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The Haunting Story of Hungry Mother State Park in Virginia

Located in southwest Virginia outside of the small town of Marion, Hungry Mother State Park showcases incredible woodlands, a 108-acre lake, camping, and the exciting history of the Native Tribes who call this area home. One of the first six Virginia state parks, Hungry Mother is home to many outdoor activities, including boating, fishing, hiking, and biking trails.

History of Hungry Mother State Park

Evening reflections at Hungry Mother State Park

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This Smyth County park has a unique story of obtaining its name. Legends say that the Native tribes to this region (Tsalaguwetiyi [Cherokee, East] and S'atsoyaha [Yuchi]) destroyed colonizers' settlements on the New River, just south of the modern-day park. Molly Marley and her child were among some of the settlers who survived the attacks and eventually escaped.

The mother collapsed, so the young child went to find help, and when the child finally found someone, all they could say was "Hungry Mother." The mother did not survive, but the mountain she was found on is called Molly's Knob, and the creek nearby was called Hungry Mother Creek.

Activities at Hungry Mother State Park

Hungry Mother presents endless opportunities for some fun in the sun! Centered around Hungry Mother Lake, this park has a swimming beach, picnic shelters, boat rentals (canoe, kayak, paddle boats, and paddleboards), a boat launch, and a fishing pier (universally accessible), and a bathhouse. Added perks include the camping areas (more below!), gift shops, a visitor center, a six-bedroom family lodge, and trails for hiking and biking. There is also an amphitheater for shows and seasonal events.

Camping at Hungry Mother

Marion, Virginia / USA - October 14, 2020: Mist rising from Hungry Mother Lake on an autumn morning at Hungry Mother State Park

Edward Palm via Getty Images

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Overnight guests will rejoice at the number of choices when it comes to setting your scene for camping or "glamping" at Hungry Mother. Learn about the site types for camping, the fully-stocked cabins for rent, yurts, and a family lodge (built by the CCC originally) — reserve online or call 1-800-933-PARK.

Dump stations, fire rings, hookups, and picnic tables are available for campers. The camping areas at Hungry Mother State Park include Camp Burson, Creekside, and Royal Oak. The Hemlock Haven Conference Center is also available to rent for special events by calling 276-781-7425.

Important Information for Visiting

The park office for camping and reservation check-in is located at 2854 Park Blvd in Smyth County. From Interstate 81, take Exit 47 and go approximately 1 mile on Route 11 towards the town of Marion. Then turn right on Route 16 north and go 4 miles to the park entrance. For specific coordinates: Latitude, 36.882561. Longitude, -81.533867.

The day-use area is open every day from 8 AM to 10 PM, while the park office is open 8 AM to 4:30 PM (with longer hours Memorial Day to Labor Day). Lifeguards are on-site weekdays from 11 AM to 6 PM and weekends from 11 AM to 7 PM through Labor Day weekend for beach use.

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