As the second-largest lake in Virginia and reportedly one of the cleanest lakes along the East Coast, Smith Mountain Lake has much to offer during your time here. From fascinating national monuments to wakeboarding, windsurfing, fishing, and boating, Smith Mountain Lake gives visitors an incredible lakeside experience along the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Not only is Smith Mountain Lake a fantastic destination for outdoor enthusiasts, but the area also has a unique history. Read on below to learn more about Smith Mountain Lake’s history!
Wars, Dams, and More – Smith Mountain Lake’s Historical Significance
Before the early 1960s, Smith Mountain Lake was nothing more than a dream of harvesting hydropower for the benefit of residents in the area. Mind you, this dream was well planned-out, with the first drafts for the Smith Mountain Dam—which would dam the Roanoke and Blackwater Rivers at Smith Mountain Gorge—first proposed in the late 1920s by Appalachian Power, which had begun purchasing land for this purpose. Several delays and a complete study of engineering later, Smith Mountain Dam was finally constructed in 1963. Thus, Smith Mountain Lake was born, with the reservoir filled by 1966.
Of course, Smith Mountain Gorge had a rich history before becoming Smith Mountain Lake. Native American tribes hunted and lived in the valley for centuries. Booker T. Washington, a national icon, began his life as a slave at the plantation that is now the Booker T. Washington National Monument. Thomas Jefferson’s famously self-designed octagonal residence, Poplar Forest, is located just outside of the nearby town of Bedford.
Neighboring Bedford is also notable for the sacrifices the town made during World War II. During D-Day on June 6, 1944—a pivotal day that changed the tides of World War II in favor of the Allied Forces—Bedford’s company lost twenty-one of approximately thirty soldiers were lost to the ravages of the battlefield. In a town that only had a population of 3,200 residents at the time, this loss of life was among the most proportionally drastic in the nation. In 2001, the National D-Day Monument was constructed in Bedford, as a monument to their fallen soldiers and all of the soldiers whose lives were lost during that bloody battle.
On a less somber note, Smith Mountain Lake’s history also shows a strong connection to its folk lifestyle roots (celebrated each year with the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival). Additionally, Smith Mountain Lake has also appeared on a television episode of The Outer Limits, in addition to serving as the filming location of What About Bob? with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss and the independent film Lake Effects.
Learn More about Our Region from the Vacation Experts at Premier Vacation Rentals!
Contact our office for more information on the storied history of Smith Mountain Lake when you call or email us and ask about booking your accommodations in one of our picturesque vacation rental properties today!