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With emerald green shores, sapphire blue skies, and topaz blue waters, it's clear why Smith Mountain Lake is nicknamed "Jewel of the Blue Ridge." Nestled into Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia's most popular lake offers 500 miles of coved shoreline and 20,600 acres of beautiful lake to explore. The Appalachian Power Company created Smith Mountain Lake by damming the Roanoke and Blackwater Rivers. The 40 mile long lake reached the full pond level of 795 feet above sea level in 1966. Although built for flood control and hydroelectric power generation using an unusual pumpback system from the adjacent Leesville Reservoir, the lake is best-known for its incredible recreational opportunities. From spring through autumn, you'll find the lake dotted with boaters, jet skiers, water skiers, wake boarders, tubers, canoeists, and kayakers. Smith Mountain Lake's expansiveness stretches across three counties (Bedford, Franklin, and Pittsylvania) and three Virginia tourism regions (Central, Blue Ridge Highlands, and Southern).
Smith Mountain Lake enjoys a beautiful location in rural southwestern Virginia, though it is close to many conveniences. Because of its natural beauty, developed tourism, and temperate four-season climate, the reservoir welcomes many visitors to its shores every year. In addition to vacationers, Smith Mountain Lake also houses over 18,000 permanent residents, including retirees and those who have relocated from the north. Five golf courses, some of which are lakeside, offer their services to residents and visitors alike.
On a hot Virginia summer day, nothing is better than diving into the cool lake waters. You can do that from your dock or your boat, but many choose to drink in the sun and bathe 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 concession stand. And though the beach may be a favorite at the park, it's not the only offering; the Smith Mountain Lake State Park offers an informative visitors' center, picnic areas, well-equipped cabins, primitive campsites, and miles of hiking trails for your enjoyment.
Inquisitive minds will enjoy a trip to the Smith Mountain Dam Visitors' Center, and more than one million visitors have trekked through since the center's 1967 opening. Check out the 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 is free to enter, so take an hour or two to get to know the inner workings of the reservoir.
Smith Mountain Lake is deepest at the dam, about 250 feet, with an average depth of about 55 feet. As the first major pumped-storage electric generation facility built in the United States, Smith Mountain Lake has become well-known. Because of the pump-back sytem, the water level varies only about two feet year round, except during times of drought and flood.
Smith Mountain Lake is also an angler's paradise. Bassmaster includes SML among its top 25 US bass fishing lakes. The lake has hosted several national professional fishing tournaments covered by ESPN, including the Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament. The lake contains largemouth bass, striped bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, white perch, crappie, yellow perch, and catfish. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has stocked the lake with striped bass since its impoundment in 1963.
Nature lovers can't get enough of Smith Mountain Lake, with its graceful blue herons, beautiful mountain views, and green forest. In addition to these offerings, the lake is just 26 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, a U.S. National Park that hosts seventeen million visitors a year. Take your camera along for the ride, as unparalleled views will 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" with every vista.
Smith Mountain Lake's exceptional offerings make it a perfect vacation getaway, permanent residence, or anything in between. Whatever your pleasure, be it lakefront dining, fireside reading, or a glass of wine accompanied by a stunning sunset, this Virginia lake will far exceed your expectations.
NOTE: Smith Mountain Lake is the headquarters of Lakelubbers.
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