Smith Mountain Lake: Insiders' Guide

Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia's most popular lake, offers superb recreational activities, 500 miles of shoreline, a wide variety of water sports, and affordable lakefront real estate. Known locally as "SML," it is the "Jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains". This insiders' guide by 12-year lake residents includes Smith Mountain Lake vacation and relocation information. It's a comprehensive guide - laid out as a continuous webpage so that you can print it out and bring it along when you visit the lake. Except for a few Google Ads, the links on this webpage are unpaid - selected for their value to vacationers and to retirees considering SML.

SML Sunrise (June); Photo Copyright 2011 Brian Raub
Visiting Rotarians: SML Rotary invites you to attend our twice-monthly meetings.


Smith Mountain Lake Vacation Rentals

SML vacation rentals are offered by the week, long weekend, and month - by private homeowners and from vacation rental property managers. Rental rates vary by season, size of rental, and included amenities. Most are bargains when compared to other lakefront, oceanfront, and resort vacation rentals in the USA. For vacation lodging, call an SML real estate company, or check Smith Mountain Lake Vacation Rentals at Lakelubbers.com.

Smith Mountain Lake (January); Photo Copyright 2006 Ted Pratt

Peak-season (June-August) rates for Smith Mountain Lake waterfront vacation rentals run from $400-$4000/week, with size and amenities (rather than geographic location) the primary determinant of cost. During peak season, you'll typically need to check in and out on a Saturday, rent for a full week, and supply your own linens.

Mid-season (4-6 weeks preceding and following summer) you can expect warm pleasant weather, fewer visitors, modest discounts from peak rates on your SML vacation rental, flexible check-in and check-out dates - plus weekend and daily rate options.

Low-season (generally mid-October through mid-April) you can expect mild weather, very few visitors, discounts of 20%-50% on your vacation rental, flexible check-in and check-out dates - plus weekend, daily, and monthly rate options.

Many SML lakefront vacation rentals include a dock; ask if you need one for your boat. Public boat launching ramps are usually nearby. If you can't bring your own boat, marinas rent pontoon boats for about $175/day. Most other motorboats are far more expensive - including PWCs (Seadoo, Yamaha, etc.) and ski boats.



Smith Mountain Lake - Other Accommodations

SML (March); Photo Copyright 2006 Ted Pratt

SML is a beautiful and friendly place to visit all-year-round. If you're visiting for one week or longer, we recommend a vacation home rental. For shorter stays, consider these other lodging options, where summer non-holiday rates are the highest rates shown:

Houseboat rentals are also popular. Most have a 3-day minimum and a peak-season weekly rate of $1200-$2900 (plus gas) depending on size and length of rental. Try Parrot Cove Boat Rentals. For youth camping, weddings, large conferences and retreats, consider the 4-H Conference Center with 400+ beds and 120 acres on the waterfront. Bernard's Landing and Mariner's Landing (above) also accommodate large conferences and retreats. SML State Park Cabins go quickly and should be booked well in advance.

About Smith Mountain Lake

SML (April); Photo Copyright 2006 Ted Pratt

Why is there a gorgeous, 40-mile long, 20,600 acre lake, with 500 miles of shoreline, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of rural southwestern Virginia? Because Smith Mountain Lake was created to generate electricity, and to help manage water flows downstream and nearby. The damming of the Blackwater and Roanoke Rivers formed this reservoir in a filling process that began on September 24, 1963 - and ended almost 2.5 years later on March 7, 1966.

SML's surface covers 32 square miles. Its highest normal water level ("full pond") is 795 feet above sea level. There is typically very little seasonal variation in the water level. The daily variation for electricity production is 12-24 inches. During severe drought conditions, including 2007 and 2012, lake levels have fallen by five feet. Under extreme flood conditions, the water level could reach just a few feet below the top of the Smith Mountain Dam, which itself is 802 feet above sea level. (The US Army Corps of Engineers publishes a daily water level report that is also available graphically over time.)

Surrounded by mountains, Smith Mountain Lake's deepest point is about 250 feet, near the dam itself. Its "average" depth is 55 feet (for more stats, see Lakes for Vacation and Recreation - Lakelubbers). Outside the lake's many coves in its main channel, 80-150 feet is typical. Water purity is excellent. Water temperatures invite swimming from May through September.

Click for Moneta, Virginia Forecast

Many retail stores and services are available around the lake. Most are located on or near Rt. 122, about five miles north and south of Hales Ford Bridge. There are two large, modern supermarkets, dozens of restaurants, a dozen banks, a dozen marinas, two YMCAs, two libraries, doctors, dentists, veterinarians, real estate brokers, attorneys, accountants, and scores of independent retail stores. An urgent care center and an evacuation helicopter are located at Westlake, near the intersection of Routes 122 and 616. Full-service hospitals, including a regional heart and trauma center, are 30-45 minutes away from the lake in Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Rocky Mount.


