Contributed by Deane and Garvey Winegar
Claytor Lake. If the bottom of clear,
cold, deep, 21-mile-long Claytor Lake was visible, visitors would get
a glimpse of one link on the chain of history connecting early
settlement along the frontier area known as southwest Virginia. The
4,475-acre impoundment of the New River lies south of Radford and east
of Pulaski in Pulaski County, an easy jump from Interstate 81.
The nearby interstate and US 11 follow closely
the old Wilderness Road, a footpath and wagon trail for settlers
traveling south down the Shenandoah and Roanoke valleys from
Pennsylvania. Thousands of years before European pioneers started
streaming down the valley in the mid-1700s, the road was a
well-traveled hunting and raiding route used by southern Cherokee
and Catawba tribes, as well as members of the northern Iroquois
Confederacy of Five Nations. A mystic German sect called the Ephrata
Brethren (later to be known as Dunkards) decided the land now covered
by Claytor Lake was the place they wanted to stop. When the New
River was dammed to form Claytor Lake for the generating of electric
power in 1939, the community known as Dunkard's Bottom was swallowed
by the rising waters.
Fishing at Claytor Lake. Fishing is good
but challenging in the narrow, winding waters of the lake. Claytor's
steep shorelines make excellent habitat for smallmouth and spotted
bass. In 1993, a 3-pound, 10-ounce spotted bass caught in the
lake took the state record.
Claytor Lake State Park. With 472 acres of
mostly hardwoods and pines, Claytor Lake State Park is now the centerpiece
of 21-mile-long Claytor Lake. The park is a magnet to some 300,000 people
a year whose primary recreational interests are waterbased.
Actually, the park and lake can get quite crowded
on summer weekends. Much of the park property, however, is woodland,
so getting away from the whine of bass boats and jet skies is no