Smith Mountain Lake Information

Smith Mountain Lake lies primarily in Bedford and Franklin Counties with a tiny area in Pittsylvania County in south central Virginia. It is approximately 40 miles from Lynchburg and Roanoke, Virginia, and 140 miles from Richmond. The Roanoke River feeds Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia’s Roanoke Valley. Smith Mountain Lake covers 20,480 acres with 500 miles of shoreline, an average depth of 55 feet, and a maximum depth of 250 feet.

Smith Mountain Lake stretches along Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and sees visitors from all over the world. Heavily forested rolling foothills surround Smith Mountain Lake in a populated waterfront region. This lake expands with several arms dotted with islands throughout its main body and hundreds of coves and inlets circling shoreline and along the Roanoke River Channel. Many lake homes and private docks line its waterfront.

Appalachian Power, a subsidiary of American Electric Power Company, Inc. serving the Appalachian Mountain range in Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, owns and operates the Smith Mountain Project. The Smith Mountain Dam is on the southern border of the lake, and Leesville Lake follows the Roanoke River for 17 miles south and east below this dam. Leesville Lake is basically a river channel without a main body of water. Both lakes are part of the Smith Mountain Project. 

Smith Mountain Lake History

Under President Eisenhower, the Federal government encouraged private utilities to build hydroelectric projects on navigable rivers. In 1953, the Supreme Court cleared the pathway for an investor-owned utility to build on the Roanoke River. American Electric Power created the privately owned hydroelectric project on the Roanoke River at a gap in Smith Mountain in 1960 and completed the dam in 1963.

Numerous Indian tribes from Jamestown’s Powhattans to Shawnee, along with many other tribes, hunted abundant game that the natural salt licks in Roanoke Valley attracted. Evidence indicates that ancient people lived in this region over 7,000 years ago and that 500 years predating Columbus, there were 35 Indian camps along the Roanoke and Blackwater Rivers in the area now covered by the lake. The Indians lost most of their territories in Virginia through treaties with the U.S. government or by extinction. 

The Algonquian word “roanoke” translates to: to rub, abrade, smooth, or polish, as in making roanoke, peak, or wampum beads. Roanoke Valley and Roanoke River are named after these shells. The Indians traded Roanoke shells with Indians from other regions and later Europeans. The color of the bead shells determined the value of the wampum. If roanoke beads were black or purple colored, they were worth twice the value of white beads. Unique roanoke shells have been unearthed in South America. 

Beads made from roanoke shells fetched from three to four buckskins in exchange for other trade goods. The first European settlers arrived in Roanoke Valley around 1670. In 1740, brothers Daniel and Gideon Smith took ownership of Smith Mountain. A century later, the region was sparsely settled, with little development until the 1960s. Farmers in Roanoke Valley quietly raised dairy cows and grew primarily corn, tobacco, tomatoes, and wheat crops.

Twenty-five-year-old Dr. Jeffrey Fong designed the Smith Mountain Project and hand sketched drawings with a team of ten men who calculated the engineering design for the dam with slide rules. By September 20, 1963, the gates closed on the dam and Smith Mountain Lake began to fill up. Families had to sell their farms. Structures of the pioneer farms are sleeping with the fish. 

James R. Saunders, who made his livelihood in the lumber and cattle business, saw the lake water form beautiful coves and shorelines around his home and built a marina there in 1966. The Smith Mountain Dock and Lodge is the oldest marina on Smith Mountain Lake and known as the “Home of the Pet Carp”. Today, retirees and wealthy folk living the lake life call Smith Mountain Lake home, and homes and docks line its waterfront. 

Although there are no towns close to Smith Mountain Lake, the population within two miles of its shores hovers around 20,000, depending on which census report you source. Modern lake homes have slowly replaced yesteryear’s trailer homes and small houses, but those throwbacks to a simpler day are still around. If Smith Mountain Lake did not share three counties, it would be the wealthiest demographic region in Virginia. The wealth of Smith Mountain Lake lies in real estate and tourism today.

Smith Mountain Lake Fishing

Predominant game species include largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass, bluegill, channel, flathead, and white catfish, black and white crappie, muskellunge (muskie), white and yellow perch, and redear sunfish. Smith Mountain Lake bass fishing is highly productive. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) encourages striped bass anglers to quit fishing after catching their limit and to not practice catch-and-release from June to September because these bass will not survive. 

