Where to Go Scuba Diving in West Virginia's Summersville Lake
Divers enjoy jumping from Long Point Cliff.
Unexpectedly scenic forest and hills meander across West Virginia and abruptly stop at the dramatic sandstone rock cliffs of Summersville Lake. The quiet town of Summersville offers a variety of summer watersports activities, with conveniences available right in town to make this a comfortable weekend getaway.
Summersville Lake is the center of all activity for the region and was created when the Summersville Dam was built in 1966, flooding the ghost town of Gad. Locals decided against naming it Gad Dam, but this piece of history has become a sort of inside joke, with local businesses like Gad Dam Brewing cashing in on the pun.
This quiet lake is beautiful to dive, and the visibility is better than average for lakes. Four prominent dive sites are frequented for their scenic rock formations. Long Point Cliff features a pyramid-shaped rock from which divers enjoy jumping after dives. However, jumping off the nearby surrounding cliffs is banned at the lake for safety concerns after numerous fatalities.
Although most dives are accessible by boat, shore diving is available from Battle Run Beach, where there is also a campground. A local dive shop provides dive charter opportunities and even coordinates a simple dinner cruise that showcases other locations on the lake, with a side of calzone from Alfredos of Summersville. All dive rentals and charters should be booked in advance to ensure what you need is available.
Boulders scattered across the Overlook dive site.
Bubble’s Cave is named for an air pocket 25 feet down under a ledge at the bottom of the rock wall. Follow the bottom for 15 feet until it opens wider and you see the large air pocket. There’s no way to know the state of the air in it, so breathe from your regulator, not the air pocket, if you go there. The Overlook and Copperhead Cove also include rock ledges. The best diving is all shallower than 60 feet, where the sandstone formations create dramatic underwater features.
Kayaking, paddle boarding and other activities like white-water rafting are popular. The cliffs attract advanced rock climbers and make scenic backdrops for photography. Complete a trip by visiting Pirates Cove, known for a waterfall that runs down the cliff following rains.
Sites proliferate nearby each other, offering divers easy-access variety.
Long Point Cliff: This is the lake’s signature dive site, named for the towering rock formation found at its center. Divers love taking a swim after the dive and jumping from the rock face—just don’t leap from the surrounding cliffs. Visibility is often best here due to its proximity to the rock, and the depth reaches 40 feet.
The Overlook: The most diverse of the lake’s sites, this dive begins on the south side of the cove. You’ll know you’re in the right spot if you see a tree trunk leaning against the cliff. The dive continues for 200 yards and features several freshwater fish—smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill and walleye—a ledge at 52 feet, tree stumps and more boulders. This area is a small cove, not a straight wall like the other sites.
Copperhead Cove: The main dive attraction here is a wall with a vertical descent to 72 feet and a length of 100 yards. Don’t miss the 25-foot overhang at a depth of 20 feet when diving this river rock ledge. Although the bottom reaches 100 feet, only mud is seen below the wall.
Need To Know
Conditions: Viz varies from 20 to 40 feet; lake temps range from 78 to 85 degrees in summer.
What To Wear: 5 mm wetsuit in summer.
White-Water Rafting: If you’re looking for serious adventure, book a guided white-water rafting trip on Gauley River in summer. Rafting is available following rains that allow the dam to open. New River is another popular option that doesn’t depend on the water released from the dam.
Kayak and Paddleboard : Rent kayaks and paddleboards from the local dive shop or other outfitters. Explore the lake on your own or book a tour in the summer. The lake is calm and easy to navigate, but guided tours are affordable and highlight the most scenic rock overlooks.
Hiking: Get a different perspective of the Long Point Cliff site by hiking 3.9-mile Long Point Trail. This trail is not a loop but features several lake overlooks. For a shorter walk, trek to Pirates Cove for an overlook of the waterfall, which runs down the rock face following rains.