Tygart Lake is located on the Tygart Valley River three miles from Grafton, on the Taylor-Barbour county line. The dam was built during the Great Depression as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, its construction ironically justified by both flood and drought.
Pittsburgh and other places in Pennsylvania and West Virginia had long suffered from periodic flooding of the Monongahela River, including major floods in 1888 and 1907. The Tygart Valley River is a major tributary of the Monongahela, and in 1912 Pittsburgh’s Flood Commission called for a dam on the Tygart among its recommendations for watershed improvements. No action was taken on the Tygart until after the severe drought of 1930 which nearly shut down navigation on the Monongahela River. When construction began, Tygart Dam’s dual purposes were to help control flooding in the Monongahela Valley and to improve low-water navigation on the Monongahela by impounding water for use in times of drought.
Authorized by the 1935 Rivers and Harbors Act, Tygart Dam was the first of 16 flood-control projects in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District. Construction began in 1935 and was completed in 1938. The Works Progress Administration provided workers to the dam project, which employed as many as 3,000 men during construction. The dam is 1,880 feet long, 209 feet high at the spillway, and controls a watershed of 1,184 miles. The dam required 324,000 cubic yards of concrete, for years the most concrete in any dam east of the Mississippi.
The 1,740-acre lake and its surrounding land are managed by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Tygart Lake State Park, located on the lake’s eastern shore, offers a lodge, restaurant, cabins and camping, and a range of recreational opportunities. Pleasant Creek Wildlife Management Area occupies the opposite side of the lake. Fishermen take walleye, muskellunge, perch, and other species from Tygart Lake, which is also noted for its bass fishing.
Last Revised on November 05, 2010
Johnson, Leland R. The Headwaters District: A History of the Pittsburgh District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1979.