Whitewater, Bridges, Homesites Emerge During Mega-Drawdown of
16 November 2013
By Rick Steelhammer
SUMMERSVILLE -- The sights and sounds of whitewater churning over
and around boulders in the Gauley River are making a rare return
appearance this week under the U.S. 19 and W.Va. 39 bridges
spanning sections of Summersville Lake.
Once every 10 years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lowers the
normal winter pool of the state's largest reservoir an additional
55 feet to allow personnel to inspect and perform maintenance on
intake and outflow structures at the base of Summersville Dam. The
deeper drawdown allows sections of the Gauley River channel to
briefly emerge from the depths of the lake, under which this
stretch of the legendary whitewater stream has slumbered since the
dam was completed in 1966.
During a routine 10-year inspection that took place in 2011, it
was discovered that an intake valve wouldn't seal completely
enough to allow inspectors inside the lower portion of the
"In order to inspect the tunnel carrying water from the lake to
the river, we have to seal off the lakeside gates well enough to
put people in to walk through," said Toby Wood, project manager at
Summersville Lake. "We couldn't get it sealed well enough two
years ago for that to happen. It caused no problems with the
operation of the dam, but when you have a structure that's pushing
50 years old, it needs to be inspected and maintained."
After parts were ordered and plans were revised, the lake is once
again at 55 feet below normal winter pool to accommodate repairs
and, hopefully, an inspection.
"We were planning to be at this level for two weeks, and it looks
like we are still on track for finishing up a weekend from now,"
Until then, the lake, which provides nearly 2,800 acres of surface
area during the summer, is reduced to less than 500 acres, causing
a number of lake bottom features to see daylight for the first
time in years.
"One of the most noticeable changes taking place now is being able
to see the river as it originally ran through what is now the
lake," said Wood. "You can see sections of creeks running into the
lake that are normally covered with water, and some old home
One such site can be seen a few hundred feet of rocky, muddy
lake bottom across from Sarge's Dive Shop at the now high-and-dry
Long Point Marina. Cut rock foundation stones, cement blocks,
bricks and a square iron frame anchored in cement are all that's
left of the homesite that was once apparently a part of the
farming community of Gad, which ceased to exist with the creation
of the lake.
Nearby, on a rock at the edge of a former creek channel, the
hand-carved name of "Cecil Dorsey" can be found, along with a
smaller carving bearing the initials RCD and the date 1916.
An Internet search indicates that a Cecil Dorsey was born at Gad
in 1897 and died in Nicholas County in 1966. Cecil Dorsey is also
pictured with fellow classmates of the old McKees Creek School at
Gad, in a school photo taken in 1912 and reprinted in the Nicholas
Chronicle in 1987.
Among other features that emerge from the lake during the
once-a-decade inspection draw-downs is a pre-lake roadway that
parallels the Gauley River channel and bridge piers that are the
remnants of a pre-lake highway crossing of the Gauley near the
present W.Va. 39 bridge over an arm of the lake.
With the lake level now so dramatically reduced, all boat ramps
are too far from the lake surface to accommodate launching. When
the normal winter pool is restored, boat access will return to the
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or