Comprised of two winding main rivers (the southerly-running Roanoke and the shorter, easterly-flowing Blackwater) plus many creeks and coves of varying sizes, Smith Mountain Lake is a boating paradise. Much of its 500+ miles of shoreline is fairly steep and tree-lined, minimizing wind chop and making for generally deep water, even close to shorelines. Its few prop-busting shoals are well marked, and 153 lighted channel markers assist boaters in finding their way from place to place. Water levels are quite consistent, especially when compared to many of America’s TVA-controlled lakes; level change is normally limited to the one to two foot “tides” resulting from power generation cycles. Amazingly, the water level in this 22,500-acre lake can be raised as much as 18”- 24” in one overnight pump-back cycle!

Those same varying water levels, though not significant enough to complicate boat operation and dock construction, keep mosquito breeding to a minimum. Covered boat slips and dock lounging areas are allowed, as are floating docks for easy boarding regardless of the water level. Most docks are equipped with electric boat lifts that raise boats out of the weather and elimate the need for anti-fouling bottom paint. Nearly 400 docks on SML feature Touchless Automatic Boat Covers for the ultimate in boat-keeping ease and protection.

Pontoon boats, especially the new high-performance tri-toons, are very popular on SML, as are family runabouts, bass boats and wake sports towboats.  Outboards are increasingly popular since they don’t require winterizing and thus enable outings on what can be very pleasant days throughout the off-season. Two or more PWCs (Personal Water Craft) are berthed at many docks, and several marinas offer lifts for smaller boats and covered floating slip spaces for larger cruisers. Many private docks feature clever storage for kayaks, canoes, paddle boards and even skulling shells.

The waterway does get busy on sunny holiday weekends and skippers must be courteous, alert and unimpaired by drugs or alcohol. Early mornings and most evenings are glassy calm and especially inviting. Weekdays all summer and most every day in the shoulder seasons (March/April/May & September/October/November) allow boaters to find places to feel as though they have the lake to themselves.  Generally speaking, “open water” remains open all year long, though skins of ice sometimes form along shorelines and in very sheltered coves.