Blennerhassett Island open for summer tours

PARKERSBURG – With the start of the summer tourism season Wednesday, people boarded the Island Belle sternwheeler to tour the Blennerhassett Island mansion.

Although it was a weekday with people at work or in school, Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park Superintendent Matt Baker was still pleased with the turnout of guests to the island.

“Everything has been going real well,” he said. “(Wednesday) was a little slow for our first day.”

The park reported having around 58 visitors Wednesday.

“We have been blessed this spring in that the river has really been treating us well,” Baker said. “This time of year, you never know what the river will be doing day to day.”

Baker said school group trips will increase today and Friday and throughout the rest of the month.

Doug Wright of Alexandria, Va., and his brother Dennis Wright from the Orlando area were staying at North Bend State Park and saw a brochure for the island park.

“I am working in town as a telecommunication trainer,” Doug Wright said. “I had the day off. This is my first time in Parkersburg. We had beautiful weather so we thought we would give it a try.”

“This is my first time on the Ohio River,” Dennis Wright said.

The two planned to visit the Blennerhassett mansion and other sites on the island.

Cristes Magnani and Dave Ganoe of Salisbury, Md., were first-time visitors to the island.

“I am originally from Gallipolis, Ohio,” Magnani said. “I wanted to go home and visit my parents graves.

“We were staying in Marietta. I have always heard of Blennerhassett Island so we wanted to see it. This was the first day of the season and it worked out well. There were not a lot of people so we had a great time.”

The two went through the mansion and took the horse wagon ride.

“It was wonderful,” Magnani said. “It was really historical.”

“It was fascinating,” Ganoe said. “I was particularly interested in the connection between Aaron Burr and Harman Blennerhassett. I thought the mansion was really exquisite.”

Ganoe was impressed with how helpful everyone was from the docents on the island to the crew of the Island Belle.

Baker said the park has upcoming events, including the Rendezvous on the River May 8-11. Sponsored by West Virginia Muzzleloaders Association, the event has reenactors creating a fur trader era camp when this area was wilderness.

The park staff is working on creating evening programs to make the park a destination for out-of-town and local visitors.

“It is by far a very unique experience as far as the state park system is concerned,” Baker said of the park. “You get to ride the sternwheeler to the island. People can also learn about the local history and the history of West Virginia.”