GENERAL INFO: Named for Native Americans who lived in the area for hundreds of years, Occoneechee is on the John H. Kerr Reservoir, better known as Buggs Island Lake, and is popular with anglers and boaters. Facilities include cabins, campsites, equestrian camping, picnic shelters, an amphitheater, a playground, boat ramps, and a private concession offering fishing and pontoon boat rentals as well as snacks. The park also has a 15-mile round trip (seven-mile linear) multipurpose trail for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The visitor center and museum introduce visitors to Native American culture and the indigenous Occoneechee people.
Providing 24-hour access Virginia’s largest lake, three boat ramps open the door to 48,000 acres of fishing, boating and aquatic recreation. Forty-eight campsites are available for tent and RV campers. Some sites are right on the shoreline, providing easy fishing and boating access. The park also has 13 cabins that allow guests to enjoy the comforts of home as well as beautiful views of the lake. An equestrian campground with 11 sites and 11 covered horse stalls offers easy access to the park’s trail system. Occoneechee also has picnic areas near the lake, a playground, boat rentals and a lakefront amphitheater.
Park size: 2,698 acres. Buggs Island Lake (Kerr Reservoir), 48,000 acres. Panhandle Area is 1,900 acres.
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AT-A-GLANCE: The pictographs directly below show park offerings. Click on those of interest or read below for more detail. Mouse-over the image for a short text description or click hereto view a legend in which each pictograph's meaning is expressed.
Its address is 1192 Occoneechee Park Road, Clarksville, VA 23927-9449; Latitude, 36.626101. Longitude, -78.524101.
Drive Time: Northern Virginia, three and a half hours; Richmond, two hours; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, three hours; Roanoke, two and half hours
PARK MAP: Click here.
OVERNIGHT FACILITIES: There are 11 cabins, two lodges 48 campsites for tents and RVs, and 11 equestrian campsites. Water view sites by reservation only. There are no designated swimming areas at this park. Boat launch is free for campers. Most campsite areas are shaded. For information on availability of overnight accommodations, particular park amenities or to make a reservation, you can reserve online or call 1-800-933-PARK. Click here for park fees.
Click here to visit a Flickr photoset of typical cabins and lodges at the park. Cabins and lodges vary; any given dwelling may not match what's shown in the photos.
Click here for details on reservation cancellation and transfer policies. A fee is charged per pet per night for overnight stays.
Cabins and Lodges: Weekly rentals, which are required for these facilities during prime season, start on Saturday or Sunday. No bed rentals. A two-night minimum stay is required the rest of the year, however in prime season guests who wish to stay less than a week may call 30 days prior to desired arrival date to see if there is vacancy for two-night minimum stay. Cabins and lodges are open year-round and may be reserved up to 11 months in advance.
Lodges: Occoneechee has two 6-bedroom lodges. During prime season, both lodges are rented for week-long stays. L009-SAT stays start on Saturday and L012-SUN stays start on Sunday.
Each lodge has:
Total sites of each type: Two-bedroom frame, 6; two-bedroom frame water-view, 3; three-bedroom frame, 1; three-bedroom frame water-view, 1; six-bedroom lodge, 2
Two-bedroom frame – two-bedroom frame cabin, sleeps six maximum, one queen bed, two sets of bunk beds (sleeps four); no bed rentals.
Two-bedroom frame water-view – two-bedroom frame cabin, water-view, sleeps six maximum, one queen bed, two sets of bunk beds. (Cabin 11, which is universally accessible, has a queen bed that sleeps two, a fold-out queen sofa bed that sleeps two and bunkbeds that sleep two. No bed rentals.
Three-bedroom frame – three-bedroom frame cabin, sleeps eight maximum, one queen bed, two single beds in second bedroom, two sets of bunk beds (sleeps four) in third bedroom; no bed rentals.
Three-bedroom frame water-view – three-bedroom frame cabin, water-view, sleeps eight maximum, one queen bed, two single beds in second bedroom, two sets of bunk beds in third bedroom; no bed rentals.
Six-bedroom lodge – six bedrooms, sleeps 16 maximum, three baths, universally accessible, two bedrooms with a queen size bed in each, two bedrooms with two single beds in each, and two bedrooms with two sets of bunk beds in each; no bed rentals.
