July 1, 1937: Watoga and Babcock State Parks Opened
On July 1, 1937, Watoga and Babcock state parks were opened to the public and quickly became centerpieces of the fledgling state park system. Both Watoga and Babcock were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC, one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, was designed to put young people to work during the Great Depression.
Watoga, located in Pocahontas County, is West Virginia’s largest state park. Workers at three CCC camps built Watoga’s original cabins, superintendent’s residence, stable, restaurant-administration building, 11-acre lake, horse and foot trails, 14 miles of roads, and swimming pool, all between 1934 and 1937.
During those same years, CCC workers established Babcock State Park in Fayette County. Like Watoga, Babcock was built on a former logging site. Babcock’s cabins, picnic shelters, and other structures were built from locally quarried stone and American chestnut trees that’d been killed by the chestnut blight. CCC workers forged the door latches and other metal work on site. Babcock’s famous Glade Creek Mill was added in 1976.
Watoga and Babcock are two lasting legacies of the CCC, which gave jobs to more than 55,000 West Virginians.