Naturalist Retreat Tours Blennerhasset Island

Photo by Brian Tabor, 2016; used with permission.

Blennerhasset Island is a beautiful historical state park located in Parkersburg, WV. During the West Virginia State Naturalist Training Retreat, a tour of the mansion and ground was provided.

The tour's purpose was to showcase the island and the mansion. The mansion was rebuilt from the foundation and eyewitness reports after it burned to the ground.

Blennerhasset Island is one of West Virginia's gems of a state park.  It's full of rich history and has beautifully maintained grounds. 

There are few ways to get to the island. For most people, the Island Belle is the number one choice. She is a sternwheeler that leaves from the Blennerhasset Museum in Parkersburg and takes a trip down the river to dock at the island's public dock. You can also take your private boat or kayak and boat to the island without paying for the sternwheeler pass.  I recommend taking the Island Belle on your first visit to get the full experience. The Museum sells sternwheeler and tour packages.

When you arrive at the Island, you'll be greeted at the dock by an attendant in 1800's attire. All around the park, employees are in costume. I love this, as it really takes you back to the time when the Blennerhassets owned the Island.

While they were there, they had the chance to see the blooming of a special peony. This flower is a botantist's dream. This plant's genetics have been untouched since the late 1790's. Due to it's remote location and careful preservation of the plant, it has not been cross-pollenated with any other strand of peony. It blooms only yearly and for a few days. They were lucky to catch it while they were there.

They then took a tour of the rebuilt mansion. The Friends of Blennerhasset and the State Parks system have worked tirelessly to restore and reclaim original pieces that were there originally through historical accounts of parties that the Blennerhassetts hosted, tax records, the remaining foundation.  Lucky for us, the Blennerhassett's fell upon some misfortune and most of their belongings were sold at auction after they fled the island and before the mansion burnt.  Many of the pieces have been reclaimed and can be seen at the Blennerhassest Museum and in the mansion.

While also there, I recommend taking the horse drawn carriage ride around the island. It will show you the walnut groves, Maple Shade, the Neal House, and some lovely views.  The horses live on the island from May to October. Be sure to say hello to Dale while you're there. He is the friendliest and most likely to escape horse in the teams.

History Inside Pictures has a lot of historical information and some great pictures available on their website.

If you'd like to visit or volunteer with the park, definetly check out the Friends of Blennerhasset.

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