Pipestem Resort State park opened on Memorial Day in 1970, and is situated along the Bluestone River that splits Summers and Mercer County. Prior to becoming a designated state park, the Bluestone River Gorge was the home of moonshiners during Prohibition. Pipestem received its name from a local plant, spiraea alba, that was used to create tobacco pipes by early settlers and Native Americans. The park’s aerial tram opened in 1972, and carries patrons from the visitors center to the base of the gorge. There are over 10 miles of trails available at Pipestem Resort State Park, as well as various lodging and recreational options.
Prior to becoming a state park, Pipestem was a functioning mountain community with schools and a post office. The town of Pipestem was named after a native blue flowered shrub, spiraea alba, in which the hollowed stems of the plant were used as both peace and tobacco pipes by Native Americans and settlers.
“Those mountaineer moonshiners lived in cabins on the plateau
above the gorge, or resided in the villages of Pipestem, in Summers County, or
Lerona, in Mercer County. They “bootlegged” their product, which they called “Living
Water,” among the thirsty coal miners of Raleigh, Wyoming, Mercer, and McDowell
counties They were a well-armed, wild, and lawless breed who zealously guarded
their domain against unwanted intruders.” –Howard B. Lee, Prosecuting Attorney
of Mercer County during Prohibition.1
Pipestem Resort State Park consists of over 4,000 acres that was purchased from 56 landowners. The park opened on Memorial Day in 1970 after several years and $14 million in construction making it the most expensive of the various West Virginia state parks. The state park includes wading pool and indoor swimming pool, a golf course,
an ice skating rink, an amphitheater, a cafeteria and coffee shop, a miniature
golf course, shuffleboard, ping pong, and a large patio all located around the
park’s recreation center. Other amenities at Pipestem Resort State Park include
over 10 miles of trails, horseback riding, a visitor center, and an 18-hole
championship golf course designed by Geoffrey Cornish.
After enjoying the
visitor center, patrons can board a tram to the bottom of the Bluestone River Gorge
that drops over 1,000 feet vertically. Pipestem Knob Lookout can only be
reached by foot or horseback, and offers a stunning view of the Bluestone River Gorge. The main lodge at Pipestem Resort State park is built along the edge of
the gorge, while the Mountain Creek Lodge is located at the base of the gorge.