The magic of Summit Lake

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

Over the weekend, our family made a quick trip to one of our favorite mountain towns, Richwood. Located along the Cherry River in eastern Nicholas County, Richwood is a town on the rebound with good food, outdoor recreation, and kind people. 

After dinner one night, our son wanted to do a little fishing. We headed up the road to Summit Lake, a magical high-altitude lake located in the Monongahela National Forest. 

Two forks of Coats Run, off the North Fork of the Cherry River, combine to form the 42-acre lake. It sits high in the Gauley Ranger District of the forest, with long vistas along the road looking back towards Richwood, 2 miles off Route 39.  

While the lake is often geographically-attributed to Richwood, technically it’s not even in Nicholas County. It’s in the tip-top slice of Greenbrier County, with Richwood being the nearest town. In addition, it serves as a water source for Richwood.

On a pleasant Sunday night, we climbed the mountain alone with no other cars in sight. But when we reached the summit, we found multiple families enjoying the lake’s recreational activities. 

A young couple walked around the lake with their dogs. A grandpa and his boy fished from the dock. “We didn’t catch nothin’,” the little boy told us. “Hope you do!” 

A father and daughter learned to paddleboard. A family of several generations enjoyed supper in the large picnic shelter. (The lake also offers primitive campground sites adjacent to the lake.) 

Our son caught crawdads, tadpoles, and salamanders, as we threw our lines in the lake. The fishing dock is long and wide, providing ample dock-fishing space for dozens of anglers. It must be at least 200 feet long, leading you along the wooded-edge of the forest. The lake is stocked with trout, bass, crappie, and bluegill, according to locals. Not that we met any of the fish personally; we didn’t catch a thing! 

We descended as the sun set, lighting the forest aflame with golden rays for as far as we could see, and drove back into Richwood for the night. 

Our son loved Summit Lake so much that he asked when we could return? Soon, we told him. Hopefully, very soon. 

When you’re on the lake as the sun disappears behind the mountains, the darkness doesn’t last. Because the crystal clear is lit up by glowing stars. It’s like a perpetual fireworks show in the dark night sky. 

Summit Lake is a place so special you’ll want to keep its native beauty all to yourself. But we encourage you to bring the whole family. There’s plenty to see. Plenty to do. Plenty to talk about the whole ride home, until it draws you back again. 

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