First built in the early 1960s after multiple decades of delays, Smith Mountain Dam is a striking concrete arch dam on the Roanoke River that was responsible for forming Smith Mountain Lake. It’s an incredible attraction to visit during your time in Smith Mountain Lake. Learn more about Smith Mountain Dam down below!
A Unique Local Attraction
As early as the late 1920s, the power company known as Appalachian Power had their eye on the Smith Mountain Gorge and the Roanoke River for creating a hydroelectricity dam. Yet, it wasn’t until after decades of engineering studies and delays that Smith Mountain Dam was finally completed in early 1966, when the reservoir—now known as Smith Mountain Lake—had been filled and four hydro-electric generators had been installed. A fifth generator was installed in 1979.
Around the same time as Smith Mountain Dam’s construction, a smaller dam in Leesville was also being constructed downstream. The Leesville Dam stores outflow water from Smith Mountain Lake to be pumped back into the lake for hydro-electricity production.
Smith Mountain Dam is home to a fascinating and informative visitor’s center, which overlooks the dam and demonstrates the hydro-electric process used to harvest energy from Smith Mountain Lake while keeping it full and enjoyable for everyone. You’ll also find a more detailed history of life before and after the dam’s construction. Exhibits include everything from photos of a time when the gorge was filled with farmland and rocky gorges, to artifacts from over thirty-five different Native American tribes predating Christopher Columbus’ arrival, who once lived in the area of the gorge that is now covered by Smith Mountain Lake.
The visitor’s center also has hands-on exhibits, audio-visual presentations in the theater room, a three-dimensional terrain map of Smith Mountain Lake from 25,000 feet in the air, and computer simulation models. The visitor’s center is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm year-round, as well as on Sundays from 1:00pm to 5:00pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
For outdoor recreation by the dam, there are picnic areas with charcoal grills along the base of the dam, as well as scenic overlooks with expansive, panoramic views of Smith Mountain Lake’s serene, glistening waters.
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To find out more information on Smith Mountain Dam and other iconic sightseeing spots in Smith Mountain Lake, contact our reservation specialists and book your lodgings with us today!