Cheat Lake History

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Cheat Lake’s Name Lost in History

Morgantown Dominion Post
7 March 2011

WHAT’S IN A NAME

CHEAT LAKE CURLS like a fat snake south from the Pennsylvania state line into Monongalia County, then turns into the wild rapids of the Cheat River, stretching 156 miles to its origin near Shavers Fork, Randolph County.

But Cheat Lake, officially, isn’t Cheat Lake. It’s really Lake Lynn.

The lake was formed in 1925, when West Penn Power Co. built a dam across the Cheat River “to serve the needs of a hydroelectric generating facility, the 52-megawatt Lake Lynn Power Station,” according to the website “Cheat Lake Today.”

West Penn Power was folded into Allegheny Energy, which recently merged with FirstEnergy. FirstEnergy has announced it is reviving the name West Penn Power for its Pennsylvania operations.

The lake created by the dam is 13 miles long, with a maximum depth of 90 feet at the dam, and contains a trio of submerged islands where the Ices Ferry Bridge crosses. You can see the islands in the winter when the lake is at its lowest point.

The power station began operating May 31, 1926, and can generate 52 megawatts of electricity from water running through the 1,000-foot-long dam. The water cascades down a 624-feet spillway, the website notes.

At a ceremony in 1927, a bronze tablet, embedded in a great rock near the power station, dedicates the lake and the generating facility to the public “In lasting beauty for recreation and the supplying of essential service.” The 13-mile lake has been a popular recreation spot ever since.

In June 2000, Allegheny Energy opened to the public a 20-acre park and 4.5-mile hiking and biking trail on the lake’s eastern banks.

While it’s easy to find the source for the name “Lake Lynn” (a nearby community built by the power company), the origin for “Cheat River” is lost in history.

In it’s entry for Cheat Lake, “The West Virginia Encyclopedia” reads:

“Roots of laurel and hardwood leaves tint the water, hiding sharp rocks and treacherous currents. This lead to drownings which some say caused settlers who began to live along its banks before the American Revolution to say the river ‘cheated’ people of their lives.”

“Others think it was named for the cheat grass that sprang up in newly cleared lands, or for an early French settler, or from a word of Indian origins.”

Evelyn Ryan researches and writes this column. Send ideas and suggestions to newsroom@dominionpost.com.