There is a slot limit for striped bass from November through May. This slot limit requires all striped bass caught between 30 to 40 inches long to be released. Black bass are the most sought after species by anglers at Smith Mountain Lake. Largemouth bass far outnumber smallmouth bass and are mostly found upstream of the Hales Ford Bridge area in the Roanoke River arm and buoy B26 in the Blackwater River arm.

Smallmouth bass are more productive in the lower portion of the lake. Bass densities are typically higher in the upper ends of the reservoir, but anglers usually find more productive smallmouth fishing the lower ends. During spawn, bass hang around the shore and then between 10 to 20-feet deep in other seasons. The DWR stocks striped bass to maintain its fishery because of the lake’s lack of striped bass spawning habitat.

Smith Mountain Lake has a limited crappie habitat, with crappie not consistently productive. Sunfish are abundant. Their competition with shad prevents good growth, so most sunfish are small. Channel catfish are the most popular catfish species on the lake, but flathead catfish grow to a large size.

Piers and boathouses provide extensive shoreline cover. Natural structures, like fallen trees, rock shoals, and points, are seasonally productive, plus lots of standing timber remains. Coves typically produce the best largemouth bass productivity because of shallower water and less boating traffic. When fishing during the summer, anglers fish at night or early in the morning to avoid heavy boat traffic.

Anglers desiring a no-hassle fishing adventure will have no problem locating local Smith Mountain Lake fishing guides. It is a vast lake with plenty of fish habitat. There are more fishing guides on this lake than most lakes in many U.S. states. Smith Mountain Lake has earned a reputation as an outstanding fishery. Fishing tournaments from local and regional events to Bassmaster pro tournaments braodcasted on ESPN abound.

Check out experienced local pro guides on our Smith Mountain Lake Fishing Guides page.

Boating Smith Mountain Lake

Smith Mountain Lake’s water activities include canoeing, fishing, jet skiing, kayaking, paddleboarding, power boating, sailing, swimming, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and wakesurfing. Smith Mountain Lake offers six free public boat launching sites, plus paid launches at over a dozen marinas, and some lakeside developments maintain their own private ramps. The lake’s water level primarily fluctuates between 50 to 180 feet, and standing timber remains from the lake’s original construction. 

There are over 100 navigational buoys in Smith Mountain Lake.  Each buoy has a number on it. As you head upstream on any waterway, the buoy numbers grow larger. When heading away from the dam and upstream on any waterway, the red buoys are on the right (stern) and green buoys are on the left (port). The buoys flash these same colors at night. White flashing lights at night indicate shoals, islands, or other obstructions that should be avoided. Red buoys indicate creeks that feed the lake.

Boaters, and especially first-time boaters, on Smith Mountain Lake, should buy a lake map. Lots of islands and hundreds of coves and inlets give boaters plenty of places to visit on the vast waters of Smith Mountain Lake. Boat rental services operate all around the lake and at the marinas. Plus, boat-up restaurants and other marine business ring the lake.

Shop or sell a boat on our Smith Mountain Lake Boats for Sale page.  

Plan your trip to Smith Mountain Lake by calling one of the marinas today on our Smith Mountain Lake Marinas page, and don't miss out on our Smith Mountain Lake Boat Ramps Map.

Smith Mountain Lake Real Estate

The Smith Mountain Lake real estate market is the largest marketplace for lake property in Virginia. There are over one thousand land lots and homes for sale on Smith Mountain Lake at any given time. Smith Mountain Lake homes for sale average from $68,000 to $11 million. There are a couple of elementary schools and a private Christian school near the lake, but no K-12 educational districts. 

Numerous retail stores and services are available around the lake. Most are located on or near Route 122/Booker T. Washington Highway in Franklin County and Moneta Road in Bedford County, a few miles north and south of Hales Ford Bridge.

There are two large modern supermarkets, two libraries, and dozens of accountants, attorneys, banks, churches, dentists, fitness facilities, independent retail stores, marinas, physicians, real estate brokers, restaurants, and veterinarians conveniently surrounding Smith Mountain Lake. 

Smith Mountain Lake is one of the east’s most popular destinations for vacationers, second-homeowners, retirees, and telecommuters. But the surge in residential development has caused negative effects. Homebuyers need to make sure they contract with expert real estate brokerage services. There are several local airstrips, a regional airport in Roanoke 40 miles away, and the Raleigh-Durham International Airport is a 2.5-hour drive from Smith Mountain Lake.

