Summersville Lake Information

Summersville Lake lies in Nicholas County in West Virginia in the Appalachian Mountains surrounded by sandstone cliffs. It is the largest lake in West Virginia and covers 2,800 acres, with 60 miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 327 feet. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Huntington District (USACE) owns and operates Summersville Lake. The Gauley River and Kanawha River feed Summersville Lake.

Summersville Lake is a deep, steep-sided lake surround by deciduous, evergreen, and mixed forests with some barren land and very little development. Summersville, West Virginia, flanks the upper Gauley River end on the north. U.S. Route 19 crosses Summersville Lake east of the larger open waters area and cuts between the upper Gauley River channel.

The Summersville Lake State Wildlife Area and Summersville Wildlife Management Area provide nature, hunting, and recreation. It also serves as the eastern or upstream end of Gauley River National Recreation Area. The only working 104-foot tall lighthouse in West Virginia sits on the southern border of Summersville Lake on a cliff at the apex of West Virginia Route 129 and U.S. Route 19.

Summersville Lake History

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers built Summersville Lake between 1960 and 1966 for the purposes of flood control, hydroelectric power generation, and a recreational area for boating, fishing, hiking, rock climbing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The Summersville Dam is the second-largest rock-fill dam in the Eastern United States. President Lyndon B. Johnson dedicated both the dam and a new Summersville Post Office on September 3, 1966.

Nicholas County, in south-central West Virginia, was established in 1818 from parts of Greenbrier, Kanawha, and Randolph counties, and named for Virginia governor, Wilson Cary Nicholas. Wilson Cary Nicholas was born in 1761 in Williamsburg, Virginia, and attended William and Mary College. He left school in 1779 to enlist in the American Army. He rose through the ranks, and by the end of the Revolutionary War, he was the commander of General George Washington's Life Guard. Nicholas also served in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. 

The Morris Family Massacre near Lockwood, Nicholas County, West Virginia, happened on a section of Peter’s Creek. The two and a half mile stretch emptying into the Gauley River has American Whitewater rated Class II, III, and V+ rapids. In 1791, Henry Morris was one of the first pioneers to settle in this area. Henry was a large, athletic man and an avid hunter who feared nothing. Indian attacks were common in this region. Henry’s family warned him against this move.

During Henry’s first autumn at Peter’s Creek, a stranger who called himself Mr. Allen, appeared at Morris’ home and asked to stay and hunt with Henry for the winter. They successfully bagged plenty of game, including two bears, that winter. While on a business trip to the Kanawha Valley early the following spring, Henry told of his adventures with Allen to his friends.

One friend asked Henry to describe Allen, who had a scar on his face. The man told Henry that he had just described a murderer named Simon Girty, who was believed to have killed  women and children. When Henry returned home, he asked the man about his real identity, and the man denied he was Simon Girty. Henry’s wife talked Henry out of killing the man because he might be mistaken. Henry ordered the man to leave his property.

When Allen/Girty was leaving, he attempted to take Morris’s hunting dog with him. Henry’s two daughters, 14-year-old Betsy and 12-year-old Peggy, stopped him from taking the dog, and Allen/Girty told them he would get even with them. Two to three weeks later, the two girls were rounding up some calves when Girty and an Indian murdered them. Henry’s brother allegedly killed the Indian later, after he was heard bragging about what he and Girty had done.

No one ever caught Girty, and no one knows when or where he died. Eventually, Henry moved back to the Kanawha Valley three times because of Indian attacks. A historical marker of this attack near Lockwood, West Virginia, and reads: Scene of massacre, 1792, of daughters of Henry Morris, early settler and son of first permanent settler in Great Kanawha Valley. Graves of Henry Morris and the Indian victims may be seen from the road.

Fishing Lake Summersville

The predominant game species are bass, channel and flathead catfish, panfish, trout, and walleye. Other species include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, black crappie, walleye, rainbow trout, and yellow perch. Lake Summersville is full of secluded coves which harbor a variety of fish during low water levels.

