How Smith Mountain Lake Came To Exist

How Smith Mountain Lake Came To Exist

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How Smith Mountain Lake Came To ExistHave you ever wondered how beautiful Smith Mountain Lake came to exist? As Virginia’s second-largest lake and one of the most popular spots in the state, it is a rapidly growing area with a fascinating background. Many of its residents will be interested to know some of the details as to how it all came about as well as some current statistics.

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 Smith Mountain Lake in a filling process that began on September 24, 1963 — and ended almost 2.5 years later on March 7, 1966.

How Smith Mountain Lake Came To ExistSmith Mountain Lake’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, lake levels have fallen by five feet. Under extreme flood control conditions, the water level could reach the top of the Smith Mountain Dam — 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, SML’s deepest point is about 250 feet, near the dam itself. Outside the lake’s many coves, 100-150 feet is typical. Smith Mountain Lake’s water purity is excellent. Water temperatures invite swimming from May through September.

How Smith Mountain Lake Came To ExistThe west end of SML, including the town of Moneta, is closest to Roanoke VA (population 100,000). The east end, including the town of Huddleston, is closest to Lynchburg VA (population 70,000). Either Roanoke or Lynchburg is within 30-45 minutes drive time for most Smith Mountain 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.

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How Smith Mountain Lake Came To Exist
Smith Mountain Lake

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