Smith Mountain Lake is a large reservoir in the Roanoke Region of Virginia, located southeast of the City of Roanoke and southwest of Lynchburg.The lake was created in 1963 by the Smith Mountain Dam impounding the Roanoke River. The lake has become a popular recreation spot and has also experienced significant development in the last decade. It is the largest lake contained entirely within the state of Virginia.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the area around Smith Mountain Lake remained rural and remote with tobacco farms and other agriculture. Marinas provided the bulk of public access in the early years of the lake.
The limited early residential developments around the lake consisted largely of small trailer parks and modest houses. However, residential growth has been steady since the mid-1980s and increasingly upscale with large lakefront houses, condominiums, and communities centered around golf courses.State Route 122 is the only primary highway that crosses the lake, though State Route 24, State Route 116, and State Route 40 are nearby.
Recreation and Public Access:
Smith Mountain Lake has become a popular recreational area. Boating, water skiing, wakeboarding, riding personal watercraft, and sailing are common activities as is fishing, especially for striped bass.The lake has hosted several professional fishing tournaments. Smith Mountain Lake State Park opened in 1983 and provided a beach and a section for swimming. Golf at one of the four nearby courses is a popular landside activity.
The majority of access to the lake is through private residential property. A dozen private marinas provide limited public access, but some have been recently converted to private, residential developments due to economic and regulatory pressure. Recreation Use Assessment.
The fee-based Smith Mountain Lake State Park (located on the Bedford County side of the lake off of Smith Mountain Parkway Route 626), the free Smith Mountain Community Park (located on the Franklin County side of Smith Mountain Lake) and six government-managed boat launching ramps also provide public access.
- May: The Tom Maynard Memorial Poker Run raises funds for the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce.
- July: Smith Mountain Lake Fireworks and Fire Company Fundraiser - Established by Parkway Marina in 1991, the Saunders Volunteer Fire Company has organized the event since 2001 as a fundraiser. The first fireworks display was presented by Smith Mountain Lake Dock & Lodge in the 1980s and continued until 2006. Donations pay part of the cost for the fireworks.
- July: Smith Mountain Lake Wakefest & Virginia Commonwealth Games Wakeboarding Tournament hosted by Wake N Skate Pro Wakeboard Shop. For the past six years, on the third Saturday of July thousands gather to watch accomplished wakeboarders in Virginia compete.
- August: Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce Beach Bash - Held August 18, this event features beach music and local wineries and micro-brewers.
- September: The Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival - Held the last Saturday and Sunday in September, the 2012 celebration will be held September 29 & 30. Each year 27 Virginia-based wineries participate, as well as 85 food and craft vendors. This event is a fundraiser for the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce.
- October: The SML Charity Home Tour has been held annually since 1991 and now occurs on the first weekend of October. It opens eight elegant lake homes to the public. More than a thousand volunteers support the project, which in 2011 produced about $100,000 for local charities.
- October: The SML Rotary Club's Charity Fundraiser "Night at the Races" features simulated horse racing, funny money, food, prizes, and a "Kentucky Derby" Ladies Hat Parade. The fifth annual event is October 20, 2012. Proceeds benefit local charities.
- November: The Smith Mountain Lake Fall Chili & Craft Festival - A full-day event featuring music, crafts and a competitive chili cook-off. It is held lakeside at Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, near the Hales Ford Bridge on the first Saturday in November. This event is a fundraiser for the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce.
- ESPN BASSmasters Elite-First held at Smith Mountain Lake in 2007, this is a major televised tournament attracting professional anglers from throughout the world. The event includes numerous on-site activities for the general public. The 2009 & 2010 events were held at Parkway Marina. There was no tournament at SML in 2011.
- The 2012 independent film "Lake Effects" features Smith Mountain Lake. It's a fictional tale of a family raised on and later returning to the lake. The dramatic comedy first aired on the Hallmark Move Channel during May 2012.
- The lake was featured prominently in the 1991 movie comedy What About Bob?, directed by Frank Oz and starring Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss and Julie Hagerty. It served as the stand-in for Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.