When you think about lighthouses, the landlocked state of West Virginia probably doesn’t come to mind first. However, it’s actually home to the 48th tallest lighthouse in the United States. Lighthouses surprisingly aren’t always located by the ocean, they can be enacted next to any body of water. The tallest lighthouse in West Virginia is also the only lighthouse in the state. Most other landlocked states don’t have lighthouses, making West Virginia’s lighthouse pretty unique.
The tallest lighthouse in West Virginia is Summersville Lake Lighthouse at 104 feet tall.
History of Summersville Lake Lighthouse
The Summersville Lake Lighthouse is a newer attraction for the state. It was built in 2012 by the owners of Summersville Lake Retreat, Steve and Donna Keblesh. The idea to erect the lighthouse actually started from a joke and turned into reality after discussions with some local builders.
When guest Rick Butler stayed at the Summersville Lake Retreat, he got into a conversation with the owners about his work. He built wind towers in the neighboring county and had enacted quite a few recently. The owners joked with Butler that if he had an extra tower to spare, they would love to convert it into a lighthouse. While it was just an off-handed comment at first, this idea sparked the entire lighthouse project.
It turned out that Butler’s company did have an extra tower that they couldn’t use for wind production. It was damaged from falling off of a truck during transportation. When the owners heard this, they decided to turn their joking comments into reality. They purchased the wind turbine and had it delivered to the retreat. It took two 50-ton cranes to move the tower onto a truck and place it back on the ground at the retreat.
Word spread quickly around the community about the lighthouse project, and people were more than happy to help the Kebleshes’ dreams become reality. Students and instructors from two nearby schools drew up design plans for the lighthouse. Helpers from the Fayette Institute of Technology and the Nicholas County Career & Technical Center both played a big role in renovating the lighthouse.
They designed plans to create a lamp room and a spiral staircase that wrapped around the former wind turbine. The light for the lighthouse was donated by Rader Airfield, a local airfield that had an extra beacon in storage. It was a vintage model from 1941 that can be seen from over 30 miles away. The light isn’t just for show, though. Of course, it isn’t guiding sailors to the lighthouse, but it is registered as a navigational aid for pilots and aircraft.
The lighthouse was dedicated with a lighting ceremony on June 20, 2013, the 150th birthday of West Virginia. The public showed up for the dedication in full force, with over 2,000 people watching as the lighthouse became active.
With its completion and additions in 2013, the structure now weighs a massive 77,000 pounds. The 104-foot lighthouse is an active tourist destination. It overlooks Summersville Lake and the Gauley Bridge National Recreation Area. Visitors to the retreat can visit the lighthouse and climb its 122 steps to take in the beautiful scenery around. It is open daily from April to October and by reservation from November to March.
There are tours of the lighthouse during the day and evening, as well as special tours like sunset and full-moon tours.
There is an annual event called the Summersville Lake Lighthouse Festival and Car Show. It happens on the fourth Saturday in August and draws in large crowds every year.
Summersville Lake Retreat offers many activities aside from just the lighthouse. They also have cabins, RV camping, and tent camping available for lodging. They also offer boat rentals to explore the gorgeous Summersville Lake.
Wildlife Around Summersville Lake Lighthouse
Summersville Lake is the largest lake in West Virginia, offering over 2,700 surface acres of water and 60 miles of shoreline. It offers many different views, from rocky cliffs surrounding the sides to the Summersville Dam which was constructed in 1966. The lake is a popular spot for boating, rock climbing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
Many different species have been spotted and caught in the lake. Many anglers have seen large and smallmouth bass, walleye, panfish, sunfish, and catfish in the lake. However, the most popular species are bass, crappie, and walleye. Because of the popularity of fishing here, the lake is surrounded by fishing tackle shops and there is a marina on the lake as well.
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