around the wooded park. There are nearly 25 miles of track, including machine built and single trap.
Both lakes are stocked so the anglers can enjoy licensed fishing. The Lodge Front Desk sells the fishing licenses. Even if you don’t like to fish, I recommend walking down to little lake near the legacy cabins. Parker and I found a bench. He watched the little boy trying to catch a fish. I just wanted to stare at the mountains in the distance. Pure zen.
Cacapon State Park offers paddle boats, row boats, canoes, kayaks and paddle boards to rent. It costs $12 per hour. Triple “C” Outfitters provides horseback riding. It costs $40 for a 1-hour horseback ride. There is a Wobble Clay Range. The Healing Waters Spa will “refresh, rejuvenate and re-energize your mind, body & soul.”
The park’s 18-hole Robert Trent Jones course features 72 sand traps and onsite driving range. The green fee is $35 per person for the 18-holes and $20 per person for 9-holes on the weekend.
The Frisbee Disc Golf course features 18 holes of adventure and fun.
Nature Center Programs
Cacapon State Park is part of the Young People for Parks (YPP). This is an environmental education program geared to children aged 6-16. Participants must complete three specified programs during their stay at the park.
On the weekend when I visited, Cacapon State Park offered five different programs on July 10. The WV Morning Melodies is a birding class where attendees learn to identify Cacapon’s common song birds by sigh and sound. There is also a 90-minute Berkeley Springs State Park orientation class to meet the summer naturalist. The afternoon featured the Power of Pollinators” and “Weed Warriors” classes.
If I had stayed over on Saturday night, I would have definitely attended “Cacapon Campfire.” This nighttime event features a campfire circle plus songs and marshmellows.
Cacapon State Park features 13 different trails of varying difficulty. Parker and I decided to climb the Central Trail, which was closest to our cabin. A key point of interest is Bear Den Rocks. I am grateful we didn’t see a bear! The nearby crag overlooks the valley between Cacapon and Sleepy Creek mountains.
Although the 5-mile hike is rated “moderate with some midgrade,” I can say that it was challenging. This was either because Parker was eager to lunge at every squirrel, bird, or stick which he saw OR because I didn’t wear hiking boots.
The Central Trail crossed the east side of Cacapon Mountain. I saw a lot of hardwoods, pines, bushes and wildflowers. The rocks were pretty hard to climb over in parts because I couldn’t lose hold of Parker’s leash.
Naturally, Berkeley Springs is the first choice to relax in the mineral springs water. But Cacapon Resort offers a “healing waters spa” that is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. In addition, the hotel boasts a indoor heated pool with a whirlpool. It is open everyday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Since dogs are not permitted, I didn’t get to try these services.
Since the park is located just 110 miles from two major cities, it is a great weekend getaway.
“The park is frequented by both nature lovers and adventure seekers from around the state, as well as nearby cities such as Baltimore and Washington, D.C.”West Virginia State Park
I was entranced by the Cacapon Park’s Depression-era history. It was easy to imagine my parents packing up my older siblings to stay in a cabin in the 1940s after WWII ended. The lake would have provided fresh trout for dinner cooked over a grill. The kids would have run around CCC-era playground and swam in the lake.
But none of this would have been possible without FDR’s CCC. These young men came to the Eastern Panhandle wielding their hammers, saws, and nails. Their legacy lives on through the nearly 100-year-old rustic cabins which are still available to rent.
(NOTE: The Ole’ Inn at Cacapon State Park was the first overnight accommodating lodge in the West Virginia State Park System. It is still available to rent today. It would be perfect for a family reunion as there are 12 rooms.)
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