Picturesque Burnsville Lake, one of central West Virginia's key attractions, offers visitors a wide variety of activities such as fishing, boating, camping, hunting, biking, and picnicking. The project has 13,224 acres of land and attracts about 3/4 million visitors annually.
Burnsville Dam is located in Braxton County on the Little Kanawha River, 124 miles above its confluence with the Ohio River and approximately 3 miles above the Town of Burnsville, West Virginia.
It was developed to reduce flooding on the Little Kanawha River, which runs 167 miles and drains an area of 2,320 square miles, and is a unit in the Corps' Ohio River Basin Flood Reduction System.
Under normal conditions, precipitation runoff caught by the lake is simply passed through the dam by adjusting gate openings. Following a significant storm, water is held back to reduce flooding downstream. After the danger of flooding has passed, excess storage is released as rapidly as possible.
The dam was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1938. Construction began in 1972, and the dam became operational for flood control in December 1978.
The dam is a combination of earthen fill and concrete structures that is 90 feet high and 1,400 feet long. The earthen fill section has an impervious clay core. The concrete section contains the spillway and outlet works.
The summer pool elevation is maintained from April through October. Lowering of the pool by 13 feet, to provide additional flood storage, begins in early November and continues until winter pool elevation is reached. This winter pool elevation is maintained through March each year.
Bicycles are permitted on main roads and campground areas. Contact a Park Attendant or Ranger for the location of areas conducive to off-road bicycling. Under West Virginia law, all riders under the age of 15 years MUST wear a protective helmet.
Launch ramps for the boating enthusiasts and fishermen are located at the Riffle Run Day Use Area, Bulltown Day Use Area and Bulltown Camping Area.
Riffle Run Campground offers 60 sites: 54 three-point hookups (water, sewage, and electric) and 6 primitive / tent sites. Shower / restroom facilities, two playgrounds, sewage dump-stations, and fresh water fill-up stations are also located within the campground. Riffle Run campground is on a first come-first serve basis--NO RESERVATIONS ACCEPTED (You must have all of your camping equipment on arrival) . Bulltown Campground has 204 sites: 22 sites with 30 amp electrical hook-ups, 48 sites with 50 amp electrical hookups, and 134 sites with 50 amp electrical, water, and sewer hookups. Restroom / shower facilities, playgrounds, dump-stations, fresh water fill-up stations, an interpretive shelter that may be reserved by campers for special occasions, and a boat launch ramp are located within the campground. The campsites vary from waterfront to wood lot. To make a reservation at Bulltown Campground, call toll-free 1-877-444-6777 or visit on the internet at www.recreation.gov during peak season. Bulltown Campground sites during the non-peak season are on a first-come, first-serve basis.
See policy on the use of Assistive Mobility Devices within our campground(s), as posted on the main page of this website under the Recreation button, or by contacting the lake office or campground for more information.
Game fish occurring are largemouth and smallmouth bass, rock bass, bluegill, sunfish, walleye, Saugeye, Sauger, crappie, muskellunge, channel catfish, flathead catfish, long-nosed gar, and carp. Trout are also stocked in the tailwaters during the spring. West Virginia fishing licenses are required.
Universally Accessible Facilities are provided at the Project Office, Falls Mill Scenic Area, Falls Mill Fisherman Area, Bulltown Historic Area, Bulltown Camping Area, Bulltown Day Use Area, the Dam, Riffle Run Day Use Area, and the Riffle Run Camping Area.
Several trails are located at Burnsville Lake. A trail system map can be obtained at the project office, campground entrance stations, or from Park Rangers.
Private (non-commercial) horseback riding is permitted at the Burnsville Lake Wildlife Management Area on the established trail system, however horses are not permitted in camping and day use areas. Contact Burnard Gibson at French Creek DNR for specific regulations and details at 304-924-6211.
Wild game mostly occuring are white-tailed deer, turkey, and squirrel including some rabbit and bear.
Burnsville Lake marina located at the Riffle Run Day Use Area directly behind the dam. The dock area, which is privately owned, provides visitors with docking facilities, boat rentals, snack bar, and an array of fishing supplies.
Picnic shelters are located at the Bulltown Day Use Area and the Riffle Run Day Use Area. All shelters are available on a first come - first served basis EXCEPT WHEN RESERVED IN ADVANCE (a fee is required for reserving a shelter). Picnic shelters may be reserved by calling the National Recreation Reservation Service toll-free at 1-877-444-6777 or visit on the internet at www.recreation.gov . Shelter #1 and Shelter #2 are located downstream below Burnsville Dam, Shelter #3 and Shelter #4 are located just behind the dam in the Left Fork Picnic Area, and Shelter #5 and Shelter #6 are located in the Bulltown Day Use Area. There are also picnic tables at all recreation areas on the Burnsville Lake project.
