Located along the Bluestone River about 12 miles northeast of Princeton, WV, Pipestem Resort State Park (commonly just called Pipestem State Park) is a testament to government planning and outdoor recreation. Founded in 1963, the park is on over 4,000 acreas and offers recreational opportunities for almost anyone. It is named after the meadowsweet plant, which earned the nickname “pipestem” because of its use by Native Americans and early European settlers.
The Bluestone River Canyon, in which the state parks sits, has long been known for its natural beauty. This began during the Permian period when the Allegheny Mountains were formed by great geological forces. Over the following hundreds of millions of years, water and erosion etched out the mountains and plateaus, creating valleys and canyons that crisscross the landscape. The Bluestone River has etched a canyon that is over 1,200 ft deep. Because of this stunning natural beauty and the transportation opportunity of the river, the area has long been occupied, first by Native Americans and later by European immigrants. Before the founding of the state park, this land had several farms and families.
Creating a state park in the Bluestone River Gorge had long been a goal for a number of local figures during the mid 1900s. These efforts paid off in the early 1960s when official development of Pipestem State Park began in order to spark the economy in Southern West Virginia. Approval for the park was given in 1963, and the land was purchased over the next several years. The land purchase and subsequent development was largely funded by money from the Area Redevelopment Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Compared to many earlier West Virginia State Parks, this park was planned from day 1 to offer more of an resort experience. The first park superintendent, Troy Gatrell then oversaw the construction of a number of new facilities throughout the late 60s and early 70s, many of which still function today. The first to be completed was a 9 hole golf course, which opened in 1967.
Pipestem Resort offers a large number of recreational activities and facilities. They include two golf courses totaling 27 holes, tennis courts, ice skating rink, riding stables, a 16-acre lake, multiple pools, amphitheater, several lodges (one of which is only accessible via airtram), restaurants, cafes, and numbers small shops and craft stores. Additionally, there are over 25 cottages, a large campground, numerous trails, and a nature center. As such, the park offers opportunities for all. As of 2015, Pipestem State Park had an economic significance of $8.6 million.