Summersville Dam. 

The Summersville Dam Created The Largest Lake In West Virginia 

This superb dam has been built across the Gauley River in Nicholas County, West Virginia near the New River Gorge area. It is 2,280 feet long and at 390 feet tall it is almost as high as a forty storey building.

It is what is described as a "rock-fill dam" and is the second largest of this type in the eastern United States. It took 12 million cubic yards of dirt and rock to construct it.

(See this map to locate the Dam)

This Photograph Gives Some Idea Of The Immense Size Of The SummersvilleDam

Built between 1960 and 1966 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers it was dedicated on its opening by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Corps of Engineers broke a long standing tradition in the naming of the dam. Until then any such project was named after the nearest town. In this instance the nearest town was a tiny hamlet that would actually be flooded once the reservoir was filled. Its name was Gad.

The Engineers briefly considered the name "Gad Dam" but eventually thought it inapropriate. So the dam is named after Summersville, the next nearest town

The reservoir formed by the dam was naturally called Summersville Lake. It covers 2,700 acres and has 60 miles of shoreline making it the largest lake in West Virginia.

The Summersville Lake

It is a paradise for scuba divers because of the clarity of the water. Divers are able to swim under overhangs, through rock gardens and along cliffs that plunge into the depths.

Other recreational activities include boating and fishing and visitors can enjoy swimming from quiet coves along the shore.

The water levels in the lake are controlled by a series of releases from the Summersville Dam. These releases are publicised well in advance and are extremely popular as they provide an incredible surge of water on the Gauley River which is a mecca for white water rafting.

The Huge Pipe That Releases The Water

In 2001 a hydro-electricity generating scheme was started to harness the tremendous power from these releases. The water now gushes out of a pipe 28 feet in diameter and generates vast amounts of electricity every year.

The thunderous noise that formerly accompanied the gush of water from the releases is now replaced by the hum of electric generators.

For information on the release dates for 2013 just click here