Summersville Lake is a 2,700-acre reservoir and the largest lake in West Virginia. More than 60 miles of shoreline at the summer-pool water level help attracts thousands of boaters and anglers as well as rock climbers who scale high cliffs along much of its upper pool.
The lake, with a maximum depth is 327 feet, is formed by a rock-fill dam, Summersville Dam, which impounds the lower Gauley River, south of Summersville, West Virginia, in Nicholas County.
The lake was constructed between 1960 and 1966 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control flooding in an 803-square-mile watershed along the Gauley River and the Kanawha River. At 390 feet tall, 2,280 feet long, and containing more than 12,000,000 cubic yards of earth, the dam is the second-largest rock-fill dam in the eastern U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson dedicated the dam and a new Summersville Post Office in 1966.
In 2001, a two-year project was completed to harness the dam outflow for hydroelectric power generation. The plant has a capacity to generate 80-megawatts of electricity at peak flow.
The Summersville Lighthouse is a popular roadside attraction located near the lake. The lake is featured in the Fallout 76 video game.
Naming Summersville Dam
The corps broke a long-standing tradition in naming the dam, which traditionally would have been named after the community nearest the site. The village of Gad, located near the lake's present marina, was rejected as officials felt the name "Gad Dam" invited too much controversy and so named the project for its proximity to Summersville.