To find your dream home, explore our Smith Mountain Lake Homes for Sale page. 

Smith Mountain Lake Cabin Rentals

Smith Mountain Lake offers self-catering vacation rentals by the week, long weekend, month, and long-term, directly from homeowners and vacation rental property brokers. Rates vary by season, size of rental, and included amenities. Some Smith Mountain Lake vacation rentals include a dock for your boat or one you can rent. There is no limit to any vacationer’s wants or needs in a lake home because the vacation homes are prolific and come in all sizes with tons of amenities. 

The Smith Mountain Lake State Park features 11-two-bedroom frame, 8-two-bedroom frame with water views, and 1 three-bedroom frame cabins. A two-night minimum stay or by-the-week on Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day and reservations are required. The cabins are available year-round unless the park is closed to overnight guests for managed wildlife hunts. 

Find the perfect vacation home on our Smith Mountain Lake Cabins page. 

Smith Mountain Lake Camping 

Smith Lake State Park

The Smith Mountain Lake State Park offers 70 campsites that include 20 cabins, 26 tent-only sites, and 24 RV sites with standard electric hook-ups. Campsites feature in-ground grills for cooking and campfires, a picnic table, and a lantern post. A full-service bathhouse is located at the campground for hot showers with a wash sink for dirty dishes. Swimming at the park and using the boat launch is free for overnight guests. The park is usually open from March 1 through the first Monday in December. Reservations are highly encouraged during peak season, summer through fall.

1235 Rd 888, Huddleston, Virginia

Betty’s Island

This island campground is accessible by boat towards the northern end of Smith Mountain Lake. It is first come/first serve for tent camping and a popular picnic site with boaters. 

Blue Ridge Campground & Marina

This campground is open from April 1 to October 31 and features RV sites with standard water, sewer, and electric hookups, bath houses with hot showers, laundry facilities, and dump stations. 

Smith Mountain Campground

This RV park is less than five miles from the nearest public boat launch on Smith Mountain Lake. It features 47 RV back-in sites for 30 to 45-foot lengths. All sites include water, electric, sewer, and Wi-Fi. Its 50 amp pedestals also have 30 amp receptacles. All RV's need to be equipped with surge protectors due to insurance requirements. Amenities include a bathhouse, lodge, playground, pavilion, horseshoe pits, and cornhole and bocce ball courts.

155 Liberty Rd, Penhook, Virginia

Arrowhead LLC

This is a year-round RV park offering long-term RV and mobile home rental leases only. Amenities include a bathhouse with a winter heater, a boat ramp, Christian boat church services from May to September, kayaking, a picnic shelter, a swimming area, and walking trails, plus most dogs are welcome.

5625 Smith Mountain Road, Penhook, Virginia

There are a few other campgrounds for mobile home rentals, tents, and RVs spread around Smith Mountain Lake. They include the Blue Ridge Campground, Eagle’s Roost, Hannabass Campground, Lazy Cove Campground, and Palmer’s Marina. RV owners need to contact each park individually for Smith Mountain Lake RV Park amenities and regulations. 

Check out our list of campgrounds and RV parks for your family adventure on our Smith Mountain Lake Camping page.

Smith Mountain Lake Hiking Trails

Smith Mountain Lake is well-developed with houses all along its 500 miles of shoreline, so there are few hiking trails around this lake. The Smith Mountain State Park offers 13 hiking trails ranging from half a mile to three miles long. Its trails meander through the park’s various features, including hardwood forests, pine forests, secluded coves, and picturesque vistas. The trails are open year-round during daylight hours. 

Plantation Trail at Booker T. Washington National Monument

The Plantation Trail is a 1.5-mile loop through the historic area. This trail circles the Burroughs farm where Washington was born and passes all the farm buildings and other points of interest. A paved path suitable for wheelchairs leads to most of the farm buildings. An original tobacco barn requires hiking beyond the paved areas. It passes by reconstructions of the nineteenth-century farm buildings similar to those that stood on the Burroughs Plantation when Booker T. Washington was alive. 