The single best time of year to fish at Summersville Lake is after the “Fall Drawdown” when USACE releases water from Summersville Dam. Once the lake is at winter pool, usually in early to mid-November, the walleye are active. Fish migrate to smaller coves when the water level drops. The tail waters are stocked biweekly in the fall with trout. The walleye move upstream toward the Gauley River to spawn in late winter and early spring.

The USACE removed all the timber before filling Lake Summersville. Fish cover includes humps, dirt, wood, and root wads that have been added to its featureless bottom. Special regulations for walleye are:

  • All walleye from 20 to 30 inches long must be returned to the water at once.
  • Daily creel limit of 8 walleye, only one of which may be over 30 inches long.
  • Fishing with minnows is permitted.
  • Nightfishing is permitted.

There are several public boat ramps and some campgrounds offer shoreline fishing and portage for canoes, kayaks, and small boats on Summersville Lake. Quite a few guides offer fishing charters, but this is a busy lake in the summer months for anglers and recreational boaters, so be sure to book your charter in advance.

Find experienced local guides on our Summersville Lake Fishing Guides page.

Boating Summersville Lake

This deep lake at 100-feet to 327-maximum feet offers all the recreational watersports that you could want. Scuba diving is wildly popular in Summersville Lake. Skin Diver Magazine reported that Summersville Lake is the cleanest, clearest freshwater lake east of the Mississippi River. Scuba divers see enormous cliffs, boulders, overhangs, and rock walls with swim-throughs. Several scuba diving outfitters operate at Lake Summersville, and some offer diving charter services.

The Upper Gauley River Put-In is a whitewater rafting area. Class ratings for the rapids are in parentheses. Mile 0: Put-in below Summersville Dam. Mile 0.8: Initiation (IV) is the first big rapid of the run. There are sieves on the right side. Mile 2.8: Insignificant (V) is a long rapid with a big pour over at the top. The big long rock halfway down on the right is undercut.

Mile 4.1: Pillow (V) is ridiculous fun if you're a good paddler. It is named for the pillow that forms off the massive boulder on the left. After the pillow, there is a hydraulic feature known as Toilet Bowl, followed by the river splitting around Volkswagen Rock. Mile 5.5: Lost Paddle (V) is a series of four drops that occur after the Meadow River enters from the left. The second one has waves known as Hawaii Five-O. There are sieves throughout this long rapid, so be careful!

Mile 6.9: Iron Ring (V) is two drops. The second drop has a hole formed by a rock known as Woodstock that was formed when loggers blasted the rapid to let logs through. This is the most difficult rapid at higher and lower flows. Mile 8.1: Sweet's Falls (V) is a 12-foot drop. The left side of the drop has rock affectionately known as Dildo that stops rafts and explodes passengers out. Left of Dildo is a move known as the Melt Down.

Below Melt Down is Postage Due, a big rock that flips rafts. If go you left of Postage Due, that is Box Canyon. Mile 9.1: Take out at Mason Branch if you're willing to hike up "kayaker's nightmare" hill. Mile 12: Take out above or below Ender Waves.

Visibility is an average 20 to 45 feet depending upon rainfall. There is one marina on Summersville Lake, Summersville Lake Marina, Inc., which is extremely busy during the summer season. Its small parking lot fills up fast during peak seasons. This marina offers a variety of boat rentals, overnight boat slips for $25 a night, a gas dock, food, ice, and marine supplies. There are a few other boat rental services around the lake and a few public boat ramps.

Plan your outing with our Summersville Lake Boat Ramps Map, and keep an eye on the Summersville Lake Level. Find or sell a boat on our Summersville Lake Boats for Sale page.

