In 2010, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources listed 121 public fishing lakes and ponds in the state. Forty eight of the state’s 55 counties have at least one public lake, with some counties having as many as seven. Trout Pond, located in Hardy County, is the state’s only natural lake and has a two-acre surface.
The largest lakes in the state are the ten created by impoundment dams built and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The primary purpose of these structures is flood control, with secondary purposes including recreation, river flow augmentation, fish and wildlife conservation, and water storage for municipal and industrial water supply. The oldest of these lakes is Tygart Lake on the Tygart Valley River, and the newest is the Stonewall Jackson Lake on the West Fork River. Stonewall Jackson Lake is also the largest lake in the state with a 2,790-acre surface. State parks have been developed around four of the Corps of Engineers lakes: Tygart, Stonewall Jackson, Bluestone, and Beech Fork. There are many small flood control lakes, as well. They include North Bend Lake in Ritchie County with a 305-acre surface, and Dunkard Fork Lake in Marshall County with a 49-acre surface.
There are 13 navigational dams with locks built and operated by the Corps of Engineers. Seven of these high-lift gated structures are located on the Ohio River with an additional three each on the Kanawha and Monongahela rivers. These dams, with their movable gates, are not flood control structures but are operated to maintain a minimum nine-foot navigational depth throughout the length of the river on which they are located. The pools created by these navigational dams provide recreational opportunities, economic development potential and water supply for the communities along their banks.
The three largest non-government lakes in the state are Cheat Lake (Lake Lynn) on the Cheat River, Mount Storm Lake on the Stony River, and Stonecoal Lake on Stonecoal Creek. All three are operated by electric power companies. Cheat Lake is used to generate hydroelectricity, while Stonecoal and Mount Storm supply water for steam generation at coal-fired electric plants. A low dam at Kanawha Falls has been used in the generation of hydroelectricity for more than a century, creating a picturesque lake just downstream from Gauley Bridge. A dam on New River diverts water through Hawks Nest tunnel for the generation of electricity, creating the lake at Hawks Nest State Park.
There are numerous other impoundments throughout the state, such as farm ponds used for agricultural purposes and coal mining impoundments used to hold coal tailings from coal preparation plants. Some of the coal impoundment ponds are several surface acres in size.
This Article was written by Gerald W. Sutphin
Last Revised on May 13, 2013
Water Resources Development in West Virginia. Report. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1999.
"West Virginia State Parks & Forests," Pamphlet. West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, 1981.
"West Virginia Fishing Regulations," Pamphlet. West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, 2004.