Since its inception, the 19,000-acre R.D. Bailey Lake project has prevented an estimated $220 million in flood damages from Justice to Huntington, according to Brian Morgan, project resource manager.
That surpasses the original cost of the dam, which totaled $180 million.
R. D. Bailey Lake project was constructed between 1967 and 1985, authorized by the U. S. Congress in the Federal Flood Control Act of 1962, to control flooding along the Guyandotte and Ohio rivers.
Originally referred to as Justice Reservoir, the lake was named by U.S. Congressional action, on July 4, 1967, for the late Robert D. Bailey Sr., who served as a circuit judge in Wyoming and Mingo counties in the 1920s. The attorney also served as a state senator and prosecuting attorney in Wyoming County.
R. D. Bailey Lake was dedicated in August 1980.
The lake provides year-round recreational activities for the thousands of annual visitors.
While two state record-breaking-size bass have been caught in the lake, the project is also becoming known throughout the country for the trophy bucks which sprint through the lush forests.
“This county is part of the region with no rifle season, so the hunters can get these trophy-size bucks,” according to officials.
The summer lake surface is about 630 acres, with 17 miles of shoreline, making it a popular destination for fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts.
Open for boating throughout the year, the lake contains smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye, muskie, channel catfish, among others.
Additional recreational features are picnicking, camping, and hiking.
Campground facilities extend along a six-mile span of the Guyandotte River. The 169 sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis during the summer season. Electric hookups, restrooms and showers, along with playground areas, and dump stations are available.
While the dam sits near the town of Justice, in Mingo County, the lake is in Wyoming County.
The dam’s random rockfill design is unusual and has drawn visitors from as far as China.
“Most dams have a clay core,” according to officials. “But clay is hard to find here and it was too expensive to truck in.”
The random rockfill dam is a carefully designed mound of closely compacted rock, according to information provided by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and was the first concrete-faced dam the Corps built.
Built in 1974, the dam structure includes 5.7 million cubic yards of rock, 6.4 million pounds of steel, and 240,000 bags of cement.
The maximum dam height is 310 feet; the length is 1,400 feet. At the top, the dam width is 32 feet; at the base, the width is 1,410 feet.
It was one of the first dams on which new laser technology was used. The lasers were used to guide the blade along the concrete face, according to officials. At the time, the laser was “a big deal.”
Visitors can get a bird’s eye view of the dam from the Visitor’s Center, which sits 365 feet above the lake.
The center also provides information and photos concerning the dam project, from the beginning, and its flood control.