Smith Mountain Lake, and its surrounding area, has a long, rich history. Located at the convergence of the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Virginia Piedmont, the area served as a meeting place for many Native American tribes. Early colonial explorers first came to the area in the 1670’s in search of bountiful game and rich ground. Over time, news of the bountiful resources in the area caused the population of immigrants in the Roanoke River Valley to increase significantly. Among the settlers who came to the area were Daniel and Gideon Smith, who later would become the namesakes for Smith Mountain. Much of the Valley’s popularity was due to its fertile soil, which provided farmers a perfect climate for tobacco farming. Historic tobacco barns are still found around the area today (two are located at The Coves).
As the region continued to grow, the need for electrical power became more important. In 1955, the Army Corps of Engineers began looking at the Roanoke River Valley as a potential site for a hydroelectric dam. Construction of a dam was permitted in January 1958 and began in the summer of 1960. The full power pool water elevation of 795 feet above sea level was reached at 5:03 a.m. on March 7th, 1966. This beautiful body of water was named Smith Mountain Lake.
Today, Smith Mountain Lake encompasses over 22,000 acres of pristine water and 500 miles of shoreline. Home to approximately 18,000 residents, portions of Smith Mountain Lake are located in Franklin, Bedford, and Pittsylvania counties. Fishing, boating (all types), skiing, camping, hiking, and golfing are just a few of the recreational opportunities that make every day at Smith Mountain Lake a new experience.
The Rich History of the Region
The Smith Mountain Lake State Park is one of the most visited State Parks in Virginia and has camping, fishing, boating, and a public beach. The region’s abundant cultural history is close at hand with the Blue Ridge Parkway, Booker T. Washington Memorial Park, National D-Day Memorial, and Natural Bridge all a short drive from The Coves. The rich cultural history, recreational opportunities, and beautiful setting make Smith Mountain Lake a truly cherished landscape.