See SML in Lake Effects on the Hallmark Movie Channel. The 2012 independent film features Smith Mountain Lake. It's an inspiring tale of a young L.A. corporate attorney raised on and later returning to SML. Here's the Lake Effects trailer. The 1991 comedy "What About Bob?" was also filmed here, but they called it Lake Winnipesaukee.

The west end of SML, including the unincorporated town of Moneta, is closest to Roanoke, Virginia (population 100,000). The east end, including Huddleston, is closest to Lynchburg, Virginia (population 70,000). Both Roanoke and Lynchburg are within 30-45 minutes drive time for most lake residents - and both provide convenient "big-city" amenities like shopping malls and commercial airports.

Smith Mountain Lake is home to about 18,000 permanent residents. It covers parts of three Virginia counties: Franklin County, Bedford County, and Pittsylvania County. Average air temperatures are 73F in summer and 41F in winter. Annual rainfall averages 43 inches. Annual snowfall averages 10 inches, but the snow usually melts in a day or two.

For more tourism and relocation/retirement information, and for advice about business conditions and opportunities at the lake, call the SML Chamber of Commerce at 540-721-1203. The Chamber offers a convenient mobile app (iPod/iPhone, Blackberry, Android) for lake visitors.

Smith Mountain Lake Real Estate

Smith Mountain Lake Real Estate (May); Copyright 2011 Brian Raub

The lake offers a wide range of housing types and real estate prices. It's a great time to buy, with a few bargains offered at prices that haven't been seen since 2005. Lakefront condo resales start at $100K - while asking prices for a few luxurious single-family lakefront homes, on gently-sloping lots with SML's best views, top $2 million.

With 500 miles of shoreline, you can find a first or second home in a quiet cove with just a few neighbors in sight - or retire to a well-planned community with shared or private amenities that include swimming pools, boat slips with powered boat lifts, and golf courses.

2014 is a buyer's market with more than 375 lakefront and lake access homes for sale*:

If you prefer to build your own Smith Mountain Lake home, about 300 lakefront lots are available:

* Home and lot data provided by Glenda McDaniel, GRI, Jan/18/2013.

SML Lakefront Home; Photo Copyright 2012 Brian Raub

Smith Mountain Lake real estate is diverse. You may be able to buy a furnished home, and move in "tomorrow." For less than $100K, you can buy a 500 square foot 1BR lakefront condo with a great lakeview. For $250K you can buy an older 2BR-3BR lakefront home with 1,500 square feet, located on a shallow cove or a steep lot. For $300K, you can buy a nearly-new 2BR 1,200 square foot condo with a great view, boat slip, and golf privileges. $500K-$650K can buy you an older but well-maintained 3BR-4BR lakefront home with 3,000 square feet, a dock with two boat slips and powered lifts, one acre of land and 100+ feet of waterfront. $700K-$900K buys a large and luxurious lakefront home with a mountainview and a deepwater dock, in a premium development with its own golf course. $1+ million buys one of the lake's 6,000+ square-foot luxury homes - possibly one that was featured on a recent SML Home Tour.

Before you buy, check the lake depth at the dock. If a dock and the surrounding water don't have a depth of at least 9-10 feet at "full pond", you may be unable to use your boat during extended droughts, when water levels can drop by five feet or more. It can also be difficult to climb down and up from a fixed dock to a floating dock ("floater") during drought; ask to see how dock access is provided.


To see eight of the lake's most beautiful waterfront homes, attend the Smith Mountain Lake Charity Home Tour. On the second weekend of October every year, more than 1,000 volunteers welcome many thousands of visitors to the three-day event. Proceeds benefit local charities. Mark your calendar ... and bring your friends and family for a close-up view of some exceptional properties!

Looking for an undeveloped lot? SML's lakefront is 75%-80% developed, but undeveloped lakefront lots are still available. You can pay $50K for a lot with water access, $100K for a steep lot with a great view, $200K-$400K for a 1/2 to 2-acre lakefront lot that may already include a dock, or $500K+ for a waterfront lot with a coveted view of the Smith Mountain "gap."

If you consider buying a lot or home without a dock, ask your real estate buyer's agent (or attorney) to carefully check the dock-building regulations. You may need at least 100 feet of waterfront to add a new dock. It's also possible that an existing dock was never properly permitted or that it was not built according to its approved plan. In that case, expensive remediation may be required before you can use the dock - or even before you can buy the property.

SML (October); Photo Copyright 2006 Ted Pratt

Nearly all Smith Mountain Lake homes are built above the "100-year flood plain", 802 feet above sea level. Lakefront properties with gentle slopes from 802 feet down to "full pond", 795 feet above sea level - plus a full view of the Smith Mountain "gap" at the dam - generally command the highest prices.

If you're planning to buy a condo or house, and then offer it as a vacation rental to help pay the mortgage, be sure to first check county, subdivision, and homeowner association rules and regulations. Vacation rental restrictions and prohibitions are increasing as the popularity of vacation rentals grows. Bedford County is more permissive of vacation rentals than Franklin County.

