September 3, 1966: Summersville Lake and Dam Dedicated

Sep 3, 2018

Credit West Virginia Department of Culture and History

On September 3, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson traveled to Nicholas County to dedicate the Summersville Dam and Lake. With a summer pool stage of nearly 2,800 surface acres and 60 miles of shoreline, it’s West Virginia’s largest lake.

The Summersville Dam, located on the Gauley River, was built as a flood-control project between 1960 and 1966 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for nearly $48 million. At 390 feet high and nearly four-tenths of a mile long, it’s the second-largest dam of its kind in the eastern United States. Its drainage area covers parts of Nicholas, Webster, Greenbrier, Pocahontas, and Randolph counties.

Water released downstream through a 29-foot-diameter tunnel produces a spectacular sight from the highway that crosses the dam. Water releases during the fall have spawned a multimillion-dollar whitewater industry on the Gauley River. And the lake, with its stunning sandstone cliffs, is extremely popular with hikers, rock climbers, campers, boaters, and fishermen during warm-weather months.

A hydropower project at Summersville Dam was completed in 2001, generating more than 200 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year—enough for 50,000 homes.