Total: 11 cabins; two lodges
Total sites of each type: Standard, 3; EW, 33; StdWaterview, 6; EW Waterview, 6
B Green EW 35ft: Electric and water; RVs up to 35 feet allowed only in Campground B (no exceptions); various equipment; no sewer. Accepts outlets for 20 and 30-amp current. These sites are not on the lake.
C Purple Std 30ft: Various equipment, no hookups; RVs up to 30 feet only.
C Blue EW 30ft: RVs up to 30 feet in Campground C (no exceptions); various equipment; electric and water hook-ups. Accepts outlets for 20 and 30-amp current.
C Red Std-W 30ft: Waterfront sites for various equipment with no hookups; RVs up to 30 feet only (no exception).
C Orange EW-W 30ft: Waterfront site for various equipment with electric and water hookups; RVs up to 30 feet (no exceptions). Accepts outlets for 20 and 30-amp current. These types of sites are in Campground C only.
Total campsites: 48.
Occoneechee Equestrian Campground: Eleven 100 by 24-foot campsites with electricity; eleven 12 by 12-foot covered stalls (not specifically assigned). This campground operates from March 1 to the first Monday in December. Check-in is 4 p.m., check-out is 3 p.m.
One vehicle in addition to RV or horse trailer, popup or two small tents; maximum occupancy is six people per campsite. The campground is designed mainly for self-sustaining horse trailers and RVs, but equestrian customers with other camping equipment are welcome. Trails are open but may be in poor condition after heavy rain. The park is stabilizing the trails with material to prevent such conditions in the future.
Camping Lodge (bunkhouse) – Two-night minimum; no full-week requirement. The two-room lodge has seven bunk beds, a refrigerator, a microwave, a coffeepot, and heating and air conditioning. A small front deck and a large (12 feet by 24 feet) covered back deck with two picnic tables are just outside the building. Cooking and smoking are not permitted inside the lodge. This facility is not sold 11 months in advance; it goes online in January each year. Check-in is 3 p.m., and check-out is 10 a.m.
The transfer deadline policy and cancellation and pet fees are the same as those for cabins.
TRAILS: About 3.1 miles of walking trails wind through woodlands throughout the park. A one-mile self-guided interpretive trail takes visitors through a terraced garden and land where Occonneechee Plantation once was. The park also has a 15-mile round trip multi-purpose linear trail for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Visit the Explore Virginia Outdoors website for enhanced maps and video tours of Occoneechee's trails.
WILDLIFE: Virginia State Parks are great places to discover and reconnect with the wild world. Bring a camera and share your captures with the world. But please don't disturb or get too close to the animals. The park is, after all, their home. Here are a few recent natural encounters others have had at Occoneechee.
View all wildlife encounter photos from Occoneechee.
Buggs Island Lake and connecting Lake Gaston are famous for the number and size of fish there. Striped and largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and perch are plentiful. Three boat ramps provide motorized and non-motorized boat access to Buggs Island Lake. A Buggs Island Special Pass that covers boat launching and parking for Occoneechee and Staunton River state parks is available. Call 1-800-933-PARK for more information. Pontoon and fishing boats, including safety equipment, can be rented at boat ramp 1 from Clarksville Marine Rentals Inc.
Boating: Available year-round. Motorboats are allowed. Three boat launching ramps are available for access to Buggs Island Lake for both motorized and non-motorized boats. Call 1-800-933-PARK to purchase an annual boat launch passport. Click here for park fees.
Pontoon and fishing boats, including safety equipment, can be rented at boat ramp #1 from Clarksville Marine Rentals, Inc. It's open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Boats must be returned by 6 p.m. Thirty gallons of gas are included in the rental. Call (434) 374-2525 or (434) 374-2755 to make reservations.
HUNTING: Managed lottery hunts for shotgun and muzzeloading weapons. See http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/hunting.shtml for more information. Also, the Occoneechee Panhandle Area provides public hunting for those with a valid state hunting license; you must register at the area's access gate.
HORSES: Horses are allowed on the Panhandle Multi-use Trail. Equestrian camping is available. See the camping section above for information about overnight horse facilities here. There are no horse rentals. State law requires that visitors carry a copy of a negative Coggins report with each horse brought to the park.
VISITOR CENTER, GIFT SHOP: Camper registration. Also, the center features Native American history, "The Occoneechee Story," a living hut and artifacts. Also within is a year-round gift shop featuring Native American merchandise, t-shirts, hats, souvenirs, postcards and educational material.
