People talk about “best kept secrets” which are rarely s-e-c-r-e-t, but Gatewood Park and Reservoir in Pulaski County might seriously qualify as one of them. Encompassing 400 acres of forests, water and scenic beauty, the property is surrounded by Jefferson National Forest for even more woodland adventure. The reservoir’s water surface is an impressive 162 acres enjoyed by fish, boaters and fisherman of all stripes.
Gatewood Reservoir was built more than 50 years ago, in 1960, as a water impoundment for the Town of Pulaski. Improvements have been made over the years, and it evolved into “Park and Reservoir”. People who want to rest and relax for a few hours or a few days are able to seek out a quiet spot, and others can enjoy hiking, picnicking, boating, bird watching and fishing. Although not far from town, the environment exudes the rustic feel of a wilderness setting for its clear water, soft breezes and active wildlife.
“We meet people all the time who have lived in the region for decades and never knew about Gatewood,” states park manager Mike McManus. “Campers from all over the country comment often on how clean we keep the campground and rest rooms. We are always working hard, upgrading and making things better. Our trail system now extends all the way around the lake with only mild to moderate degrees of elevation. Our trail coordinator, Charles Rhett, keeps the trails clear and well-marked, so you can’t get lost. There are trails up to four miles long, and we’re in the process of producing a trail guide.”
Campers can choose from five remote sites with a picnic table and fire pit, accessible only by boat, or 35 level sites with water, sewer and electrical hookups along the shoreline beneath towering pines. The bath facility includes hot showers. Boating, kayaking, corn hole, volleyball, horseshoes and playground equipment are here for the enjoyment of all. Dogs are welcome with their leashes on at all times. People coming out for the day have access to individual picnic sites with water views.
With 22 miles of shoreline and water as deep as 50 feet in places, sport fishermen can test their angling skills on many kinds of fish, like
? trophy-size largemouth bass
? smallmouth bass.
Park staff will gladly measure and weigh any catch to determine if it qualifies for a Virginia Game Commission Citation, which is a certificate for trophy fish. The park is managed by the Town of Pulaski’s Parks and Facilities Department, and Randy Trail, Jr., park ranger, looks forward to going to work every day. “It’s a great job with a family-like atmosphere among employees, campers, fishermen, people who come for a day or a month.” The park store is open every day and stocks camping supplies like lantern wicks and first aid kits, plus fishing tackle, soda, snacks and ice cream.
Gatewood Reservoir is first and foremost a supplier of water for the residents of the Town of Pulaski. Therefore, certain restrictions apply at all times: no swimming is allowed and boats with petroleum motors are strictly prohibited. Private boats with only electric motors or no motors may be launched; fishing boats with electric motors are available for rent.
“We like to take rides there because it is such a beautiful drive,” says Shannon Ainsley, NRV Magazine photographer and mom of school-age children. “We went to a local restaurant on Mother’s Day and then to Gatewood to scope it out for family camping. When we discovered the inexpensive boat rentals, we went for a boat ride and found little coves and a small waterfall.”
McManus says one of the most appealing factors is the cost. “We want it to be family affordable to all, so boat rentals are $3 per hour or $25 per day, and campsites range from $15 to $30 per night. There is no fee for day use, and a nominal launch fee if you bring your own non-gas boat. We do not have Internet out here,” he adds, “so we cannot process credit or debit cards. Bring cash, please.”
Apparently, there is a locally popular saying that goes: “At Gatewood Park, even the rainy days are beautiful.”
Memorial Day through Labor Day
7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Campground gates close at 10 p.m. and open at 7 a.m.
Picnic area and store, 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Spring and Fall outside these dates, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.