The Best Lake You’ve Probably Never Heard Of (Unless You’re From West Virginia)

The Gauley River is known for its world-class whitewater. Rafting enthusiasts travel long distances to enjoy the challenges the Gauley River provides.

Something else the Gauley River provides is the water for West Virginia’s largest lake. Summersville Lake is a 2,700 acre reservoir created by the second largest rock-fill dam in the United States. It has over 60 miles of shoreline, and the

Summersville Lake

sandstone cliffs that surround much of that shoreline create some spectacular scenery for the folks who spend time on its waters.


Summersville Dam was built by the Army Corps of Engineers as a flood control structure for the Kanawha River basin in 1960. It was dedicated by President Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1966. It was this ceremony that led the Corps of Engineers to break from the long standing tradition of naming dams after the closest town to the structure.

The closest town to this dam was a small community named Gad. Gad was actually flooded when the reservoir was filled. The Corps didn’t feel comfortable asking the President to dedicate the Gad Dam, so Summersville, the next closest town, was used instead.

Things To Do

In addition to the amazing whitewater that flows out of the downstream side of the dam, Summersville Lake provides plenty of opportunities for recreation and relaxation. Here are some of the things you can do if you plan on spending time at Summersville Lake.

•                Camping – Campgrounds are right on the lake and in the close vicinity.
•                Fishing – Largemouth, smallmouth, walleye, catfish and a number of species of panfish call this lake home. Trout are stocked in the river below the dam.
•                Hunting – There is plenty of public hunting with a large State Wildlife Management Area around much of this reservoir.
•                SCUBA diving – With superb water quality and depths over 200 feet, the lake offers some of the state’s best diving.
•                Biking- Both mountain biking and road biking can be done here.
•                Rock Climbing – With lots of rock cliffline around the lake, there’s plenty of climbing available.

Of course with 2,700 acres of water, boating, water-skiing, and swimming are a given. And if you don’t have a boat, you can rent one from the local marina.

Summersville Lake is a great place to wile away a few hours (or a few days) during the summer. Make a visit to WV’s largest lake a priority for your next vacation outing.

What’s your favorite WV lake?

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