NATURE, HISTORY PROGRAMS: Wheels for Lungs, last Saturday in September. Click here to view park events, festivals, workshops and interpretive programs.
NEARBY ATTRACTIONS: Prestwood Plantation; John H. Kerr Dam with Visitor Center. Molliver Vineyards and Winery offers wine tastings, tours, wine sales and a variety of outdoor recreation on its 134-acre vineyard and winery on the Bannister River. Visit www.clarksvillva.com for more information about the area.
PICNIC SHELTERS: The park has two shelters that can be rented from 8 a.m. to dusk (all day). Call 1-800-933-PARK to reserve. Shelter users may use the volleyball area, and the park lends volleyballs as well as horseshoes. The shelters are available for rent from the first weekend in March through the first weekend in December. Parking fees are not included in the rental (see above for details). Click here for park fees.
Cancellation policy: No refund within 14 days before reserved date. Before then, there's a cancellation fee.
Shelter 1 (small): Accommodates up to 35 people comfortably. It has lights as well as electrical outlets and is near the playground, which makes it ideal for kids. It also features horseshoe pits, a trail leading to a beautiful lakefront view and a modern restroom facility.
Shelter 2 (large): It accommodates up to 100 comfortably and is near the playground, horseshoe pits and restrooms. This shelter is universally accessible, has lights and electrical outlets and is on the left just past the visitor center.
CONCESSIONS: Pontoon and fishing boats, including safety equipment, can be rented at boat ramp #1 from Clarksville Marine Rentals, Inc. It's open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Boats must be returned by 6 p.m. Thirty gallons of gas are included in the rental. Call (434) 374-2525 or (434) 374-2755 to make reservations.
HISTORY: The Occoneechi Indians lived on an island near what is now the park until 1676. The strategic location enabled them to play a major role in the fur trade up and down the East Coast. When Europeans arrived, the tribe's influence was at its peak, and their language was commonly used in trade.
Bacon's Rebellion abruptly ended their prominence in 1676. This armed rebellion is considered to be the first to occur in the New World. It began when Nathaniel Bacon’s plantation was raided by Susquehannock Indians, who had been displaced from their home to the north. Bacon asked Virginia Gov. Berkley to raise a militia and retaliate. Berkley denied the request so Bacon raised a militia, in violation of the governor’s wishes.
In pursuit of the Susquehannocks, the militia encountered the Occoneechi at their island home. Fearing indiscriminant treatment by Bacon's militia, the Occoneechi offered to fight the Susquehannocks themselves. The Occoneechi defeated the Susquehannocks. Upon returning home, however, a conflict erupted between the Occoneechi and Bacon’s men over spoils and the fate of the captives. The conflict decimated the Occoneechi, and remaining members of the tribe moved south to an area where Hillsboro, N.C., now stands.
In 1839, William Townes built Occoneechee Plantation built here. The 3,100-acre plantation occupied much of what is now the park as well as Occoneechee Island. The house and many features of the plantation were on land through which Plantation Trail now passes. The plantation was sold to Dempsey Graves Crudup, who lived there with his family until the house burned down on Christmas Eve in 1898. Candles on a Christmas tree probably caused the fire.
In 1947 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began building the John H. Kerr Dam. It was completed in 1953, and the land flooded, forming the John H. Kerr Reservoir, more commonly known as Buggs Island Lake.
In 1968, the state began leasing the land of Occoneechee State Park for recreational use.
FRIENDS GROUP: The Friends of Occoneechee State Park is a group of volunteers registered with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to support the park, its staff and park users. The citizen support organization (CSO) group’s mission is to identify and promote activities to conserve, enhance and interpret the park’s natural, cultural, scenic, historic, educational and recreational resources. Learn about or join the friends group or send an email note.
Master plans must be written for parks before they're built.
The plans are updated at least once every five years thereafter.
The plans cover the size, types, infrastructure and locations of facilities as well as the site's special features and resources.
Three public meetings are held during the initial development of each plan.
Click here (PDF) for this park's master plan.
CONTACT INFO: Occoneechee State Park, 1192 Occoneechee Park Road, Clarksville, VA 23927-9449; phone, (434) 374-2210;
Learn more about park offerings by calling 1-800-933-PARK or email resvs. Be sure to specify the park of interest.