1. How large/deep is Smith Mountain Lake? At about 32 square miles of surface
(22,000 acres), SML is Virginia’s second largest body of fresh water (The largest,
Kerr Reservoir/Buggs Island Lake, is shared with Maryland). Depth is 220 feet at
the dam, and generally steep shorelines mean even isolated coves offer deep water
for boating, fishing, swimming. It’s not unusual to chart 100-foot-plus depths in
the main channels. SML’s Roanoke river channel runs about 25 miles north
toward Roanoke; the Blackwater River channel runs about twelve miles west.
2. What is the boating like at SML? Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge,
with myriad coves and tributaries for secluded fishing, skiing and
wakeboarding/surfing, swimming and paddling, SML is an ideal boating location.
Waters are clean and the lake’s “twisty-turny” character and steep shorelines
means many areas are well sheltered from the wind, though sailing is also popular
in the more open expanses. Countless coves and creeks offer nearly endless
exploration possibilities. Rental boats are readily available and boater services are
offered at over 20 marinas.
3. Who can operate a boat legally on SML? Anyone who has taken and passed a
NASBLA (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators) – certified
boating safety course can operate a boat on SML. Operators of PWCs (Personal
Water Craft) and boats powered by over 10 HP must be at least 14 years of age.
Operators should carry a copy of their Boater Education Certification card with
them. Cards from other states are valid, or visitors can visit
www.boated.com/virginia for on-line certification.
4. What about water quality? The Smith Mountain Lake Association regularly
monitors and reports on water quality and clarity and has actively discouraged
invasive weed species by stocking fish that feed on unwanted vegetation. The lake
is essentially weed free and see-your-feet clear in all but it’s uppermost reaches.
Water level changes from the power generation cycles discourage formation of
algae and slime—as well as mosquitoes, which most residents find thankfully
absent from their outdoor living spaces.
5. How can I find a good fishing guide? The SML Chamber of Commerce website
( www.visitsmithmountainlake.com ) lists fishing guides who are Chamber
members; a longer list can be found on Google. Experienced guides usually
organize successful outings because they know “where the fish were yesterday”
and can find out where they are on the day of your outing. Monthly meetings of
The SML Striper Club provide local knowledge/tips for those who wish to try
their luck without a guide.
6. What should I know about choosing a property at SML? Ask your realtor to
brief you on the pros and cons of the following options: (1) Main
channel/mountain view vs secluded cove; (2) Sunrise vs. sunset view; (3) Steep

vs. gradual lake frontage; (4) Bedford vs. Franklin vs. Pittsylvania County; (5)
Build new (current dock construction regulations) vs. buy existing (grandfathered
dock may be larger); Rocky Mount vs. Westlake vs. Bedford orientation.
7. What regulations apply to tow sports? Towing of tubers, skiers, wakeboarders
and wakesurfers is allowed sunrise to a half hour after sunset. Wakesurfers cannot
be towed behind outboards and sterndrives (exception for forward-facing
sterndrives). No observer is required if those being towed are wearing life jackets
(but skiing without a life vest is not recommended!). PWC capacity limits (I.E, 2,
3 or 4 passengers) INCLUDE those being towed.
8. Does SML have waterfront restaurants? There are over 20 water-accessible
restaurants at SML, ranging from fine dining to coffee shop, ice cream store, pizza
parlor, tequila bar and dock-side grills. A complete list, updated annually, can be
found at www.smithmountainlake.com . Music is offered at some venues during
the season. Nearby Downtown Roanoke also offers interesting dining alternatives,
as does Bedford.
9. What are winters at the lake like? Climate in southwest Virginia is definitely
four-season, but winters are not severe. Snowfalls, when they do occur, are
usually light and melt away in one or two days. Icing of rural roadways is
common, and schools sometimes close in anticipation of ice events for bus safety.
Some residents with winter aversions opt for a winter respite somewhere warmer,
but those who remain here find plenty of activities to keep them busy and
fulfilled.