Memorial Day weekend has passed, and the crowds last Sunday at Claytor Lake were huge. With the very warm weather and bright sunshine, folks by the hundreds took advantage of the cooling water and white beaches to have all kinds of fun in the sun. Claytor Lake is undoubtedly one of the real treasures of the New River Valley.
It wasn’t just the beaches that were humming. There were all kinds of watercraft ranging from small canoes and kayaks to sailboats and party boats scooting along the lake and in and out of the marina. Campers were enjoying the campground and the cabins, and the parking lots were full. A child could even explore the Discovery Center, which shares all kinds of nature information with visitors, and, on Sunday, children could experience a special treat—holding a mature snake—if they dared.
The beach had a full complement of lifeguards who rotated between posts, including the busy diving board platform. Intermittent whistles warned swimmers of dangers and provided sunbathers relaxing of the beach with the calming knowledge that the conscientious lifeguards were keeping an eye on everyone enjoying the water. There were even police officers periodically making a quick check on the beach throughout the afternoon for additional safety.
The campground is in a shady, wooded spot and only a short walk down to the waterfront area. People from all over the region (actually all through the country) come to enjoy the campground nestled between the mountains. The cabins are also modern, well-equipped living spaces right near the water. You need to make reservations early in the year though, as campers are quick to scoop up sites.
At Claytor Lake Marina, you can put in your own kayak or boat for a fun day on the water, or you can rent a paddleboard, kayak, canoe or motorboat from Mountain2Island for a reasonable price. In either case, you’re able to enjoy fishing, picture-taking, swimming and all of the other outdoor water activities you can think on the lake.
There are tons of activities to choose from, too, with something special happening almost every day. Music In the Mountains, Get ’em Hooked—Kids Fishing, Claytor Lake Critters, Native American Games and Culture and Under the Lake are just a few of the activities listed as coming up on the Claytor Lake events calendar.
There are also several especially significant activities like festivals that take place every year. For example, the Claytor Lake Festival is coming up on June 8, and this is how it is described on the state park’s website: “The Claytor Lake Festival is the perfect venue for getting outside and enjoying the park. Enjoy food vendors, arts and crafts, wine tasting, a car show, a youth fishing tournament, live entertainment and fireworks on the lake at dusk.” The festival runs from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. and always draws a huge crowd.
It’s nice having a beachfront park with excellent facilities, including a snack bar, gift shop and other amenities right in our area. A family doesn’t have to drive to Virginia Beach or Myrtle Beach to enjoy a summer beach day. What’s more, other families from around the state and country come here to explore the area and have a place to stay or visit, too.
That creates economic development activity in surrounding areas like Radford City, and Pulaski, Giles, Montgomery, and Floyd Counties. People spend time in the park, but also visit events like “Walk to Freedom: The Mary Draper Ingles Story,” the Floyd Country Store, the Cascades, or the Adventure Center at Mountain Lake Lodge, just to name a few.
And that’s folks should look at economic development for tourist dollars: “All for one and one for all,” like the Three Musketeers (no, not the candy bar) used to say. Every community in the New River Valley should support neighbors’ events and form a region that will act as a magnet to attract tourism dollars for the whole and not just individual events or attractions. That will encourage visitors and residents alike to spend more time—and more dollars—in the NRV. Everyone benefits!
Of course, Claytor Lake State Park is one of those prime attractions, and it just happens to be in the center of the NRV. For both recreation and economic development throughout the region, that is a very good thing!
Steve Frey is a writer and CEO of Ascendant Educational Services based in Radford.