Nearly 22 years ago I made my first scuba dives in Summersville Lake in West Virginia. I’ve made hundreds of dives since then in some amazing places, but that freshwater, manmade lake will always hold a special place in my logbook. I often tell people one of my most memorable night dives was there, lying on my back watching my bubbles rise into the reflection of the full moon on the surface.
I’ve also had the opportunity to dive there with my dad. Definitely one of those father/son moments. When I would come into town, we would grab gear and run up there for a day. Not that much to see, but always fun to blow bubbles and bond for a bit.
An interesting factoid about West Virginia is that there are no natural lakes in the state. The terrain is too vertical. There are lakes all over the place, but they all have a dam at one end where men decided to create them—usually as water reservoirs or for flood control. The dams and spill ways that make them work provide an interesting opportunity for divers. Every year, the US Army Corps of Engineers lowers the water level about 80 feet to “winter pool”. This allows them to hold back water in the winter and spring as heavy rains and snows roll through the area, protecting property downstream. But every 10 years they lower the lake even further –about 130 feet—to perform maintenance on the flood gates and other submerged structures.
What better way to look at your familiar dive sites from a totally different perspective? Take the two photos of my dad for example. One is him tying off a dive flag last summer and the second is him standing beside the same rock with the empty lake in the background.
Another photograph shows Battle Run campground where it juts out into the lake. It’s hard to see in this photograph, but near the bottom are a picnic table and some small concrete statues—between the two large rock outcroppings. These were placed there by some divers I happen to know. When the lake is full, they are more than 100 feet underwater.
I think looking at that hole in the ground where water is supposed to be represents my thoughts on my return to West Virginia in general. It is at once familiar and different. Seen through different eyes and from a different perspective, I’m trying to figure out where I fit in again and how I can be involved.