Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, USA
Also known as: Jewel of the Blue Ridge
Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Smith Mountain Lake.
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Smith Mountain Lake visitor and community guide
With emerald green shores, sapphire blue skies, topaz blue waters, and soaring surrounding mountains, it’s clear why Smith Mountain Lake is nicknamed “Jewel of the Blue Ridge.”
Nestled in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia’s most popular recreational lake offers 580 miles of coved shoreline and 20,800 acres of beautiful lake to explore.
Smith Mountain Lake then and now
The Appalachian Power Company created Smith Mountain Lake by damming the Roanoke and Blackwater Rivers. The 40-mile-long lake first reached its “full pond” level of 795 feet above sea level in 1966. SML is deepest at the dam, about 250 feet, with an average depth of about 55 feet.
SML was built for flood control and hydroelectric power generation using an unusual pump-back system from the adjacent Leesville Reservoir. The system regulates the water level, allowing it to vary by just two feet year-round (except during times of drought and flood).
Smith Mountain Lake stretches across three counties (Bedford, Franklin and Pittsylvania) in stunning Southwest Virginia and is best-known for its exceptional recreational opportunities. Because of its natural beauty, well-developed tourism, and temperate four-season climate, the reservoir welcomes many visitors to its shores every year.
Top things to do at Smith Mountain Lake
From spring through autumn, you’ll find the lake dotted with boaters, anglers, jet skiers, water skiers, wake boarders, tubers, canoeists, paddleboarders and kayakers.
Smith Mountain Lake is among the USA’s top fishing destinations for both amateurs and professionals and has hosted Bassmaster/ESPN fishing tournaments. Largemouth and striped bass are among anglers’ most-favored catches.
On a hot Virginia summer day, nothing beats diving into SML’s cool waters. You can do that from your dock, your boat or a rental boat, but many choose to absorb the sun and play in the lake from the well-equipped Smith Mountain Lake State Park.
Boasting a large 500-foot long sandy beach, the park is a favorite among residents and visitors, offering a designated swimming area, dive platform and sandy beach. Smith Mountain Lake State Park also offers an informative visitors’ center, picnic areas, well-equipped cabins, primitive campsites and miles of hiking trails.
Much smaller, but also popular, is 37-acre Smith Mountain Lake Community Park, a family-oriented facility that offers a beach, handicap-accessible fishing pier, hiking trails, picnic shelters and a playground.
Four golf courses, some lakeside, attract both residents and visitors to Smith Mountain lake.
SML is an angler’s paradise. Bassmaster ranks it among the USA’s 25 best bass fishing lakes. The lake has hosted several national professional fishing tournaments featured on ESPN, including the Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament. Anglers prize largemouth bass, striped bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, white perch, crappie, yellow perch, and catfish. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources has stocked the lake annually with striped bass since its impoundment in 1963.
Top off-water activities near Smith Mountain Lake
Booker T. Washington National Monument, a tribute to the famous African American educator and statesman, is located in nearby Westlake Corner. Other can’t-miss stops nearby for history buffs include the National D-Day Memorial and Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest.
Inquisitive minds will enjoy a trip to the Smith Mountain Dam Visitors’ Center to check out, among other things, an interesting audio-visual presentation showing how the dam was built. Take a peek at a wall mural detailing Smith Mountain Gap before the area was flooded. Learn how the Smith Mountain Lake-Leesville Lake symbiosis creates electricity, and view photos and descriptions of local wildlife.
The Visitors’ Center at the dam is free to enter; take an hour or two to get to know the inner workings of the reservoir. Please check in advance to make sure the center is open.
The lake is about 25 miles from “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway, a U.S. National Park System “unit” that hosts millions of visitors each year. Take your camera/smartphone along for the ride as unparalleled views unfold before you. Rolling valleys, mountain peaks, and soaring birds will swoop below you at every parkway lookout point, so come prepared to “ooh and ahh” at every vista.
Smith Mountain Lake relocation info
SML also is home to more than 20,000 permanent residents, including many retirees and remote workers who have relocated from across the country to enjoy reasonable real estate prices and low property taxes. For comprehensive information on Smith Mountain Lake real estate, visit DebBeranProperties.com.
Smith Mountain Lake’s exceptional offerings make it a perfect vacation destination, permanent residence, or anything in between. Whatever your pleasure – lakefront dining, fireside reading, or a glass of wine accompanied by a stunning sunset – Virginia’s most popular lake will far exceed your expectations.
FUN NOTE: Smith Mountain Lake is the headquarters of LakeLubbers!
Custom Smith Mountain Lake house decor
Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.
Things to do at Smith Mountain Lake
- Vacation Rentals
- Fishing Tournaments
- Jet Skiing
- Water Skiing
- Cabin Rentals
- Wildlife Viewing
- State Park
- National Park
Fish species found at Smith Mountain Lake
- Black Bass
- Largemouth Bass
- Smallmouth Bass
- Spotted Bass
- Striped Bass
- White Perch
- Yellow Perch
Best hotels and vacation rentals at Smith Mountain Lake
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Smith Mountain Lake photo gallery
New photos coming soon!
Smith Mountain Lake statistics & helpful links
Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed
Water Level Control: Appalachian Power
Surface Area: 20,800 acres
Shoreline Length: 580 miles
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 795 feet
Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 788 feet
Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 800 feet
Average Depth: 55 feet
Maximum Depth: 250 feet
Water Volume: 1,140,000 acre-feet
Completion Year: 1966
Water Residence Time: 3.35 years
Lake Area-Population: 18,000
Drainage Area: 992 sq. miles
Trophic State: Mesotrophic
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