If you want to buy or rent real estate, or book a vacation rental, more than 100 lake-based sales agents can help you to find the property you want. Call any of these brokers with SML offices:

Smith Mountain Lake Development Issues

Until 2007, the rapid pace of development had residents and three county governments scrambling to protect the lakefront environment and to provide new infrastructure. The recession slowed development and reduced those pressures, but they will return as the real estate market recovers.

Smith Mountain Lake (February); Photo Copyright 2006 Ted PrattLake water quality is threatened as new home construction eliminates natural waterfront buffers of native trees and vegetation that previously filtered lake pollutants like lawn fertilizers and pesticides. For now, Smith Mountain Lake water quality remains excellent, largely due to the vigilance of organizations like Smith Mountain Lake Association (SMLA) and Tri-County Lake Administrative Commission (TLAC).

In 2005, all three lakefront counties passed new regulations that forbid the feeding of waterfowl within 500 feet of the lake, to help control water quality. In 2007, Franklin County began a program to enforce regular five-year maintenance and pump-out of septic systems near the lake. And for several years, boaters have been forbidden to dump wastes of any kind into Smith Mountain Lake. SMLA has recorded and publicized water quality test results continuously since 1987 - a database unmatched by any major lake in the USA. In 2009, 50 volunteers tested SML; many measurements of water quality were among the best ever recorded.

Aggressive invasive weeds pose a major threat to most U.S. lakes, including Smith Mountain Lake. The three counties surrounding SML initially responded with funding for targeted chemical treatments to limit weeds' spread. In 2012, sterile grass carp (voracious consumers of hydrilla and other invasive weeds) were approved for introduction to the lake in 2013 - in numbers carefully calculated to limit their SML (November); Photo Copyright 2006 Ted Pratt effect on desireable native vegetation. That program has been very successful; grass carp are added each year as needed, in weed-infested areas.

Invasive, non-native zebra mussels are also a threat, migrating southeast from the Great Lakes. SML and the state of Virginia remain free of these noxious pests, which have no natural enemy or chemical treatment; they cannot be remediated. SMLA is investigating the most effective means to block their arrival - and the arrival of other aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Smith Mountain Lake is Virginia's busiest recreational freshwater body, but there are no boating horsepower limits. In 2006, the Virginia Assembly increased funding for enforcement of boating safety and noise laws; Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) increased the number and visibility of patrols on the lake's 20,600 acres. In 2007, the Virginia Assembly passed a law mandating safe boating education for operators that will phase in over several years. PWC operaters must now show proof that they have completed a boater education course; there is an exception for PWC rentals. SMLA successfully lobbied for the boater education mandate, but their request for boating speed limits failed to pass the Virginia legislature in 2007 and 2008.

Smith Mountain Lake (May - Osprey); Photo Copyright 2006 Ted Pratt

Lakefront residential property taxes in all three lakefront counties are about 1/2 of 1% of fair market value; a $500,000 property is taxed at about $2,500/year. Properties are reassessed once every four years. The 2011 county assessments of lakefront homes were 20% to 25% lower than four years ago - following a 25% to 75% increase in 2007. Throughout Virginia, there is no reduction of taxes for primary homes or for low-income or retired homeowners. Taxes are assessed at fair market value, and everyone in a county pays the same property tax rate.

There is no local "town level" of government at Smith Mountain Lake, so the three lake-surrounding county governments face new demands for public services like law enforcement, traffic safety enforcement, road improvements, and trash removal, plus new infrastructure needs like public water and sewage. The lake's first public water line was laid by Bedford County in 2005; Franklin County became a partner and extended it across the county line. Bedford County began construction of sewage lines and a treatment facility in 2005; Franklin County sharing some costs and continues to explore feasibility.

SML (September - Blue Heron); Photo Copyright 2006 Ted Pratt

The three county governments and Appalachian Power Company control lake development. Ferrum College and volunteer organizations like SMLA and TLAC monitor water quality. Some local residents and organizations want to establish an additional local level of taxation and control - a special tax district or a town of Smith Mountain Lake spanning all three lakefront counties, to support an increase in tax-based services provided around the lake. The result would be dedicated funding for critical needs like water quality, at the expense of higher taxes. Most residents have opposed a lake-based tax district.

To better understand SML development issues:

What to Do at Smith Mountain Lake

Among the lake's many water activities are power boating, canoeing, sailing, parasailing, swimming, fishing, water skiing, wakeboarding, and jet skiing. SML's lakefront includes six free public boat launching sites, plus paid launches at more than a dozen marinas. Some lakeside developments maintain their own private ramps, and even a few homes include them. A map of free public launches is included below in "Boating".

Smith Mountain Lake (August); Photo Copyright 2006 Ted Pratt

Off-water you'll enjoy sightseeing that includes many spectacular views of Smith Mountain Lake's mountainous 500-mile shoreline. Five challenging golf courses surround the lake. The SML State Park includes many miles of hiking trails. The well-maintained but winding roads with often-narrow shoulders make bicycling unsafe. (Drivers: Please pay careful attention to the road ahead at all times.) The lake also offers picnicking, camping, hunting, antiquing, shopping, and relaxing. Restaurants at waterfront and nearby offer everything from pizza and sandwiches to prime rib buffets and gourmet cuisine.