Summersville Lake Real Estate

Lake Homes at Summersville Lake range in price from $22,000 up to a median listing price of $154,000, with an average price per square feet at $107. Summersville, West Virginia, on the north side of Summersville Lake hosts three public schools rated good and higher by GreatSchools, along with one charter school and one private school.

The town of Summersville is the only town with a Walmart near Summersville Lake. Washington, D.C. is the closest metroplex at over 100 miles from the town of Summersville. Summersville Lake is sparsely inhabited and mostly rural. Most of the restaurants are in Summersville, but there are just a few scattered around the lake along with a few establishments that serve alcohol.

To find your dream lake home, explore our Summersville Lake Homes for Sale page.

Summersville Lake Cabins and Vacation Homes

Six establishments rent cabins on or very close to Summersville Lake. They range in size from small and rustic to luxury, with one place renting charming chalets. All kinds of vacation homes are available nearby Summersville Lake, but not many of them right on the water. They mostly sleep from two to ten people, with amenities like decks, hot tubs, grills, and modern kitchens. You can find more vacation homes off the water and in Summersville, Keslers Cross Lanes, Mt. Lookout, and Mt. Nebo, West Virginia.

Find the perfect vacation home on our Summersville Lake Cabins page.

Camping at Summersville Lake

Camping opportunities abound with beautiful natural surroundings on Summersville Lake. You will find plenty of tent camping and RV sites with picnic tables, fire rings and pits, and grills with lots of shade on and off the water. Many places are pet friendly with shoreline fishing and swim beaches, plus showers and laundry facilities.

Dense forests of maple, oak, hickory, beech, and birch trees cover the region with abundant wildlife viewing of black bears, deer, foxes. grouse, and turkeys. Some campgrounds include pools, horseshoes, miniature golf, events, and access to whitewater rafting. Summersville Lake offers stunning views of cliffs, the Appalachian Mountains, and clear water. Campers can only use down and dead wood for campfires.

Check out our list of campgrounds and RV parks for your family adventure on our Summersville Lake Camping page.

Trails at Summersville Lake

Long Point Trail, located on the south side of Summersville Lake near the Mountain Lake Campground and Cabins, is a 3.9-mile moderately trafficked out and back trail. It and is good for all skill levels and allows dogs on leashes. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

Pirate’s Cove Trail is just immediately north of the U.S. route 19 bridge. It is a strenuous trail marked by blue blazes. It takes you to a waterfall in Pirate’s Cove via wooden stairs and a wooden ladder. You can park in the Pirate’s Cove parking lot. Follow Pirate’s Cove Trail from the parking lot.

The first main fork in Pirate’s Cove trail will give you an option of going more or less straight, or veering off through a shallow gulley to the left. Take the left option. The next few forks stay to the right. Eventually, the trail heads slightly downhill and you reach a trickle of a stream on some rocky surface. Follow the stream until you reach the wooden ladder.

Salmon Run Trail is a 1.9-mile lightly trafficked loop trail located north of the U.S. route 19 bridge. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking and mountain biking. Dogs on a leash are welcome.

Kevin R Brown Trail is a 5-mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located in the Summersville Lake State Wildlife area around the northwestern end of Summersville Lake and is rated moderate. This trail is primarily used for hiking and is best from March to October.

Summersville Lake via Orange Oswald is a 2.4-mile lightly trafficked out and back trail that features the river and is rated moderate. It is located just north of the U.S. route 19 bridge. This trail is mainly used for hiking, running, and rock climbing. Dogs are welcome on a leash.

Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park has 156 acres is located at 1194 Carnifex Ferry Crossing, Summersville, West Virginia, and has a few hiking trails. There are other trails all around Summersville Lake with varying degrees of skill levels. You can contact the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Huntington District for information about all the hiking and biking trails at Summersville Lake.

The Monongahela National Forest is over one million acres with 800+ miles of trails. It begins on the eastern and southeast border of Summersville Lake and spreads eastward for miles and miles.

