Laughter at the Lake

Summersville Lake at Mt. Nebo in Summersville has us yearning for lazy childhood summers.


Photographed by Nikki Bowman

Summersville Lake. Just the name inspires muscle relaxation and a lackadaisical attitude. With spectacular cliffs, nearby white water rafting on the Gauley River, Civil War battlefields, West Virginia’s only working lighthouse, plenty of campsites and cabins spread throughout the grounds, and magnificent scenery stretching 60 miles of shoreline, Summersville Lake might just be the quintessential summer retreat.

While we’re challenged to come up with a wilderness location in West Virginia—the United States, even—with a better or more literary moniker, we’ve challenged you to a summer of outdoor adventure in our state. Joining the National Wildlife Federation’s movement to get 10 million kids outside running, playing, swimming, and generally having fun, we’ve taken the last few weeks to list a few of West Virginia’s best outdoor activities. This time, we want to redirect your attention to a longtime favorite. When was the last time you splashed around Summersville Lake?

As the largest lake in the state, there is enough here to keep you and your family busy for at least a week, if not two. Dive in at the swimming beach near the Battle Run Area or launch your boat at a handful of ramps or the lake marina. Don’t own a boat? Rent a pontoon boat for the day to carry up to 10 people around the cliffs and coves of the lake. Before lunch, or 30 minutes after, find a secluded spot for swimming. Adults and the more adventurous lake-goers can rent a canoe, kayak, or standing paddleboard to explore the lake—self-powered. It’s as much fun as it is a workout. For the truly adventurous, try scuba diving and snorkeling at Sarge’s Dive Shop. On land, hiking, biking, camping, and ATV trails are available. Climb up the Summersville Lake Lighthouse, a 104-foot tower sitting more than 2,000 feet above sea level with full 360-degree views of the lake and surrounding landscape. When you think you’re finished with water activities, visit Carnifax Ferry Battlefield State Park, an important Civil War battlefield, or nearby parks like Hawks Nest State Park, Babcock State Park, and the Monongahela National Forest.

Each Wednesday on, we will feature one outdoor recreation area along with some fun suggestions to get your kids outdoors. And we want you to share your photos and stories with us—they may appear online or in a future issue of the magazine. Join us by committing to taking our children to our state parks, hiking in the wilderness, camping, fishing, and growing gardens.

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