"A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature." - from Walden, Or Life In The Woods by Henry David Thoreau, 1854.

Most land and water activities are available at the State Park or within a short drive ... so rent a lakeview or lakefront vacation home, and enjoy yourself for a week or two! If you visit SML with a young child, and need to rent a stroller or furniture for your baby, try The Baby Biz.

SML (July); Photo Copyright 2006 Ted Pratt

Amusements at Smith Mountain Lake

Hot Shots family entertainment center features a miniature golf course, bumper boat pool with water blasters, and a large selection of video and arcade games. Refreshments, pizza and sandwiches are also available. Summer hours: 10AM-10PM daily. Franklin County, 67 Village View Ln., Moneta. 540-719-1547.

Harbortown Miniature Golf Course is located over the water. Summer hours: 11AM-10PM daily. A game arcade is located nearby. Franklin County, Bridgewater Plaza at Hales Ford Bridge. 540-721-5959.

Westlake Safari Mini Golf features miniature golf with food available at the adjacent Joe's Restaurant. Summer hours: 11AM-9PM daily. Franklin County, 130 Scruggs Rd., Moneta. 540-721-2422.

Churches at Smith Mountain Lake

Several churches near Smith Mountain Lake operate websites that provide details about their worship programs and services.

Cruising & Sailing at Smith Mountain Lake

Smith Mountain Lake (June - Virginia Dare); Photo Copyright 2006 Ted Pratt

To view lakefront scenery and homes from the water (April-December), you can cruise the Virginia Dare, a 19th century side paddlewheeler. The 2-hour cruise, which starts near the State Park, covers 10 miles of the easternmost shores of SML, including Smith Mountain Dam. Lunch or dinner are available onboard; there's also an inexpensive sightsee-only option. 540-297-7100.

Sailing is popular at the lake, especially near the dam - where the water is "widest" and winds are strongest. If you're not already a sailor, you can learn to sail at SML Sailing School. 540-719-0009.

Events, Organizations and News at SML

The lake community supports a wide range of interests. Many of these interests are promoted by not-for-profit community organizations - including antique boating, the arts, ballroom and square dancing, contract and duplicate bridge, fishing, gardening, piloting, quilting, Scouting, water skiing, yacht racing, and much more.

October: Plan now to attend the Smith Mountain Lake Charity Home Tour, October 10-12, 2013. Starting on the second Friday every October, this three-day event features eight beautiful waterfront homes. The proceeds support local charities.

October: Nite at The Races, Saturday 5:30PM-10:00PM, October 18, 2014 - The SML Rotary Club's charity fundraiser (third Friday every October) features simulated horse racing, funny money, great food, dozens of valuable prizes, a "Kentucky Derby" Ladies Hat Parade, and camaraderie. This 7th annual event benefits SML charities. Contact Steve Strickland (540-719-1411) or Dave DeNeal (540-721-8005) to reserve tickets, name horses, or advertise in the event program.

WSLK 880 is the lake's only broadcast radio station; it's 880 on your AM radio dial and will let you know "what's happening" at SML, anytime during its broadcasting hours (dawn to dusk).

For more upcoming lake events, check the SML Community Calendar from the Smith Mountain Eagle.

The Smith Mountain Laker is Virginia's "Luxury Lake Lifestyle Magazine" and a great source of more information about SML.

Farm Tour

Smith Mountain Lake Farm Alpacas allows you and your family to see and touch Alpacas. You'll also learn about champion bloodlines and the business of alpaca breeding and investing. Call to reserve a 90-minute tour. Franklin County, Morewood Rd., Hardy, Virginia. 540-719-0281 or 860-307-2143.

Fishing and Fishing Guides at Smith Mountain Lake

Smith Mountain Lake stocks striped bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass - and is home to crappie, catfish, and muskellunge. Elusive walleyes breed naturally in small numbers. SML and its neighbor Leesville Lake hold two Virginia state freshwater fishing records - a 53 lb. striped bass and a 2 lb. 6 oz. Roanoke bass.

Bassmaster rates SML among the USA's 25 "best bass lakes." ESPN has sponsored and nationally broadcast the Blue Ridge Brawl Pro Tournament (a Bassmaster Elite Series Event) at Smith Mountain Lake - and has awarded more than $1 million in prizes here.

Dog Day Afternoon at SML; Copyright 2011 Brian Raub

There are more than a dozen guides who can help you to catch gamefish at SML. Fishing guides include Captains Spike & Kathy Franceshini (540-297-5611), Captain Dale Wilson (540-874-4950), Captain "Bert" (Daniel Berthiaume, 540-721-5788), and Captain Dan Mann (540-493-6267).

If you plan to fish here, a Virginia State Fishing License is required. You can buy and print one online today at Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries - or buy one in person at the Kroger store at Westlake near the intersection of Rt. 616 (Scruggs Rd.) and Rt. 122 (Booker T. Washington Hwy.)

