Description - **Information provivded by West Virginia Division of Natural Resources**
Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park and the Friends of Blennerhassett, its volunteer group, are pleased that you will visit our park. The Island is open May 1 through October of each year. While visiting our park you should allow at least three hours for a complete tour. This includes the boat trip to and from the island.
Blennerhassett Museum should be the first stop of your tour. It is the perfect orientation for all that you will see throughout the day. Your museum visit begins with viewing the video that briefly explains the lives of Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett. You will then be free to tour the three floors of intriguing archaeological and historical exhibits.
After the museum, you can then walk a couple of blocks down Second Street to Point Park. This is the departure site for the 20-minute sternwheeler ride to the Island. Please see the boat schedule for departure times.
While on the island, visitors can enjoy picnicking, horse-drawn wagon rides, shopping at the Friends of Blennerhassett Gift Shop, the refreshment stand, bike rentals, nature walks, and, of course, touring the beautiful Blennerhassett Mansion. The island ticket booth sells tickets for the mansion and wagon ride tours. It also serves as our first aid station. Blennerhassett's tranquility enthralls many of our visitors as they walk the wagon trail-road encircling the upper end of the island. Rich plant life, huge trees, and varied wildlife are a rare treat.
- Harman Blennerhassett, a wealthy Irish aristocrat, settled on the wilderness island in 1798, where he built a magnificent mansion. Designed in the Palladian style (like Mount Vernon), the house contained 7,000 square feet of floor space. Its rooms were furnished with furniture purchased in London and Baltimore, oriental carpets, oil paintings, and porcelain made in Paris. The hardware on some of the interior doors was made of silver. Alabaster lamps were suspended from the ceilings by silver chains. A 2 1/3 acre flower garden and two huge lawns surrounded the house. It was one of the most elegant estates in Virginia and was the most beautiful home west of the Alleghenies.
In 1806, however, Harman became entangled in a mysterious military enterprise with Aaron Burr. As a result, President Thomas Jefferson accused both men of plotting treason in attempting to establish an empire in the Southwest.
Blennerhassett fled the island, but was captured and put into the Virginia State Penitentiary. Although Burr was tried and acquitted and Blennerhassett released from prison, the lives of both men were ruined. Interestingly, most historians now agree that Burr had set his sights on northern Mexico for his dominion, today's state of Texas.
The exquisite mansion accidentally burned to the ground in 1811, eventually leaving no trace of its graceful, semicircular lines. However, modern archaeologists rediscovered its foundations in 1973. Through a continuing program of careful historical and architectural research, the mansion has been recreated for visitors to see. Work on furnishing its interior is still in progress.
Blennerhassett Island's antiquity spans back to Ice Age hunters 9,000 years ago. Native American tribes lived on the island almost continuously, until white settlers began to flock into the Ohio Valley in the 1780s.
Many artifacts and tools dating to these ancient residents of Blennerhassett Island are on display at the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History in downtown Parkersburg, at 2nd and Juliana streets.
Blennerhassett Island is a noteworthy historic location for a variety of other reasons. During the 1760s, the famous Delaware Indian, Nemacolin, made the island his home. In addition, it was visited by many renowned figures including George Rogers Clark, King Charles X of France, Johnny Appleseed, Henry Clay and Walt Whitman.
Recreation - Visitors to the island may enjoy a refreshment stand, horsedrawn carriage rides, souvenir shop, picnic shelters, and bicycle rentals. Adding to the charm of the island, lush hardwood groves, long beaches and broad fields provide the habitat for a large deer herd, throngs of waterfowl and other birds.
A variety of options are available for touring Blennerhassett Island. Costumed volunteers conduct tours through the reconstructed mansion. Self-guided walking tours and horsedrawn wagon rides are also available. Special events are highlighted throughout the season.
Climate - West Virginia experiences four distinct seasons, none of which are extreme. Temperatures in the highlands of the Allegheny Mountains are somewhat more severe than the rest of the state. Generally temperatures during the winter months range from 15 to 40 degrees F. Ample snow accumulation provides for cross-country and downhill skiing opportunities. Spring brings blooming trees and shrubs to the forested regions of the state, as well as warmer temperatures. During this season, March through May, expect mild temperatures between 45 and 70 degrees F. Summers are normally hot with high humidity, especially at lower elevations. Expect temperatures to range from 70 at night to 95 during the dog days of August. Fall brings cool, crisp air to West Virginia and spectacular foliage color changes. Bring a light jacket for this season, which brings temperatures between 35, at night, to 70 degrees F, during the day.
Blennerhassett Island is located in the Ohio River two miles west of Parkersburg, West Virginia. Access to Parkersburg is offered by US Rt. 50 east/west and I-77 north/south. Point Park, departure site for sternwheeler rides to the island, and Blennerhassett Museum are just off WV Rt. 68 in downtown Parkersburg. The museum is on the corner of 2nd and Juliana Streets.