A swimming beach with restrooms, change booths, and outside showers is located at the Bulltown Day Use Area. No lifeguards are provided. Swim at your own risk.
The Bulltown Historic Area includes a visitor's center with exhibits of artifacts showing the lifestyles of people from the mid to late 1800s. Programs and tours of the area are available upon request by contacting the project office. There is also a visitor center located at the project office. Maps and brochures may be picked up at this location.
Exciting summer Activities at Burnsville Lake
Burnsville Lake has two day-use areas, Bulltown Day-Use Area and Riffle Run Day-Use Area. The Bulltown Day-Use Area is located near the town of Napier and has a swimming beach with accessible restrooms and changing booths. A boat launch ramp, fishing access, picnic shelters, horseshoe pits, and a playground are also available. The Civil War Confederate Overlook and the Falls Mill Scenic Area are located nearby. Falls Mill was the site of a gristmill on the Little Kanawha River and in addition to the beautiful waterfall; there are picnic tables, a picnic shelter, a ball field, and excellent fishing opportunities with accessible restroom facilities. The Riffle Run Day-Use Area is located near the town of Burnsville. The area offers a launch ramp, picnic shelters, horseshoe pits, a ball field, playgrounds, restrooms, and fishing areas. Accessible restroom facilities are available and a privately-operated marina is also located in this area. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources stocks trout in the tailwaters in the spring.
Burnsville Lake also has two beautiful campgrounds. Riffle Run Campground is located near the dam and marina. Fifty-four campsites are located in partially wooded areas with electric, water and sewer hookups. Six primitive sites are also available. The campground has accessible shower/restroom facilities, two playgrounds, a sewage dump station, nearby fishing, boating, and other recreational opportunities (such as biking, hiking, and hunting). Reservations are not accepted in Riffle Run Campground. Because of many dedicated volunteers, this area has been operated exclusively by volunteers for several years. Riffle Run has continued to remain open without shortened seasons or reduced services. Without vital volunteer support during times of shrinking budgets, this area could have been closed.
Bulltown Campground has both waterfront and wooded campsites at this very popular destination spot. Electric hookups are available on all 204 sites. Water and sewer hookups are available on 134 of the sites. The campground has accessible shower/restroom facilities, four playgrounds, a fresh water fill-up station, a sewage dump station, 2 horseshoe pits, a volleyball court, a basketball court, fishing, boating, hiking, biking and hunting. Campsites at Bulltown Campground can be reserved through the National Recreation Reservation Service by phone at 877-444-6777 or online at www.recreation.gov.
Bulltown Historic Area has an interpretive center/museum and historic structures dating back to the mid- to late-1800s. The Cunningham farmstead is located here. Self-guiding trails with an original section of the Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike are available for visitors. Special programs and tours of the historic structures and the Civil War Battlefield (including the fort) are available during the summer months. Special tours are also available throughout the year. Please call 304-853-2371 for reservations. Living history events and demonstrations are also offered.The Bulltown Historic Area is the site of the Battle of Bulltown, which occurred on October 13, 1863, in the Union trenches overlooking the Bulltown Bridge across the Little Kanawha River on the Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike. The battle occurred because the Confederates wished to gain control of the bridge and the turnpike. The battle lasted 12 hours. Colonel William L. “Mudwall” Jackson, a native of western Virginia (West Virginia) and cousin to Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson led the Confederate forces. The Confederates attacked the Union forces at 4:30 a.m. Captain William Mattingly led the Union forces in repelling the attack on their fortifications. The battle ended about 4:30 p.m. Moses Cunningham, the owner of the property being occupied, ran out of his nearby farmhouse during the battle and shouted, “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!” He was wounded, but soon recovered.
Burnsville Lake also offers an extensive 88 mile trail system for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. The Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike Trail connects Burnsville Lake to Stonewall Jackson Lake and has over 10 miles of picturesque scenery. The Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike Trail is on the National Park Service’s National Recreation Trail Register and the National Register of Historical Places.
During times of critical budget shortages, volunteer support is extremely important to help keep areas open. Typical volunteer duties include staffing a visitor center, giving tours, providing living history, mowing, string trimming, cleaning facilities and grounds, painting, light carpentry, and general maintenance support. Selected persons will be given a free full-hookup campsite at either Bulltown or Riffle Run Campground for providing at least 24 hours of work per week. If you are interested in helping the staff at Burnsville Lake, please contact a Park Ranger at 304-853-2371.