Golf Courses at Smith Mountain Lake

Golf is a prime attraction at the lake. Two private waterfront golf courses serve residents of The Waterfront and The Water's Edge subdivisions. Three public and semi-private golf courses serve vacationers - and SML residents who live outside those subdivisions:

Health and Fitness

The Bedford County YMCA at Moneta offers fitness machines and classes, cardio equipment, aerobics mats, and a free weight room. Visiting YMCA "AWAY" members are welcome for up to seven consecutive days. For families visiting Smith Mountain Lake or considering permanent membership, a two-week trial family membership is a bargain. 1039 Mayberry Crossing, Suite A, off Rt. 122 (near Moneta Library), Moneta, Virginia. 540-296-1059.

The Franklin County YMCA at the lake opened in 2008. It offers full cardio and strength training, free weights, circuit training, personal training, aerobics, aerobics classes, raquetball, indoor tennis, tennis lessons, a full gym with walking track, basketball and raquetball training clinics, a masseuse, childrens' programs, children's summer camp, a nursery, and more. Visiting YMCA "AWAY" members are welcome for up to twelve days. For others, your first visit is free. Extended access for lake vacationers is available to families by the week, or to individuals by the day. This YMCA is located in LakeWatch Plantation off Rt. 122, between Westlake and Hales Ford Bridge, near the Bank of Botetourt. 293 Firstwatch Dr., Moneta, Virginia. 540-721-9622.

Microbrewery, Winery

Brooks Mill Winery Brooks Mill Winery is a small farm fruit winery located near SML in Wirtz. They produce wines from blueberries, pears, apples, peaches, and cherries. Call 540/721-5215 to arrange a tasting.

Sunken City Brewing Company is Smith Mountain Lake's own microbrewery. The brewery's name honors Virginia towns in Franklin County that were flooded to create SML in 1963. Its signature brew is "Dam Lager." Virginia's notorious Franklin County moonshiners are popularized in the 2012 movie "Lawless," but Sunken City Brewing Company joins Brooks Mill Winery as Franklin County's only legal producers of alcoholic beverages. Rt. 122 in Westlake, 200 yards south of Kroger. Bottoms up!

Movie Theaters at Smith Mountain Lake

Mayberry Drive-In and Diner offers an old-fashioned diner and drive-in movie theater experience. Double showings are frequently offered Friday-Sunday evenings. Bedford County, 1696 Whitehouse Road (Rt. 608), Moneta, Virginia. 540-296-1480.

Westlake Cinema offers a four-plex movie theater with stadium seating, 3D features, Dolby Digital Surround Sound, and headphones for the hearing impaired. Franklin County, 84 Westlake Road (Westlake Towne Center), Suite 117, Hardy, Virginia. 540-721-6326

Smith Mountain (May); Photo Copyright 2011 Brian Raub

Restaurants at Smith Mountain Lake

Looking for restaurants -- or America's best ice cream -- at SML? You'll find three dozen sit-down restaurants, plus a few more that serve "fast food" for optional take-out. Many are seasonal (summer-only) and most are closed at least one day per week; always call to confirm hours. Restaurants are listed alphabetically; those with $$$$ are most expensive:

Smith Mountain Lake Restaurant Directory

See our Smith Mountain Lake Restaurant Directory for a complete list of nearby restaurants.

Lakefront & Lakeview Restaurants

Restaurants are listed alphabetically; those with $$$$ are most expensive:

America's Best Ice Cream?

We think that this small local dairy makes America's best ice cream. Their ice cream cones are large and reasonably priced. Cones are available at the dairy and at an ice cream truck (seasonal) located at the "General Store" on Rt. 616 near Rt. 122. You can also buy quarts for about $5 at the dairy, and at some local food markets (including Kroger). This is a treat that you won't want to miss when you visit Smith Mountain Lake.

Places to Visit at Smith Mountain Lake

SML State Park

SML State Park; Photo Copyright 2003 Brian Raub

Even though Smith Mountain Lake is the second largest lake in Virginia, SML State Park is not just for water enthusiasts. In addition to traditional water sports like swimming, fishing, boating, and boat launching, State Park guests enjoy hiking, camping, picnicking and more.

The State Park was established in 1967. Construction began in 1975 and the park was opened to the public in 1983. There's a visitors' center with many interesting exhibits, including one detailing the history and folklore of Smith Mountain Lake.

Click for Large Map, Smith Mountain Lake State Park

There are also hiking trails, fishing (which requires a Virginia Fishing License), swimming at a 500-foot-long beach, picnic areas, 50 primitive campsites, cabin rentals, and assorted programs such as night hikes, canoe trips and wilderness skills training. The park totals 1,506 acres with 16 miles of lakefront.

Location: SML State Park is located in Bedford County, Huddleston, Virginia, on the northern side of the lake, off Rt. 626 (Smith Mountain Lake Parkway). Call 540-297-6066 or 800-933-PARK.

