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Mount Storm (VEPCO) Lake - Bismarck, Mount Storm WV

Mount Storm (VEPCO) Lake is a boat accessible fresh water dive site, located at Route 93, Bismarck, Mount Storm, WV 26739. This dive site has an average rating of 3.23 out of 5 from 22 scuba divers. The maximum depth is 131-140ft/40-43m. The average visibility is 16-20ft/5-6m. Training platforms are available.

Update, no more shore diving but you can launch a boat and dive from it away from traffic and fishermen

Mt Storm Closure
One of our popular dive sites has been effectively closed to us. Mt Storm Lake in Davis, WV is an artificial lake built in 1965 to cool the nearby coal-fire power plant, heating the lake a good 20-30F degrees above any other local dive sites. This makes it a very popular location for diving in between traditional dive seasons. Unfortunately, the site is also very popular with other water sports, namely boating and fishing, which don’t usually mix well with scuba.

In recent years the ability to swim, dive, and boat in up to 90F+ water has brought record numbers to Mt Storm lake. The parking lot is overflowing, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Space is waning on the beaches, docks, and loading ramp bringing boats and other vehicles dangerously close to swimmers and divers. In order to prevent an accident, swimming was prohibited and diving restricted to a small area to the right of the boat ramp. This didn’t really change much for most divers, as we had always stayed within the confines of the "Diving Area" except for the occasional diver who had to enter closer to the boat ramp because he/ she had trouble climbing up and down the path set aside for us.

The path is actually pretty steep and the steps dug into the hillside are uneven and quite tall. Even fit divers have some difficulty with them after a long dive. Children and those with knee and hip problems find them almost impossible. Still, most divers trekked up and down the hillside between dives and gave boaters a wide berth (which is more than I would say for them). Fishermen and other boaters routinely ignore our dive flags and cast into diving areas or zip by overhead without concern for the lives they could be jeopardizing.

Swimmers were angry that they were the only ones being punished (ignoring the fact that they had caused the problem), so instead of explain things or study the problem the WV-DNR simply bowed to the loudest voices and cut off all shore access period. Fair is fair right? Wrong. A petition was circulated by divers and dive shops to regain access to the lake. Instructors and other divers attended hearings and tried to have their voices heard in the matter only to be told that since boaters and fishermen paid for licences, they had more rights to the lake than us. Temporary access was granted until the matter could be researched further. This was in September of 2011.

I had been planning an early spring trip down to Mt Storm to certify a few students and just have a good time. My dive shop had made this trip a few times in the past, and we always had a great time. We liked to stay at the local state park. Black Water Falls has some beautiful cabins and an even nicer lodge. Since it’s only about 10-15 minutes from the dive site, it made for a perfect place to stay. I was getting ready to make reservations when one of my dive masters saw a notice on the Dominion Power website (they own the power plant and the lake) that Scuba Diving was prohibited again!

I thought surely this is a mistake. Since I take care of my own website, I know how little details can go unnoticed and are often forgotten. The ban had been lifted in September, I was sure of it. I reassured my staff that everything was in order, but I would investigate anyway. I went through the contact that Dominion had provided for that particular power station. Carl Ford was very quick to respond to my emails. He said that since WV-DNR leased the land for the boat ramp it was their call, but that he had been working with them to find a solution for all parties. I tried to make a case for the contributions divers make to the local economy, that we cleaned up after ourselves and often brought trash out of the lake making things cleaner and safer for everyone. Unfortunately, about a week later he told me that they all agreed that the best solution for everyone was to only allow access to the lake by boat. We could dive there if we wanted to, but we had to enter the water from a boat.

This information was very disappointing to me. How would it be safer to further crowd the boat ramps and have boats more now intentionally above the diviers’ heads? I expressed my feelings as diplomatically as I could and offered to help with alternative solutions and to rally the other dive shops. He thanked me and that was that. As a business owner, I understand having to justify the time you spend on different projects. In some ways this very blog is a waste of my resources. So what Mr Ford was actually telling me was "We don’t get any money for you to dive there. There are more boaters and fishermen using the lake and we really can’t afford to piss off our customers. We’re hoping that putting this unnecessary restriction on you will keep you all away and that solves our problem as far as we’re concerned."

So, long story short, Mt Storm is closed to divers because of the IGNORANCE of the many and the APATHY of a few. The real solution is education on dive flags, some signage, maybe a little landscaping, and a handful of buoys to mark off separate swimming and diving areas. If you want to see this decision reversed and help create a lasting solution please contact one or all of the following:

Carl R Ford: - Director F&H Station III
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources:

1200 acre lake made to cool a coal fired power plant. The entire lake is circulated approximately every 2 1/2 days if the plant is running full tilt. The lake is heated by the power plant and allows earlier spring diving and later fall diving. This lake is a very popular training location for WV, WV, MD, and PA. Several wooden platforms were put in place to keep students off the silt/ mud bottom.

