Nicholas County, WV (Video/Blog Series #6)

The outdoor lifestyle of Nicholas County centers around its waters, from the whitewater rivers to the sprawling Summersville Lake.

“Most everybody that comes here has toys on their racks, whether it be kayaks, canoes, fishing rods, mountain bikes or such,”  said Steve Keblesh of Summersville Lake Retreat in a video for the county from Visit Southern WV.

 The lake is the heart of the area, a haven for boaters, paddle boarders, swimmers and divers. Pontoons, canoes and kayaks all roam the open waters. The cliffs around the lake are perfect for climbing, and trails swoop out into the wilderness.

And the lake isn’t the area’s only aquatic attraction.

“The Gauley River Recreation Area just down the road is God’s backyard,” said Keblesh. “There’s incredible hiking, rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking and such.”

The river is one of the top 10 for whitewater rafting in the world. Most of the year, the waters are too low to paddle anything bigger than an inflatable kayak, but on select days in September and October each year, the dam is opened to flood the riverbed with water from the lake, bringing this roaring boaters’ playground to life.

“In the fall, it’s second-to-none, world-class rafting, and there are people in here from all over the country,” said Shirley Morris of Kirkwood Winery.

Paddlers also kayak the smaller rivers, like the Meadow, year-round. Fishermen can take their pick of the rivers and the lake for a great catch.

To appreciate the beauty of the vast lake, you can hike up a lighthouse that overlooks the landscape. The woodlands that grow up around these rich water sources are certainly something to see— with a lot of lush beauty.

“There is so much beauty here with the river and the lake and all the woods,” said Sam Cowell of Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park. “Especially in the fall when everything’s turning colors. It’s amazing to me that even locals will come here and say, ‘I didn’t know this place was so pretty.’ It blows my mind.”

Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park is a gorgeous place to explore not only the beauty, but also the history. It was the site of an important Civil War battle.

History buffs can also discover Richwood, where the lumber industry was once booming.

“In the early days, Richwood was the largest town in the county,” said Bucky Frame of Community Trust Bank. “It’s kind of interesting to me that in my lifetime, that’s completely reversed. Richwood is still a great town, scenic and beautiful. Great people.”

But even Summersville today is quieter than the bustling hub Richwood once was.

“There’s something to be said for small-town America, and small-town West Virginia,” Frame said. “The quality of life, to me, in an area like this… you can’t beat it.”

Another unique draw in town is the Kirkwood Winery, and Isaiah Morgan Distillery.

“We’re different from all the other wineries in the state, that we make primarily the sweet wines,” Morris said. The winery bottles some of the signature flavors of the Appalachian wilderness, including blackberry and even ramp.

“It’s just this 1 spot of wilderness on the East Coast where you can truly travel 150 miles in any direction and reach a large, megatropolis sort of city, and yet we can retreat back here where it’s more green than pavement,” said Keblesh.

“And that’s why I’ll never leave.”