Franklin County's Smith Mountain Lake Park

Rotary Playground at SML; Photo Copyright 2007 Brian Raub

The 37-acre Smith Mountain Lake Community Park opened in June 2007. Funded by Franklin County Parks and Recreation, it provides a family oriented, ADA equipped facility for fishing and family recreation. Its partly-covered fishing pier is the largest at SML, and is located in a spot known for striped bass. There's also a hiking trail, picnic shelter, and limited parking. Additional park features include a free public beach, bath house, and 100+ parking spaces.

The Rotary Club of Smith Mountain Lake created and maintains a playground within the park that provides equipment for children, including those of ADA families.

There's no park admission fee but a Virginia Fishing License is required to fish anywhere at Smith Mountain Lake, including the park pier. Strict enforcement of fishing regulations, noise, litter, speeding, and traffic laws is provided by VDGIF and by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office.

Location: Franklin County's park is located on the south side of the lake, off Rt. 616 (Scruggs Rd.). From Rt. 616, turn left on Rt. 949 (Bluewater Dr.), right on Saunders Farm Rd., right on Winding Waters Rd., then left on Parkway Dr. Follow Parkway Dr. to the park.

Smith Mountain Dam Visitors' Center

Another popular attraction at SML is Appalachian Power Company's Smith Mountain Dam Visitors' Center. More than one million people have visited since its opening in May of 1967. At the Center, you can see an audio-visual presentation that shows how the dam was built. There's also a wall mural, showing Smith Mountain Gap - now filled with water - before construction of the dam.

Smith Mountain Dam; Photo Copyright 1998 Brian Raub

Models of the Smith Mountain Lake and Leesville dams describe the pumped storage principle. There are many more exhibits that show you how the dams produce electricity, offering an educational experience for people of all ages.

There's no admission fee for the Center. April-October, exhibits are usually open Sunday Noon-4:30PM and Tuesday-Saturday 9AM-4:30PM (closed on Monday and holidays). At other times of year, exhibits are usually open Tuesday-Saturday 9AM-4:30PM (closed on Sunday, Monday, and holidays). Please call to confirm hours. Reservations can be made for group tours.

Location: Smith Mountain Dam Visitors Center is located at the eastern edge of the lake in Pittsylvania County, off Rt. 908 at 2072 Ford Rd., Sandy Level, Virginia. Follow Rt. 626 to Rt. 751, where you'll see a sign to Smith Mountain Dam Visitors Center. Call 540-985-2587 for hours and detailed directions.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

Waterfall near Blue Ridge Parkway; Photo Copyright 1998 Brian Raub

While visiting Smith Mountain Lake, you can also drive the Blue Ridge Parkway; three entrances are located near the lake. The Blue Ridge Parkway is the most frequently visited park in the USA's National Park System. Seventeen million visitors travel its road and enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway every year.

Butterfly Bush; Photo Copyright 1998 Brian Raub

Within the 470-mile-long Blue Ridge Parkway are eleven visitor centers, plus cabins, lodges, restaurants, campgrounds, picnic areas, trails, overlooks, and private facilities. Park visitors can enjoy hiking, waterfalls, beautiful nature life, including wildflowers in the spring and beautifully colored trees in the fall, cultural and historical demonstrations, photography, guided walks and tours, traditional mountain music programs, birdwatching, and bicycling.

Location, Northern Entry: From Moneta, Virginia, follow Rt. 122 north to Bedford, then Rt. 43 northwest until it intersects the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Location, Central Entry: From Moneta, Virginia, follow Rt. 122 north toward Bedford, then Rt. 24 west until it intersects the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Location, Southern Entry: From Moneta, Virginia, follow Rt. 122 south to Rocky Mount, then Rt. 220 north until it intersects the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Booker T. Washington National Monument

Many lake visitors stop to see the Booker T. Washington National Monument. The monument is one of only twelve African-American history sites of the 375 National Park Service units in existence. It was constructed in June of 1957 by Presidential Proclamation. The park commemorates the life of Booker T. Washington. It's a unique experience that allows the American public to view what slavery was like and how the plantation system worked. Located on the old Burrough's plantation, it allows people to see how unkindly most slaves were treated.

Booker T. Washington National Monument; Photo Copyright 1998 Brian Raub

Booker Taliaferro Washington was born a slave on the Burrough's tobacco plantation in 1856 and died in 1915. After being freed at age 9, he left the plantation to pursue an education. He is now remembered internationally as an educator, author, orator, college president, and spokesman for African-Americans.

The Booker T. Washington National Monument includes preserved plantation buildings - slave quarters, a tobacco barn, a smokehouse, and a tool shop. There are also farm animals - pigs, ducks, turkeys, geese, chickens, and cows - for children (and their parents) to enjoy. The monument is open year-round from 9:00AM- 5:00PM, excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.

Location: Franklin County, Virginia, 12130 Booker T. Washington Hwy., Hardy, Virginia 24101. 540-721-2094.

