Smith Mountain Lake had its' beginnings in 1963 when the dam across the Roanoke River was completed. It took three years for the lake to fill, covering 20,000 acres and creating over 500 miles of shoreline. The lake is operated by AEP to both generate and store electricity. Energy storage is achieved by pumping water up into Smith Mountain Lake from Leesville Lake that is immediately below the dam and visible in the photo above. The Smith Mountain Lake Dam Visitor Center includes excellent exhibits that explain how it all works. See the Activities page for directions and visiting hours.
The lake is about 200' deep near the dam, leaving forests, farms, roads and bridges hidden beneath the surface. The area was prepared by cutting down all the trees that would be near the surface, but leaving the trees that would be completely submerged, creating ideal habitats for fish. As the lake was being filled, early water skiers describe dodging trees as they flew across the water!