Mt. Storm is a "heated lake". What I mean by this is that it is a cooling lake for the Mt. Storm power plant which is located across from the dive site entrance. The lake is "turned over" every two days. In the summer I have seen the temperature at 98 degrees. We usually start diving the lake in March or April and have dve it comfortably into November. In January the water temp is in the mid to high 50’s. If you are looking for great viz, forget it, the best I have seen is 10 to 12 feet and that is rare. There are two training platforms at 25 feet, one at 60 feet and one at 90 feet. There is a large gravel parking area for divers and boaters, but get there early in the summer, it’s a pretty popular place for both. Entry is made by walking in to the water down a set of steps that you have to be carful on the bottom of due to wash out, I will be adding some photos soon

Mt. Storm Lake was created in 1962 by Virginia Electric and Power Company (VEPCO) as a cooling pond for the 1,600-megawatt Mt. Storm Power Station, which provides electricity to more than 2 million customers. It is about 145 miles (232 km) west of the Washington D.C. beltway and 64 miles (102 km) from Winchester, Virginia, via U.S. Route 50 and West Virginia 42. The 1,200-acre (480-hectare) lake serves as a recreation site for boaters, swimmers and scuba divers.

The three massive generating units of the power station burn more than 15,000 tons of coal per day, but
state-of-the-art scrubbers keep the air quality well within legal limits. To pool the system, lake water is pumped through the plant at a rate of 234,000 gallons per minute, fast enough to completely recycle the lake water in 2.5
days. When the water emerges into the lake from the three return pipes, its temperature is 100 F (38 C).

Dominating the northeastern shore of Mt. Storm Lake, the superstructure of the massive power plant creates a
somewhat ominous-looking backdrop for the recreational access area. A gravel parking lot, boat-launching ramp and diver entry are just a few hundred feet east from the dam along West Virginia Route 93.

Divers are unconcerned by the power plant as they stream to Mt. Storm Lake on weekends by the hundreds.
For many the trip is like journeying to a mineral spa to "take the cure" from its healing waters. In a way it is a sort of pilgrimage. Instead of traveling to the Atlantic Ocean or a flooded quarry to complete open-water training dives,
refresh scuba skills or try out new equipment, divers do all that while getting a taste of steaming warm water.

Last time I was there is was cold and snowing. Since this lake is part of a Virginia Energy and Power Company generating station, the water was nice and unseasonably warm.

Shore entry across the lake from the power plant.

For you visiting flatlanders using dive tables, don’t forget that the Altitude is: 3244 ft

Here are couple websites with more info.

Dive Site Map

Click to Load Map


Jcwi - 21 days 7 hours ago.
Rating Added: 3
This is where I did my first open water dive.
Semperdive - 10/24/2012 11:54 AM
I went scuba diving here on 12/4/2011. Average viz: 11-15ft/3-5m. Water temp: 56-60°F/13-16°C.
Much better day. The air temp came up to 60 so we cooked out after the dives.
Semperdive - 10/24/2012 11:51 AM
I went scuba diving here on 12/3/2011. Average viz: 16-20ft/5-6m. Water temp: 56-60°F/13-16°C.
Air Temp was 35 degrees and the water was 59. Getting out of the water I felt like ice was forming on my head.
Mavricky - 6/17/2012 7:23 PM
Sad to say a buddy confirmed that this location is now restricted to boat dives only. It was a great place for sharpening skills as mentioned above. I guess now we drive south to warm weather. I dove that at 51 and at 91 degrees.
TankChucker - 12/23/2011 7:06 AM
Rating Added: 2

The lake serves its purpose, but like many lakes isn’t much ’fun’ to dive. It’s a great location for altitude training and the drive from the DC Metro Area is beautiful. I’ve taken students there for Altitude and Dry Suit courses and would go there again. Not a great place for OW certification dives due to the poor visibility and bottom make-up. I’m not sure who ’governs’ the lake, but if permitted, it would be nice for a group of divers with dive shop support to install some good surface bouys to mark underwater platforms and such - and for all of the bottom attractions and bouys to be connected by coated cable vice the string and milk jugs utilized now.
Semperdive - 12/19/2011 2:12 PM
Rating Added: 2
When I was training for elevation and dry suit at this location the visability was very low (approx 3ft). It served its purpose and the scenery was nice but too far to drive on a regular basis. The dive platforms where hard to find and not marked off properly on the water. They used milk jugs for this. Sport fishermen kept asking us where the fish where then later ran over the dive flags/Milk jugs with their boat and they knew we were diving there. If you go bring your own dive flag inflatable buoys.
k-lambertus - 1/20/2011 9:46 AM
I finished up my Advanced open water here. There wasn’t much to see, tons of catfish. I did enjoy the fact that once you cleared about 60ft it turned pitch black. Mind you we were diving the Monday before Thanksgiving. Just being in the blackness with just our lights gave it an entirly new and awesome experience. I loved every minute of it and it has really peaked my night diving interests. 
Mavricky - 8/26/2009 1:59 PM
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