National D-Day Memorial

National D-Day Memorial

June 6, 1944 forever changed the course of history. Yet in the United States, there was no National Memorial to D-Day ... until the summer of 2001, when the architecturally stunning National D-Day Memorial opened in nearby Bedford, Virginia.

The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is a nonprofit educational organization established to maintain a memorial complex for the nation's remembrance of D-Day. The Foundation exists to memorialize the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Armed Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

The multi-million dollar memorial is a moving tribute to the thousands of young men who gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy France to ensure freedom and democracy worldwide. Bedford Virginia was chosen as the home for the memorial because Bedford lost the most men per capita of any United States municipality on D-Day. Take your camera, and be sure to capture the beautiful view of the Blue Ridge Mountains - including the Peaks of Otter - from the grounds of the Memorial.

Location: The National D-Day Memorial is located in Bedford County, Virginia, about 30 minutes' drive north of Smith Mountain Lake. The memorial is located at the interchange of State Routes 460 Bypass and 122, in the city of Bedford, between Roanoke and Lynchburg, Virginia. 540-586-DDAY.

Other Local & Nearby Attractions

Click for Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia Forecast

Boating on Smith Mountain Lake

Smith Mountain Lake (December - Boat Parade); Photo Copyright 2006 Ted Pratt

When you boat at SML, please be careful and courteous. The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries is an excellent source of information about safe boating, boating laws, and public access ramps. Here are some highlights for new boaters at SML ...

Clean, Drain, and Dry for 5 Days!

SML is free of most non-native, aquatic invasive species (AIS), and we want to keep it that way. You can help by NOT allowing weeds, mussels and other noxious aquatic hitchhikers to come to the lake with you - on your boat or boat trailer. You are our first line of defense. Here's a brochure that Texas uses to explain how to Clean, Drain and Dry your boat and trailer.

Boating Courtesy and Safety at Smith Mountain Lake

Smith Mountain Lake Public Boat Launches/Ramps

If you bring your boat to SML, please first clean your boat, boat trailer, and bait box - to prevent fouling Smith Mountain Lake with invasive weeds or zebra mussels that you may have picked up on another body of water. Invasive weeds can quickly grow so thickly that they prevent navigation near boat ramps and in shallow coves. Don't wash your boat near the water because hitchhiking weeds, weed fragments, or zebra mussel eggs can wash into the lake. Instead, power wash your boat and trailer at a car wash away from the lake - there are several off-water car washes nearby. And don't forget to thoroughly clean your bait box and lures to remove all plant materials. SML is currently free of zebra mussels, and we want to keep it that way!

Click for SML Launch Ramp Map A detailed map of SML (like the waterproof map shown below) will help you to locate six public access boat ramps on Smith Mountain Lake. You can also click on the map links below for details, but the navigation markers referenced below are visible only on printed lake maps.

Boat remps/launches are listed in order from the most northern launch on the Roanoke River (at navigation marker R87) to the most southwestern launches on the Blackwater River (B12) and Bull Run (BR3). Here's a map of all public access boat ramps/launches.

Smith Mountain Lake Marinas with Boat Gas

If you need to gas up your boat while cruising SML, here's where to go. Call each marina first for hours, map directions, and updated gas prices.

Map of Smith Mountain Lake

Be sure to buy (and carefully study) your waterproof map of SML - $9 (plus $1.75 postage) from the Smith Mountain Lake Association (540-719-0690) - before you go boating, or you may not be able to find all of these marinas. You can also buy the latest map (updated in 2006) from some local marinas.

Many marinas are not open on weekdays, and just a few SML marinas are open year-round. Some marinas are open only during peak-season summer weekends. Be sure to call each marina first to confirm hours of fuel availability. Never run out of gas unless you have paddles, strong muscles, a marine radio or cell phone, lots of patience, and a tow rope aboard.

These marinas with boat gas are listed by nearest Smith Mountain Lake Marker number, starting from north to south on the Roanoke River, then up the Blackwater River and Gills Creek. Study your SML map. Most marinas offer 89 octane gas for boat use. Gas prices vary substantially by marina, and are typically 20 to 50 cents higher than off-water gas prices.

If a listed marina has closed, or an unlisted marina should be added, or marker directions are "way off", please call us to request an update at 540-721-3327. Remember that you are responsible for verifying all listed info before you go boating on Smith Mountain Lake!

How the Smith Mountain Dam Works

Gap at Smith Mountain Dam; Photo Copyright 2003 Brian Raub

Built and operated by Appalachian Power Company, Smith Mountain Lake and Dam (the "Smith Mountain Project") was first conceived in 1924. But many considered the project impractical until the pouring of concrete at Smith Mountain Gap began in June 1961. By November 1962, Virginia roads and bridges that would be affected by the lake had been rebuilt. On September 24, 1963, the Smith Mountain Dam was closed and the lake began to form. Two and one-half years later, on March 7, 1966, the 20,600-acre Smith Mountain Lake reached full-pond at 795 feet above sea level.

