Bear Creek Lake State Park, located in the heart of Cumberland County, is not to far from the Willis River.
The Willis River Canal project was run by Cumberland County and was part of Thomas Jefferson’s vision of using waterways for trade and transportation. The Willis had forty miles opened to trade in 1775-1779 and later ten more miles were opened which took the trade route all the way to Curdsville in Buckingham, Virginia.
Welcome to Bear Creek Lake State Park
Bear Creek Lake
The Willis River Canal used a flash lock system that numbered between 15 and/or 20 locks. The gate of the lock was similar to that of a truck tailgate. The wood gate was three feet high and ten feet wide and set between rock-filled wood cribs in each bank. When the gate was raised a small pond would fill raising the bateaux upward. After the pond filled the gates they were opened to sweep the bateaux down stream to the next lock. If you were going up stream then your bateaux was pulled by a team of mules.
The lock system cost very little for the county to maintain and was used until the Twentieth Century. However, with rail becoming more popular, trains ultimately replaced the canals and water ways as trade routes.
Learn more about Bear Creek Lake State Park here. Overnight lodging in cabins, campgrounds, swim beach, picnic areas, visitor center, hiking trails and more.