Smith Mountain Lake Hunting

The Smith Mountain Lake State Park organizes managed deer hunts and there are limited slots per day during the season. The park is separated into 11 zones with just a few hunters allowed in each zone. On average, fewer than 40 deer are killed during the hunt. Hunters must kill a doe before they kill a buck, and there are limits each year for how many deer per day depending on deer population management priorities. Hunt information becomes available after August 1 each year and reservations for slots open in September each year. Contact the park for information at (540) 297-6066.

Things To Do At Smith Mountain Lake 

Options for dining are plentiful with boat-up Smith Mountain Lake restaurants on the water, and restaurants from small cafes to full-service surround the lake. Enjoy golfing at the Copper Cove Golf Club, the Waterfront Country Club, and Harbortown Mini Golf on the north, Mariner’s Landing Country Club on the east, and the Water’s Edge Country Club on the south sides of Smith Mountain Lake. 

Visit the Booker T. Washington National Monument in Hardy, Virginia, commemorating the life of Booker Taliaferro Washington, who was born a slave on the Burroughs tobacco plantation in 1856 and died in 1915. With freedom from slavery at age 9, he left the plantation to pursue an education. Booker T. Washington is known internationally as an educator, author, orator, college president, and spokesman for previous generations of African-Americans.

The Booker T. Washington National Monument includes preserved plantation buildings like slave quarters, a tobacco barn, a smokehouse, and a tool shop, plus farm animals such as pigs, ducks, turkeys, geese, chickens. The monument admission is free and open year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Franklin County, Virginia, 12130 Booker T. Washington Highway, Hardy, Virginia

The Visitor’s Center at Smith Mountain is open to the public with a view overlooking the dam. Exhibits tell the history of the dam and how power is generated at the unique two-lake complex. The picnic area located below the Smith Mountain Dam on Leesville Lake is open to the public daily. The Visitor's Center and overlook allows only service dogs. The Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Exhibits and the overlook area close at 4:30 p.m. Admission is free.

2072 Ford Rd Sandy Level, Virginia

Take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most frequently visited touring parks in the U.S. National Park System. Over 14 million visitors travel its road and enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway every year. Within the 469-mile-long Blue Ridge Parkway are 15 visitor centers, cabins, campgrounds, lodges, overlooks, restaurants, picnic areas, trails, and private facilities. The Blue Ridge Parkway near Smith Mountain Lake extends from Virginia Route 8, at Milepost 86, to the Peaks of Otter and Virginia Route 43.

Relax for an afternoon or evening of wine tasting at Smith Mountain Lake at a nearby scenic vineyard like the Brooks Mill Winery, 6221 Brooks Mill Road, Wirtz, Virginia, Hickory Hill Vineyards & Winery, 1722 Hickory Cove Lane, Moneta, Virginia, or Ramulose Ridge Vineyards, 3061 Hendricks Store Road, Moneta, Virginia.

Plan the perfect day trip or vacation on our Things to Do at Smith Mountain Lake page.

Smith Mountain Lake Zip Codes

Bedford County: 24095, 24104, 24121, 24139.

Franklin County: 24101, 24137, 24176, 24184.  

Pittsylvania County: 24104, 24137, 24139.

Smith Mountain Lake Weather & Climate

Smith Mountain Lake sees an average of 10 inches of rain with 10 inches of snow and 215 days of sunshine per year. The winter low in January is 25 degrees and a summer high in July of 87 degrees. May and September are the most comfortable months for this region. January and February are the least comfortable months. Keep an eye on the sky with our Smith Mountain Lake Weather Forecast page.

Smith Mountain Lake Flora and Fauna

Wildlife viewing opportunities include bats, beavers, black bears, white-tailed deer, grey and red fox, groundhogs, opossums, raccoons, skunks, flying squirrels, and weasels. Predominant tree species include dogwood, hemlock, hickory, locust, maple, red and white oak, loblolly and Virginia pine, poplar, and sycamore.

Smith Mountain Lake Email Updates


Smith Mountain Lake Current Weather Alerts

There are no active watches, warnings or advisories.


Smith Mountain Lake Weather Forecast


Mostly Sunny

Hi: 67

Wednesday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 34


Mostly Sunny

Hi: 59

Thursday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 34


Chance Rain

Hi: 53

Friday Night


Lo: 49


Rain Likely

Hi: 58

Saturday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 38

Smith Mountain Lake Water Level (last 30 days)

Water Level on 3/31: 42.51 (-752.49)

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