Celebrating 50 Years of Smith Mountain Lake
Over the past 50 years, area residents, vacationers, and fishermen from all over the East Coast have discovered the beauty and serenity of Smith Mountain Lake. With Smith Mountain Lake covering 20,600 acres with over 580 miles of shoreline and Leesville Lake covering 3,270 acres with 110 miles of shoreline it’s easy to see how great memories are made here. Nearly 12,000 people live at Smith Mountain Lake year-round, with another 50,000 present on summer weekends. The area has further developed into an active, fun-loving community featuring marinas, golf courses, restaurants, shops and all the amenities while still retaining its laid-back “rather-go-fishing” charm.
To celebrate SML’s 50th Anniversary, an extensive list of events and activities has been planned with the support of many lake-area clubs and organizations. We invite you to participate and enjoy making new memories at SML throughout the anniversary year – 2016!
History of Smith Mountain Lake
The idea for damming the Roanoke River at the natural gap of Smith Mountain in Southwestern Virginia had been promoted in the 1920s, over 40 years before the Smith Mountain Pump Storage Hydroelectric Project became reality. Construction on the Smith Mountain and Leesville dams began in 1960 and was completed in 1963. Hundreds of workers cleared several hundred thousand cubic yards of mountainside and poured about 175,000 cubic yards of concrete to build the project.
At 5:03 a.m. on March 7, 1966, Smith Mountain Lake was proclaimed ‘complete,' having finally reached 795 feet above sea level (full pond) for the first time. The massive Appalachian Power project, which began in 1960, had officially become a lake. The project involved the construction of Smith Mountain and Leesville Lake dams as well as six new bridges and 22 miles of new or improved roads to accommodate traffic around the lake.
In 1967, Smith Mountain Lake was recognized as the largest inland water recreation area wholly within Virginia. It soon earned a reputation as a haven for fishermen and a paradise for campers, boaters, and water skiing enthusiasts. The project paid for itself within 5 years time.