Bluestone Lake is an artificial water impoundment on the New River in southern West Virginia. It was, and is, a continuing project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is part of a flood and drainage control system for the Kanawha River Basin, part of the New River, Kanawha, Ohio, and Mississippi River drainage systems.

Dam onflict

The dam and lake complex did not begin without conflict. Private hydroelectric companies had shown interest in building a dam at the site. During the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt the federal government claimed jurisdiction to also build a dam at the site. A lawsuit was filed to determine who held jurisdiction over the waterway. Subsequent decisions gave jurisdiction to the federal government. FDR allocated funds in 1935 for the project from funds reserved for emergency relief appropriations, directing the War Department to proceed in building a multi-use facility. Not to be denied, private concerns continued to press for legal victory, a process which stretched out for several years. The case eventually found a hearing in the United States Supreme Court. The high court held that the federal government had jurisdiction over all navigable waterways, even waterways which were not currently being used for transportation of goods and people. The Supreme Court also held that even if a stream or river could eventually become navigable after improvements, it fell under federal jurisdiction. This decision held sweeping ramifications not just for this project, but for many future projects, defining and limiting the rights of the several states to waterways within their own borders.

Finally, on November 10, 1941, the way was cleared for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to proceed. Work was halted on March 1,1944 during World War II with the dam being 35% complete. Following the war, construction resumed on January 2, 1946. It was necessary to rehabilitate the existing work before new construction could proceed. The dam was finally functionally complete by January, 1949 and totally finished in January, 1952. The price tag for the project was approximately 30 million dollars, a price which included land acquisition for the project. In the ensuing years it is estimated that Bluestone Lake and its dam have prevented over 1 billion dollars of flood damage downstream.

Dam impressive

The dam of the lake is located near Hinton, West Virginia. It contains 940,000 yards of concrete and 7,800 tons of reinforcement steel. It rears to a maximum height of 165 feet above the stream bed, and is 2,048 feet in total length. The type of construction is that of a straight concrete gravity dam, 200 feet in width at the base and tapering to just 16 feet in width at its summit.

The dam contains a long, slender body of water which extends 10.5 miles upstream. It has a surface area of 2,040 acres, making it the 3rd largest lake in West Virginia.

Dam Useful

The lake and surrounding area provide for a wide variety of recreational use. The lake itself provides boating, water skiing, swimming, and fishing. Surrounding areas provide hiking, camping, picnicking, biking, horseback riding, hunting, and other activities.

Nearby are opportunities for canoeing and whitewater rafting. In close proximity to Bluestone Lake are the Bluestone Wildlife Management Area, containing 17,632 acres which afford additional hunting and fishing. Also nearby is the Camp Creek State Forest and Bluestone State Park.


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