Smith Mountain Dam; Photo Copyright 1998 Brian Raub

Smith Mountain Dam is 235 feet tall, 816 feet long, and 30 feet thick. Its five hydroelectric power-generating units produce 656,000 kilowatts. The first four units cost $66 million in 1964; the fifth unit cost $37 million in 1979.

The operation of Smith Mountain Dam uses two natural resources, water and coal, through a process known as pumped storage. Water from Smith Mountain Lake goes through turbine generators in the Smith Mountain Dam powerhouse and produces electricity. Instead of the "used" water rushing downstream, much of it is caught by the Leesville Dam, a smaller dam below Smith Mountain Dam. The water is then pumped back into Smith Mountain Lake and used again. Some passes through turbine generators in Leesville, making more electricity.

Smith Mountain Dam; Photo Copyright 1998 Brian Raub

Since electricity demand is highest on weekdays, generation usually takes place then. Then, at low demand times - nights, holidays, and weekends - water is pumped from Leesville back to Smith Mountain Lake. The power to pump water comes mostly from American Electric Power via transmission lines. Since power plants work most efficiently near their full load levels, the pumped storage benefits the Smith Mountain Lake Dam power plant by keeping loads high.

Getting to Smith Mountain Lake

Click for Google Map of SML

If you're traveling by car, there are many ways to reach the lake. Most approaches involve challenging mountain roads that can be treacherous for the uninitiated, especially at night. Here's a route that's not the shortest possible - but it's nearly free of bad curves. Follow I-81 toward Roanoke, then I-581 east approximately 7 miles to State Rt. 24 (I-581 Exit 6). Follow State Rt. 24 east for about 22 miles until you reach State Rt. 122. Follow State Rt. 122 southwest about 6 miles to Moneta. Moneta is just north of the only major bridge that crosses Smith Mountain Lake and offers easy access to any part of the lake.

If you enjoy driving winding mountain roads, consult a map and try approaching Moneta daytime via Rt. 43 (toughest), Rt. 116 "Windy Gap", the Blue Ridge Parkway to its Virginia Rt. 24 exit, or Rt. 634 "Hardy Road" (easiest).

For a map and driving directions, start with this interactive map: Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia - courtesy of Google.

Warren Theis and Lisa Raub, refueling Warren's 1966 Mooney at Smith Mountain Lake Airport. Photo Copyright 1999 by Brian Raub

If you plan to arrive by private airplane, there's a general aviation airport, Smith Mountain Lake Airport (airport identifier: W91), with a 3,100-foot paved runway. It's located in Bedford County on the north side of the lake, about 2 miles from SML State Park, at 1090 Cutlass Rd., Moneta. Contact: Joe Borgess, Owner/Operator. 540-297-4500.

Also check W90 (New London Airport), north of Smith Mountain Lake in Forest Virginia, near Lynchburg.

If you're not flying your own plane, three commercial airports are nearby. Roanoke Virginia Airport (ROA, 50 flights daily) is located 30-75 minutes northwest of SML. The smaller Lynchburg Virginia Airport (LYH, 12 flights daily) is located to the northeast, 30-75 minutes from the lake. The Greensboro NC Airport (GSO, about 60 flights daily), aka Piedmont Triad International Airport is located 75-120 minutes south of Smith Mountain Lake. Airport drive times vary widely because the lake itself is 40 miles long. Be sure to check airfares at all three airports.

Member, SML Chamber of Commerce

For tourism and relocation information by regular US Mail, contact the SML Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center at 540-721-1203. Funded by more than 700 members, the SML Chamber is expertly staffed year-round to answer your questions about living, working, operating a business, and vacationing at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. The Chamber operates the SML Visitor Center in Bridgewater Plaza on the south side of Hales Ford Bridge (Rt. 122).

Wikipedia: Smith Mountain Lake includes more historical background, discussion of the contentious Shoreline Management Plan, and more.

Please also see our extended Smith Mountain Lake Restaurant Directory and our Smith Mountain Lake Church Directory.

Please Link to Us!

Please link to us with this HTML code:

<a href="http://www.Smith-Mountain-Lake.com/">Smith Mountain Lake</a> 
Insiders' Guide

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About this Smith Mountain Lake Webpage

Page Development

This webpage was first developed by Brian Raub and Erin Raub in 1998, just a few weeks after their first SML visit. It is updated frequently by Brian Raub and Lisa Raub, who moved themselves and their Internet businesses here in 2001. Either is willing to talk with you about the benefits of relocating your business to Smith Mountain Lake, including very low taxes, high quality of life, and exceptional recreational opportunities. 540-721-3327.

All text is Copyright © 1998-2014 Brian Raub and Raub's Internet for Business LLC. All rights reserved.
Photos are Copyright © 1998-2014 Ted Pratt, Brian Raub, and Raub's Internet for Business LLC. All rights reserved.

Raub's Internet for Business LLC
325 Waterside Dr.
Moneta, Virginia 24121
540-721-3327

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Website Created Aug/16/1998; Last Updated Mar/13/2014.