Fans of flowers, plants and nature in general are invited to attend the 51st annual Wildflower Pilgrimage May 10-13 at Blackwater Falls State Park in Tucker County.
"The West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage is one of the longest-running special events sponsored by West Virginia Division of Natural Resources," said Emily Fleming of the state's Division of Natural Resources, who serves as the event coordinator. "Tours feature not only spring wildflowers but also birds and geology and, of course, great fun."
The small group tours help participants identify plants and birds and point out interesting flora and fauna.
"It's a fun and informative program and a special way to celebrate Mother's Day weekend with your favorite nature lover," Fleming said.
Each year approximately 300 people attend. Professional and amateur botanists as well as bird watchers are among those who arrive from some 16 states and as far away as Canada and Germany. Tour guides include experts from West Virginia University, WVDNR, West Virginia Garden Club Inc., Brooks Bird Club and various colleges.
During the Wildflower Pilgrimage, Blackwater Falls State Park is used as a starting point for excursions to surrounding natural areas, including Dolly Sods, Germany Valley, the Fernow Experimental Forest and Smoke Hole.
"The Fernow Experimental Forest outside Parsons is rich with a variety of spring wildflowers and is always a popular tour," said botanist P. J. Harmon of WVDNR's Natural Heritage Program.
Harmon has been involved with the event for more than 20 years. "Dolly Sods is another area where you can see a wide diversity of spring blooms, including, if you're lucky, wild bleeding heart."
While most tours leave the park, Harmon said there are plenty of activities for folks who want to stay on site.
"We have people who come year after year who don't have the mobility others have, so we offer wildflower identification courses at the nature center and shorter tours."
To register for the event or for questions about the weekend, anyone interested can contact Emily Fleming or Teri Surface at the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources at 304-558-2754.
The lodge at Blackwater Falls State Park is full for the weekend, but five eight-person cabins are available and rooms can be reserved at nearby Canaan Valley Resort State Park or by calling the Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-782-2775.