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From Summer House to State Park
March 12, 2012 - Jodi Burnsworth
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Lost River State Park protects more than 3,700 acres of forest and streams in Hardy County. The park is located near the small community of Mathias, along the banks of the Lost River. During dry times the river is known to disappear near Baker, only to reappear two miles later as the Cacapon River. In truth the ‘lost’ water continues to flow underground through a subterranean passage. And while no part of the Lost River actually runs through the park, its many streams feed the river, and ultimately flood into the Potomac.
By the time Lost River State Park opened in 1937, the area already had a long history as a favored recreation spot. It was here in 1804 that Henry ‘Lighthorse Harry’ Lee, a Revolutionary War general and the father of Robert E. Lee, built a cabin to escape the oppressive summer heat of the Virginia lowlands. He placed the two-story, hewn-log structure alongside the creek, near a sulfur spring that would later bear his name. The Lee Sulphur Spring, and others like it, became popular retreats in the 19th century, owing to the belief that they had health rejuvenating powers. Despite financial difficulties the property would remain in the Lee family until 1879.
In 1933 West Virginia acquired the land for the new park. It was centered on the steep sides of Big Ridge Mountain, whose Cranny Crow escarpment provides a commanding view of the region. Civilian Conservation Corps members at Camp Hardy worked to develop recreational facilities for the area, including 15 cabins, the superintendent’s residence, a restaurant, fire tower, bridges, riding stables, swimming pool, and bathhouse. In addition, they restored the site’s original structure, the Lee Cabin. Every summer visitors still come to the park looking to revive themselves during those dog-days of summer, more than two hundred years after Lighthorse Harry first did.
Contributor: Zachary D. Swick, AFHA AmeriCorps
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Cabin of Henry 'Lighthorse Harry' Lee. Photo courtesy of heritageweekend.com, Hardy County's Heritage Weekend.