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.