A breathtaking and undeveloped lake surrounded by miles of cliff line, Summersville Lake features some of the clearest blue water you can imagine. The features on Summersville Lake make it a prime multi-sport location, with boating, fishing, rock climbing, lake kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding among the many activities that adventurers can embark on.
The lake was opened in 1966 when the Summersville Dam was completed by damming the Gauley River. The reservoir that was created has become a popular tourist attraction and a getaway for locals looking for both fitness opportunities and relaxation. But the fun of Summersville Lake doesn’t end when summer is over. The US Army Corp of Engineers begins scheduled dam releases for 6 weekends every September and October, allowing adventurers to raft on the world famous Gauley River. Every fall, rafters from around the world travel to West Virginia to take on the world class Upper Gauley, or the more tame and super scenic Lower Gauley.
Known for being West Virginia’s most scenic lake, Summersville Lake has every level of activity, so there truly is something for everybody. Spend a day swimming at Battle Run, where a sandy beach provides a fun day on the shore, West Virginia style. For those wishing to head out on the water, there are several great options. Rent a stand up paddle board and paddle your way around the coves and inlets that make Summersville Lake so unique. Paddle under the waterfall that cascades into Pirate’s Cove for a refreshing shower underneath the cool mountain water. Or, check out the island near Battle Run and truly feel like you’re a world away. If sit down activities are more your speed, head out on a lake kayak (available to rent at ACE Adventure Gear, or as a guided tour with ACE). Paddle your way around the lake and be closer to the water, just make sure you jump out into the water to get some swim time in.
People have traveled to Summersville Lake to rock climb for decades. There are some locations like Orange Oswald where climbers can climb on ropes off of the ground while remaining in close proximity to the lake (it’s a great place to climb if you want to jump into the lake and cool off!). Or, others choose to climb off of a pontoon boat on ACE’s multisport pontoon adventure. This allows climbers to experience climbing where they normally wouldn’t be able to. In 2016, deep water soloing (climbing without a rope over the water) was made legal at Summersville Lake for one day. The US Army Corp of Engineers, as a unique way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Summersville Lake, allowed climbers from around the country to participate in the PsicoRoc competition. Professional climbers sought to climb climbs that had never been sent (climber speak for climbing a route without falling) before. Those who didn’t “send” fell into the water below. The event garnered national attention, and raised money to upgrade the one of the climbing access parking areas at Summersville Lake.
Another unique way to experience Summersville Lake is by scuba diving. Summersville Lake is nicknamed “The Little Bahamas of the East” because of its super clear, almost aqua waters. Due to the incredible visibility of the water, scuba diving has become a popular sport at the lake. Check out Sarge’s Dive Shop, where you can get scuba certified right here in West Virginia! Or, if you are already certified, you can rent or buy equipment at Sarge’s and explore the crystal clear waters on your own.
If bad weather conditions keep you from playing in the lake, there are hiking trails, like the Long Point Trail, for you to explore. The easy Long Point trail leads to an overlook of the lake and its namesake, Long Point, a unique rock formation. Or, check out the dam, where you can view a model turbine and learn about some of the history of the dam.
No matter how you choose to spend your day (or days!) at Summersville Lake, there really is something for everyone. Whether you want to relax at the beach, enjoy a pontoon adventure with climbing, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding, or you visit in the fall to take on the rapids of the Gauley, you’ll see why Summersville Lake has so much to offer.
Chelsea was born and raised in Southern West Virginia and enjoys sharing her love of the Mountain State with everybody she can. Chelsea began her career at ACE as a zipline guide, and after earning her degree in Journalism from West Virginia University, moved to the marketing department where she filled the role of Social Media Coordinator.