Blue Ridge Parkway | DOUGHTON PARK RECREATION AREA (MP 238-245)

Doughton Park map (click to enlarge)

Doughton Park map (click to enlarge)

Doughton Park Campground

Doughton Park Backcountry / Primitive Camping

Doughton Park Picnic Area (aka Bluffs Picnic Area)

Doughton Park Hiking Trails

Bluffs Lodge and Coffee Shop

The Doughton Park Recreation Area consists of the valley known as Basin Cove. It is the largest recreation park on the Blue Ridge Parkway, complete with a campground, picnic area, historic homestead, seven hiking trails, and the one primitive campsite. Doughton Park is one of only three recreation areas that allows backcountry (aka primitive) camping, the others being Rocky Knob Recreation Area and Julian Price Park. The Bluffs Coffee Shop (aka Bluffs Restaurant) is also know open.

If you noticed, many of the facilities are referred to as “Bluffs.” Bluffs Park is the original name of the recreation area, and it was one of the first built on the Blue Ridge Parkway. In the 1950s it was renamed in honor of Robert Doughton, a politician who was one of many behind getting the Parkway built, and the center of a small controversy. After a flood in 1916 caused a massive landslide and wiped out the community in the Basin Cove Valley, all residents left, abandoning the land. The only cabin still standing is that of Martin Caudill (it can be reached via the Basin Creek Trail). Caudill owned as much as 1,000 acres in the valley, but like the rest of the residents, he left after the landslide. Supposedly Robert Doughton bought all of the land in the valley in 1930, but from whom? A 1935 property map shows the land divided into parcels still owned by many of those who abandoned it. Some Caudill descendants claim the park should have been named Caudill Park.

However, the real controversy stems from whether or not Doughton used his insider information and bought the land knowing he could turn around and sell it for a profit to the government for inclusion in the Blue Ridge Parkway. In 1930, Doughton was a U. S. Congressman, and he certainly would have known about the Blue Ridge Parkway since he was one of the politicians behind it—one who would have direct influence on where the road was routed. There are verbal claims that the land was donated, but documents show that it was sold. I find it hard to believe that somebody would buy up 5,000 acres of land just to donate it a few years later when the federal government could have purchased the land for the Parkway just as easily as Doughton.

Robert Doughton Memorial at the Doughton Park Recreation Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Robert Doughton Memorial at the Doughton Park Recreation Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

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Last updated on November 13, 2023
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