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.
Nearby Attractions to Enjoy in the Area
Whether you’re interested in learning more about the power of electricity or simply can’t wait to savor time admiring the impressive view, a stop at the Smith Mountain Lake Dam is sure to please and inspire. For visitors of all ages, this stop is as educational as it is fun and makes for a highlight of your stay. Fortunately, there’s even more to explore when you’re in the area and looking to expand on that likely already packed itinerary by adding a few mouthwatering stops as well. When you’re hoping to create a one of a kind trip that’s bound to be unforgettable, there are plenty more options for flavorful fun in this particular area waiting to be discovered!
Lumpkins Marina Snack Bar and Grill
A skip and a hop across the water at 503 Pruitt Drive in Penhook, Lumpkins Marina Snack Bar and Grill is a great place to indulge the tastebuds when you’re looking for a savory place to end the day after fun at the Smith Mountain Lake Dam. Open between the hours of 8:0 am and 4:00 pm, Lumpkins Marina Snack Bar and Grill invites guests to settle in on the patio, savor the waterfront views, and indulge in everything from burgers and fries to the delicious popcorn shrimp! Pair your plate with a handcrafted cocktail and enjoy the breeze in your hair as you spend time at this lovely local eatery.
Found at 7254 Booker T. Washington Highway, the Homestead Creamery is your one-stop shop for all things that satisfy your sweet tooth in the area. As charming and welcoming as it is flavorful, those who can’t imagine a day gone by without a little ice cream to get them through will find a place to savor a variety of homemade flavors in the Homestead Creamery. Flavored milk, sandwiches, and even a collection of specialized gourmet products are available for sale at this locale as well. Feel free to order to go or settle in on a rocking chair on the front patio and make the most of the experience from start to finish.
Sunken City Brewing Company
Open Thursdays through Sundays, the Sunken City Brewing Company is another local Smith Mountain Lake favorite for locals and visitors that have a heart for a spectacular brew. Stop in to enjoy live music most nights as well as options to sample local flavors and global bottles that are sure to please. As casual as it is welcoming, the Sunken City Brewing Company is a place where it’s easy to find your flavorful stride and feel like family.
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