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Summersville Lake
Ben Crookshanks

West Virginia is a landlocked state. Nevertheless, there are a number of lakes in West Virginia, most of them manmade. The largest of these is Summersville Lake, created when the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Gauley River as a flood control project. The dam is 390 feet high and 2280 feet long, the second largest rockfill dam east of the Mississippi.

During the summer, the lake, as well as the area around it, is one of the most popular recreation destinations in southern West Virginia. Facilities include a Class A campground, beach, boat ramp, marina and picnic area.

You don't normally think of the hills of West Virginia as a place to go scuba diving and snorkeling. Skin Diver Magazine nicknamed Summersville Lake, "The Little Bahamas of the East". That's with good reason. It's the cleanest lake east of the Mississippi. The lake has an average visibility of 20 to 45 feet. Occasionally, it is much more. Summer surface temperature ranges from 68-80 degrees Fahrenheit-perfect for diving and snorkeling. The steep, rocky shoreline extends, in places 100 feet below the water surface, giving the diver plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. The sheer cliffs projecting above the water were created as part of flood control prior to the building of the dam. These present excellent rock climbing challenges.

Sarge's Dive Shop is literally floating on the lake. You can drive up to the shop either in your car or boat. Sarge's is a full service diving facility. They rent and service jet skis, diving equipment and boats. They offer scuba certification and specialty diving classes. Sarge's is an authorized dealer for a variety of water recreation equipment.

If you just want to look around (the hills are really beautiful around the lake, especially in the fall when the leaves are turning) Sarge's has lake tours available.
Here's a little bit of interesting trivia about how Summersville Dam got its name. For some time, it has been a tradition of the Army Corps of Engineers to name a dam after the nearest post office. The little post office of Gad was the nearest. For obvious reasons, the Corps chose not to name the structure after Gad. The next nearest was Summersville-thus the name.

While you are in the area, if you like Italian cooking, check out Mama Jarroll's Country Road Inn. It's on (of course) a country road-Route 39 west of Summersville. You don't have to take my word for it, because The Country Road Inn has been recommended by Southern Living, Mobile Travel Guide, Ford Times, Who's Who in America's Restaurants and in PM Magazine.
Although West Virginians are not bothered by unexpected company and Mama Jarroll would welcome you any time, just to be on the safe side, it would be a good idea to call and make a reservation. The Country Road Inn is a popular place. Their phone number is (304) 872-1620.

To beat the summer heat and get information about the activities in Southern West Virginia, call 1-877-868-4578, or surf the web at www.aaaAdventureOutdoors.com. You can also get complete outfitter information at www.callwva.com.
For Sarge's call 304-872-1782.

Summersville Lake is a great place for kayak touring, and also rock climbing-yes, rock climbing! Miles of rock cliffs can be explored by pontoon boat, which serves as a base of operations. Contact AAA Adventure Outdoors for more information.