State Parks in Virginia

geographic distribution of the first six state parks established in 1936
geographic distribution of the first six state parks established in 1936
Map Source: Color Landform Atlas of the United States

Virginia started its state park system with a bang, opening six parks simultaneously in 1936 They were:1
Seashore - now First Landing State Park
Westmoreland State Park State Park
Staunton River State Park
Douthat State Park
Fairy Stone State Park
Hungry Mother State Park

Virginia parks were for whites-only in 1936, but under segregation the state was required to provide equal if separate facilities. In 1939, the Goodwin Lake Recreational Area was opened in Prince Edward County as a "Colored Only" recreation area while nearby Prince Edward Lake was opened as a "whites only" recreation area.

After World War II, legal challenges to segregation included a lawsuit that forced the state park system to upgrade the services it offered to people of color. A Black man prevented from entering Staunton River State Park in 1948 filed suit, and Virginia's white leadership in state government responded by enhancing the facilities at Goodwin Lake Recreational Area. The state added cabins, concession stand and a bathhouse. The swimming area and parking were expanded, and the site was renamed "Prince Edward State Park for Negroes."2

Prince Edward State Park was developed exclusively for Negroes
Prince Edward State Park was developed exclusively for Negroes
Source: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Prince William State Park

To provide recreational opportunities for non-whites blocked from using Douthat State Park after getting pressure from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Dolly Ann Civilian Conservation Corps Camp F24 of the Civilian Conservation Corps developed the Green Pastures Recreation Area in Alleghany County. It was 11 miles away within the George Washington National Forest near Covington. When opened in 1940, Green Pastures provided a lake for swimming, together with a sandy beach, bathhouse, hiking trails, and other facilities.

The Federal government declared that Green Pastures Recreation Area was open for use by whites and non-whites in 1950, and renamed the site Longdale in 1964 to obscure the previous racial restriction. The US Forest Service closed Longdale Recreation Area in 2017 due to budget constraints. The Virginia State Park system obtained a 30-year lease and reopened it in 2021, and Governor Northan included $5 million for dam repair and resporation of the Civilian Conservation Corps buildings in his final 2022-2024 budget.3

Breaks Interstate Park

City and County Parks in Virginia

First Landing State Park

National Parks in Virginia

Natural Bridge - From Private Ownership to State Park

Shot Tower Historic State Park

Claytor Lake State Park in early 1950's
Claytor Lake State Park in early 1950's
Source: Virginia State Parks, Claytor Lake State Park Virtual History Tour



1. "History of Virginia State Parks," Virginia State Parks, (last checked February 4, 2022)
2. "Twin Lakes State Park," Virginia State Parks,; "Maceo Conrad Martin," Virginia Department of Recreation and Conservation, (last checked February 4, 2022)
3. "Green Pastures Recreation Area," Virginia State Parks,; "The Segregationist Past of the 'Green Pastures' Recreation Site," US Departmebnt of Agriculture, july 29, 2021, (last checked February 4, 2022)

visitation to state parks follows a seasonal pattern
visitation to state parks follows a seasonal pattern
Source: Board of Conservation and Recreation, Minutes, May 4, 2023 s

Parks, Forests, Tourism in Virginia
Virginia Places