Summersville Lake WV – Diving, Swimming & Snorkeling

Summersville Lake is a stunning lake located in West Virginia. It has been named the “Little Bahamas of the East” for its crystal-clear blue waters, white sand beaches, and surrounding rugged hillsides. This lake supplies a variety of activities that are perfect for family vacations, couples retreats, and weekend getaways.

The 825-acre Summersville Lake is surrounded by limestone cliffs that reach up to 600 feet above the water line. These cliffs provide breathtaking views from every angle around the lake. Visitors can enjoy hiking trails, camping sites, and multiple areas for swimming or fishing. Kayaking and paddle boarding are also popular activities on Summersville Lake as it has plenty of protected coves and caves to explore.

Scuba diving in West Virginia?

Believe it or not, there are a few decent spots to get wet and see some fish in West Virginia. Long known as an excellent area for hiking, rafting, and mountain biking, West Virginia also offers a nice diversion for scuba divers. Don’t get me wrong, the state is not a “Scuba Mecca” that entices throngs of divers, but what you will find are several nice lakes with good visibility that fill in nicely between exotic dive vacations.

Summersville Lake

Summersville Lake is located somewhat centrally in the state and can be accessed easily from several areas. The lake is located 50 miles east of Charleston off Route 19. You can take I-64 from the east or west, I-77 from the south, or I-79 from the north. The nearby town of Summersville offers several choices for accommodations, restaurants, and stores.

Summersville Lake
Summersville Lake, West Virginia

If you subscribe to Skin Diver magazine, you may have heard what they have to say about Summersville Lake. They called it “The Little Bahamas of the East“. With relatively warm summer water temperatures (68-80 degrees F), rocky cliffs that plunge to about 100 feet below the surface, and usually decent visibility of 20 to 45 feet, it’s not hard to see why. On the half dozen occasions that I’ve dived there, I’ve spotted varied and interesting marine life including bass, walleye, catfish, and the ever-curious throngs of sunfish. In fact, the trip reviewed here includes one of my more memorable dives, as far as fish interaction goes.

Summersville Lake Beach

Summersville Lake Beach is one of the most popular attractions in West Virginia. Nestled in the rolling hills and forests of Nicholas County, Summersville Lake Beach is a beautiful spot for swimming, boating, fishing, camping, and more! With its crystal clear waters and lush views, it’s no surprise that Summersville Lake has become a popular summer destination for outdoors enthusiasts from all over.

The beach features multiple boat docks with access to deep waters ideal for swimming and fishing. Boaters will be pleased to know that Summersville Lake also offers plenty of coves for picnicking or relaxing by the shores. For those looking to stay dry during their visit, there are plenty of trails nearby which offer breathtaking views of the lake – perfect for morning walks or afternoon hikes.

Summersville Lake Quick Facts

  • Location: Summersville, West Virginia
  • Directions:  The lake is located 50 miles east of Charleston off of Route 19. You can take I-64 from the east or west, I-77 from the south, or I-79 from the north.
  • Activities: Boating, diving fishing, water sports, and rafting.
  • Admission: none
  • Camping: Mountain Lake Campground (877) 686-6222, Mount Manor Campground (304) 872-4220
  • Dive Shop, Snorkeling Charters: Sarge’s Dive Shop (304) 872-1782
  • Boat Rentals: Summersville Boat Dock (rentals) (304) 872-3341
  • Area Hotels:
    • Sleep Inn (304) 872-4500
    • Comfort Inn (304) 872-6500
    • Summersville Motor Inn (304) 872-5151
    • Super 8 (304) 872-4888
    • Best Western (304) 872-6900
    • Hampton Inn (304) 872-7100

Diving, Swimming & Snorkeling

There really is no decent shore diving that I know of at Summersville Lake, which leaves two choices: go out with the local dive shop on their boat or rent a boat yourself. Once at the lake, you’ll find Sarge’s Dive shop at the main docks. If you plan on going out on one of Sarge’s boats, it’s a good idea to call ahead the day before and check their schedule.  Boats usually run twice a day and once at night on the weekends. Stopping in early in the morning (9:00 a.m. or so) is also advised. This will get you on the list for the first boat that goes out that day. Sarge also offers snorkeling and swimming charters at reasonable rates. Non-diving riders are also welcome on the dive boats for a small fee.

diving Summersville Lake
diving Summersville Lake

I’ve also rented a boat from the Summersville Boat Docks and rented tanks from Sarge. This has allowed my family, a couple of non-diving friends, and my dive buddy and his family to enjoy a day of fun, all at our own pace. This is not, however, the most economical way to go diving, unless you have a boat of four or five divers that chip in, as the pontoon boat rental can be expensive (cash or check deposit is required). Be sure to call at least six to eight weeks in advance if you want to rent a boat during the weekend in the summer.

If you choose to go with Sarge, they’ll pick the best dive spots available at that time. If you choose to rent your own boat, I strongly recommend diving only at Long Point. There are other places to dive, but no other spots have the level of convenience or interest as Long Point. You’ll find an area roped off and marked with buoys, just for divers. The water is around 70-80 feet, but you’ll want to explore the depths above 45 feet as the combination of poor visibility and chilling thermals beyond that point make it a fairly worthless and cold experience.  The fish there are somewhat plentiful and curious. Keep in mind though, this is not Cozumel. The fish don’t see a lot of divers and are initially skittish. The best technique for spotting fish is what I refer to as the “dead man” (sitting very still for four or five minutes). They’ll eventually come to you. Long Point is also a great area for swimming and snorkeling. Several large rock formations jut above the waterline, making for many jump platforms and swim-around.

Sarge’s Dive Shop
Full-service dive shop located right on Summersville Lake. Sarge’s Dive Shop offers diving tours from mid-May through September. Telephone: 1 304 872-1782

Summersville Lake Lodging

There are many choices if you wish to camp while you’re there. Keep in mind that most sites in the area offer “recreational” camping at its best or worst, depending on your point of view. What I’m referring to is the abundance of other campers that always seem to be around. Years ago, I liked this sort of “communal” camping, or “car camping” as my friends and I cal lit. But after a few hikes into the woods, with tents pitched miles from civilization, I’ve become a bit jaded and have since developed short patience for this sort of camping. Yowling kids and fat shirtless men parading around, pretending to be “outdoor types” tend to make me only want to camp a night or two at most at these sorts of places.

Summersville Lake visitors guide

In past trips, I’ve stayed at both Mountain Lake campground and nearby Mount Manor campground. Both offer clean sites, bathrooms with warm showers, and flush toilets. Rates are generally per person and run around $4 per person on average. Mountain Lake has a location advantage since it is located within a long walk of the lake. Mount Manor Campground has a quality advantage. Fewer people and lesser-used campsites make for a more peaceful camping experience, as long as you don’t mind the 4 or 5-mile drive back to Summersville dam. If you are completely averse to the camping experience there are several hotels in the area (see the Outdoor Travels guide list at the end).

Final Word

Summersville Lake is a breathtaking destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature-lovers alike. Its wide range of activities, stunning views, and pristine waters make it the perfect getaway for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether you’re seeking fun on the lake or would rather take in its beauty from afar, Summersville Lake is sure to make your next vacation unforgettable!

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