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Burnsville Dam is located on the Little Kanawha River about three miles upstream from the Braxton County town of Burnsville, and 124 miles above the river’s confluence with the Ohio River at Parkersburg. The earthen and concrete dam is 90 feet high and 1,400 feet across the top. It was placed in operation in December 1978. It controls a drainage area of 165 square miles, and creates a lake of 968 surface acres at summer pool stage. The average depth of the lake is 20 to 25 feet.

As with most large U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs, Burnsville’s purposes are flood control, flow augmentation, and recreation. A minimum flow of 20 cubic feet per second is maintained from the dam’s five sluice gates and three low-flow gates.

Burnsville Lake is drawn down only 13 feet in wintertime, compared to 27 to 30 feet at neighboring Sutton Lake, which controls a larger drainage area. Burnsville has never exceeded 52 percent of its storage capacity. That figure was reached during the largest flood on record, on August 1, 1996.

The pastoral setting at Burnsville Dam and Lake leads to high recreational use. Campgrounds include Riffle Run near the dam, and Bulltown on the upper end of the lake. There are five boat-launch ramps at the lake. The Bulltown Historic Area, which is part of the reservoir complex, includes structures dating back to the mid-to late-1800s, a Civil War battlefield, and a visitors center. A cooperative study by the Corps of Engineers and the West Virginia University School of Forestry is mapping a plan for future operation and management of the historic area. The 12,256-acre Burnsville Lake Wildlife Management Area provides excellent hunting. The area includes a large network of popular hiking trails.

This Article was written by Skip Johnson


Cite This Article

Johnson, Skip "Burnsville Dam." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 31 May 2012. Web. 17 July 2018.

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