Babcock State Park is located in Fayette County, West Virginia, in the area of the New River Gorge. The Glade Creek Grist Mill is the most popular attraction in the park, and a highlight for photographers. The park lies the east side of the New River and stretches almost to the river, but the mill is on the east side of the park, a good distance from the river.
This is one of the most photographed spots in West Virginia, and if you are in the area you won’t want to miss it. The mill is easy to reach and it sits right next to a parking lot and visitor center. There are several different vantage points from which you can photograph the mill, and we’ll cover those in a minute.
When planning your trip, be aware that this is a popular location and you may have issues trying to avoid people in your photos. If possible, plan to be there at an off-peak time, like a weekday instead of a weekend. I was there early on a Wednesday morning and there were about 10 other photographers there. That was in October, which is peak season for fall foliage, so it shouldn’t be that bad on weekdays at other times of the year.
When to Go
There are a few things you’ll want to consider if you will be traveling from a distance to reach Babcock State Park. First, photos of the mill look amazing with fall colors. I planned my trip for mid October. Unfortunately, this was a very warm and dry fall, and the colors weren’t yet at peak. If you’re able to visit when the colors are at their peak, this is an incredible location.
Another factor to consider is the water level. Some of the iconic shots of the mill include the small waterfalls in the foreground. In spring you’ll generally get the best flow of water. For my October trip, the water level was very low and the waterfalls were almost non-existent.
The perfect time to photograph the mill would be in the peak of fall foliage in a year with a good flow of water. Of course, those factors are mostly out of our control, but those are factors that I would advise considering if you are planning a trip. If you’re fortunate enough to live in the area you can keep coming back until you get the ideal situation.
As far as time of day is concerned, early morning is a good choice if it is going to be a clear or sunny day. Any time on an overcast day should work well.
Photographing the Glade Creek Grist Mill
The parking lot is right next to the mill, so it’s easy to reach. You can shoot from downstream, which will give you a nice view of the waterfalls in the foreground. You can also shoot from the side of the mill, next to the parking lot. As you get further away from the mill you will want to be careful to keep the parking lot and cars out of your photos.
From the parking lot, near the visitor center, you can take the stairs down towards the creek. From there you can walk out onto the rocks and get a nice view looking upstream. From here you can easily get the waterfalls in the foreground. This is where I started because there were already a few photographers set up here when I arrived. I didn’t want to start closer to the mill and get in their way, and I didn’t want to go behind them in get them in my shot.
The photo above is a single shot taken with a wide angle lens (Canon 16-35mm f/4) and then cropped from top and bottom. It is not a stitched panorama.
From there I moved to the side of the mill, and at this point there were several other photographers arriving and spreading out wherever possible. There are some rocks on the side of the mill that you can use as a foreground. In some spots you may need to climb down the bank to get to the rocks (it’s just down a few feet).
Last, I moved to the opposite side of the creek and used a telephoto lens to get a nice view of the mill. There is a small wall along the road and you can easily set up near the wall. The only problem from this perspective is that there are likely to be people in your view. If no one is there when you arrive, I would recommend starting out at this point and then moving closer to the mill.
The photograph below included a photographer who was perched on the tall rock in the foreground. I removed him with Macphun’s Snapheal. Unfortunately, this guy was in that one spot for over an hour and he showed no signs of moving any time soon, so I just took the shot and did the best I could to remove him.
How to Get to Babcock State Park
Babcock State Park is located east of the New River, and south of the New River Gorge Bridge. GPS coordinates for the mill parking lot are: 37.979561, -80.946399
You can enter the park from Route 41 and follow the road a short distance until you come to the mill and the parking lot.
Also in the Area
There are many noteworthy locations for photographing in and around the New River Gorge. We have guides on several of those locations.