Hunting Summersville Lake

Wildlife traditionally hunted in Summersville Lake region are bear, boar, deer, duck, grouse, squirrel, and turkey. The only place to hunt at Summersville Lake is at the Summersville Lake Wildlife Management Area, which is comprised of 6,169 acres. West Virginia has its own set of regulations regarding hunting, relating to everything from general rules to how to properly extract bear teeth. General guidelines include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Hunting in state parks is illegal in West Virginia.
  • No fully automatic firearms.
  • You cannot shoot a deer or boar while it is in water.
  • You are not allowed to smoke out, bait, or poison any wildlife.
  • You may not feed the bears.
  • Hunting while intoxicated is strictly prohibited.
  • Hunting for deer, bear, or boar is only allowed from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

Contact the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources for more hunting and fishing information.

Things to Do at Summersville Lake

Summersville Lake is the main attraction at Summersville Lake. It lies in an extremely rural area with watersports, whitewater rafting, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, biking, and hiking being the primary activities. There are a few restaurants and bars around the lake, with more in Summersville, West Virginia, on the northeastern edge of the lake. However, there are a few attractions to visit.

Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park is an American Civil War battle site that commemorates the Battle of Carnifex Ferry. It is located on the rim of the Gauley River Canyon at 1194 Carnifex Ferry Crossing, Summersville, West Virginia. This 156-acre park features Patterson House Museum, three views of the Gauley River, hiking trails and picnic facilities. It is one of the oldest state parks in the United States. A Civil War re-enactment takes place on a weekend after Labor Day. Carnifex Ferry State Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The Kirkwood Winery and Isaiah Morgan Distillery has a store where West Virginia-made products are sold along with the winery’s products and craft beer making supplies. You can purchase and taste wine and whiskey. You can see their moonshine still and watch the process of bottling their wine one at a time. It is a farm winery located at 45 Winery Lane off of Phillips Run Road, Summersville, West Virginia.

The Gauley River National Recreation Area, located near Summersville, West Virginia, protects a 25-mile portion of the Gauley River and a 5.5-mile segment of the Meadow River in southern West Virginia. Little of the national recreation area is accessible by roads. You must travel via the river. At the upstream end of the park is the Summersville Dam, the only area of the park accessible by vehicle.

Nicholas County Veterans Memorial Park has many facilities for use or rent by the public, with clean, well-maintained buildings for friends, family, and organizations to enjoy. Its facilities include a one-room school, a horse arena, a FFA building, a performance stage, picnic shelters, a lodge, and a dining hall.

Haunted Heartland Tours offers a blend of history and the paranormal. It provides overnight ghost hunts, haunted history walking tours, haunted dinner events, paranormal classes, presentations, and more. It is located at 10 Scenic Highway, Summersville, West Virginia.

Plan your trip with our What To Do At Summersville Lake page, and our Summersville Lake Event Calendar.

Summersville Lake Weather & Climate

Summersville Lake sees an average of 51 inches of rain, with 53 inches of snow, and 158 days of sunshine per year. The winter low in January is 21 degrees with a summer high in July of 81 degrees. June, August, and September are the most comfortable months for this region.

Keep an eye on the skies with our Summersville Lake Weather Forecast page

Summersville Lake Zip Codes

Nicholas County: 25019, 26202. 26205, 26208, 26610, 26617, 26651, 26660, 26662, 26667, 26671, 26675, 26678. 26679, 26681, 26684, 26691.

Flora and Fauna at Summersville Lake

Common wildlife sightings at Summersville Lake include black bears, boars, deer, ducks, foxes, grouses, squirrels, and turkeys. The closed tree canopy forests consist primarily of deciduous forest which is predominated by species such as red oak, black oak, white oak, bitternut hickory, sugar maple, American beech, and sycamore. Shrubs include species such as muscletree, silverbell, and giant cane, and ground cover consists of native grasses. Its wetlands contain diverse vegetation, which attracts a variety of wildlife species, especially when standing water is present.

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