The old one room Windy Gap School has been restored and relocated to a site along the Laurel Fork of the Holly River, across the stream from the state park office. Although the shool was closed on the day of my visit, I was still able to peek in the windows and see that it is set up as if it were ready for class to begin.
Windy Gap School, first built in 1902, served students for more than half a century in Hacker Valley Township of Webster County, until 1960. It was rebuilt and preserved by members of the community at this location in 1991.
Directly behind the Holly River State Park office and restaurant you will find a trout rearing pond. This is a good place to learn about the many kinds of trout that are stocked in the Holly River. Some of the trout in the pond are albinos, which are interesting to see. Visitors may not fish here, but they are allowed to feed the fish either worms or insects.
Depending on your perspective there are either one or two Lower Falls. One segment of the falls is several yards downstream from the other. The Lower Falls is much more difficult to reach than the upper one. The hike down to the Lower Falls is mostly a scramble over wet rocks and mud. The poorly developed trail hugs the streambed, and would be submerged during high water. At times, I would have thought I had lost the trail altogether, except for an occasional red paint blaze that coaxed me onward. At one point I stumbled and would have fallen into the river except that I was able to catch myself on a tree.
When you reach the Lower Falls the vantage point for viewing them is not as good as for the Upper Falls. If I had had someone with me, daring me to do it, I would have tried wading the river just below the falls to learn if the view was better from that side.
These falls are on the main stream of Left Fork Holly River, so the amount of water flowing over them is more than the Upper Falls. Although the trail is rough, the hike is less than a half mile each way. I would recommend that you make the effort if you are in reasonably good shape.
Through hiking on the many trails, Holly River State Park offers a way to get acquainted with the flora and fauna of the region. In addition to the waterfalls listed in my "things to do" tips, there are trails to two other waterfalls, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa, named for two legendary Indian chiefs of the area. A hike to Potato Knob delivers a commanding view at 2,480 feet.
The primary marked hiking trails in the park are:
High Rock Trail (orange blaze) 1.5 miles
Nature's Rock Garden Trail (orange Blaze) .5 mile
Oak Ridge Trail (blue blaze) 2.5 miles
Potato Knob Trail (red blaze) 7.5 miles
Railroad Grade Trail (orange blaze) 10 miles
Reverie Trail (yellow blaze) 3.5 miles
Ridge Road Trail (red blaze) 6.1 miles
Salt Lick Trail (orange blaze) .75 mile
Tramontane Trail (yellow blaze) 2.5 miles
Wilderness Trail (blue blaze) 4.5 miles
Above mileages are round trip. A circuit may be made of many of the trails to afford an opportunity for longer hikes or overnight backpacking. A trail map is available at the park office.
Although most of the 8,101 acres which comprise Holly River State Park are maintained as wilderness, it is a very well developed park with many modern amenities. These include:
9 standard cabins
1 accessible cottage
88-unit modern campground
3 large reservable picnic pavilions
other picnic areas
restaurant and commissary
seasonal recreational/nature program
developed hiking trails
Holly River State Park
The Holly River, along with the Birch River, is one of the two largest tributaries of the Elk River, and both the Holly and the Birch join Elk in Braxton County. The Elk River Flows into the Kanawha at Charleston. The Kanawha joins the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and the Ohio flows to the Mississppi and hence to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Holly River, which flows through the remote and heavily wooded Hacker Valley, is a beautiful stream noted for it's lovely waterfalls and trout fishing. Even after a heavy rain the water is generally clear.
In this building, near the center of the developed part of the park and beside the Laurel Fork of the Holly River, you will find the restaurant, a few souvenir items for sale, and the park office. At the office I picked up a brochure and a map of the park which was invaluable to me in finding the hiking trails and the road to the waterfalls. The lady who worked at the office was very helpful in answering my questions. This would also be the place to get information on the rental cabins or other ammenities in the park.
Holly River State Park