From the north:
Take U.S. 501 south to Halifax, Va. At intersection of U.S. 501 and
state Route 360, turn left; go about eight miles. At intersection of
state Route 360 and U.S. 360, go straight through the stoplight to
Route 344. Travel 10 miles to the park entrance, which is southeast of
From the south: Take U.S. 501 north to South Boston,
Va. At intersection of U.S. 501 and U.S. 58, turn right onto U.S. 58
east; go approximately one mile and turn left at stoplight onto U.S.
360; travel east on U.S. 360 approximately eight miles and turn right
onto Route 344; go 10 miles to park entrance.
From the west: Take U.S. 58 east to the intersection
of U.S. 58 and U.S. 360; turn left at stoplight onto U.S. 360; go east
approximately eight miles and turn right onto Route 344; travel 10
miles to park entrance.
From the east: Take U.S. 360 west to Scottsburg, Va;
at intersection of U.S. 360 with state Route 360 and Route 344, turn
left at stoplight onto Route 344; travel 10 miles to park entrance.
This area was settled
first by small farmers. With the introduction of tobacco as a cash
crop, the area plantations began to grow. Many plantations were
located along the Staunton River above the park. Red Hill, the
last home of Patrick Henry and Roanoke Plantation, home of Captain
Adam Clement and his son John M. Clement, who is the father of Samuel
Clement (Mark Twain) are two of the better-known plantations. The Fork
Plantation was located on what is now Staunton River State Park.
H. E. Coleman owned the plantation and in 1839 the
ownership was transferred to Richard Logan. The plantation contained
all of the land located on the fork. One tract of the plantation was
made up of more than 1,000 acres. At this time, there was also a Fork
Mission located near the present day town of Scottsburg.
With the plantations, there was a need for good
transportation. With the Staunton and Dan Rivers, the area was open to
water-borne commerce. A fleet of freight bateaux (flatboats) operated
upstream from Brookneal and downstream to Clarksville and Gaston,
North Carolina. Samuel Pannilla owned these flatboats.
They bypassed the falls by building channels walled
in with stone masonry, which formed a sort of canal. These boats not
only stopped at the plantation of Samuel Pannilla, but at landings up
and down the river to take on and deliver freight for other shippers.
This system lasted until the Civil War and became popular again in
1869 until the railroads put it out of business. Charles Bruce of
Staunton Hill placed two small steamboats in operation on the Staunton
River, but most forms of water travel ended with the coming of the
Matt Haskins was the legendary strong man of the
Staunton River bateaux men. Haskins, a black man who lived in
Randolph, was known up and down the river. It was said that he could
lift a 200-pound sack of fertilizer with his teeth and pick up a
barrel full of liquor in his hands and drink out of the bunghole.
After the war, the Fork Plantation fell into ruins.
Tenant farmers took over the land of the once great plantation. The
land near the rivers was very rich and fertile and crops grew well.
Each year, between five and six hundred pounds of corn was harvested.
Tobacco was the main crop and large quantities of it were grown. One
farmer usually had around fifty tenant farmers and their families
living in what is today Staunton River State Park.
In 1899, there was a settlement in the Fork of the
Christian Social Colony. It was an experiment of a religious sect
trying to establish a Utopia based on a communal system. On August 8,
1899, Mr. J. C. Zimmerman of Wisconsin purchased a tract of land about
two miles above the confluence of the Dan and Staunton Rivers. The
land was composed of 1,426 acres. Mr. Zimmerman headed the group of
men, women, and children that established the colony. The colony was
made up of nine or ten families. The buildings were arranged in a
semicircle with the kitchen and dining room in the loop. However,
because the people knew little of the farming practices of the area,
the colony began to fail and in a short period the group left the
In 1933, the State Commission of Conservation and
Development of the State of Virginia bought 1,196 acres of land from
J. W. Johnson, his wife Mary C. Johnson, J. E. Johnson, and his wife
Elizabeth Johnson. Other land for the park was also purchased. From
1933 to 1935, a Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) company was
established at “the fork”. Most of the buildings and facilities of the
park were built by the skilled hands of the C.C.C.
In 1936, Staunton River State Park
was opened to the public. It is one of the first original six
state parks. Covering 1,776 acres, it opened recreation to the people
of south central Virginia. In 1952, with the completion of the John H.
Kerr Dam and the formation of Buggs Island Lake, part of the park was
flooded. The park offers many forms of recreation to its guests with
its pool, tennis courts, volleyball court, concession stand, picnic
areas, children’s playground, boat launching facility, campground,
cabins, and nature trails. Located in a rural area, much of the
original beauty of “Captain Staunton’s River” still exists for all to