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.
Asking the right questions can help prospective buyers—especially those new to “Lake Life” at SML–find the property that will be best suited to your full and complete enjoyment of the lake and it’s surrounds. Some trade-offs you may wish to evaluate:
Franklin vs. Bedford County – A key difference here is property rental policy: Bedford County allows “short term” (daily, weekly and monthly) rentals while properties in Franklin and Pittsylvania counties can be rented only for 6 or longer terms. Thus, a lake home in Bedford Co. is best for those seeking rental income; Franklin Co. is preferred by those who want less in-and-out traffic and “calmer” waterfronts with familiar neighbors. Both FC and BC have respected school systems; all three have proponents/detractors of their respective governance.
Main Channel vs. Secluded Cove – Lakefront homes on the main channels of the Roanoke, Blackwater or major creeks often have wide, unobstructed views of Smith Mountain, sunrises, sunsets and passing boat traffic. Cove frontage often means neighboring docks in close proximity and shorter views limited by rising shorelines and/or trees. More boat wakes and cooling breezes are found on the main channels; cove properties boast calmer waters but can be “close” on humid mid-summer days. Long, reasonably-wide coves/creeks attract wake boarders and surfers so the docks and shorelines that line them can be buffeted by towboat noise and wakes; short, narrow coves make for less boat traffic and less wake and noise disruption of swimmers, kayakers, paddle boarders and dock loungers. It is best to visit a property you are considering on a summer weekend afternoon for a sampling of the waterfront in full-use mode.
Sunrise vs. Sunset-view waterfront – Easterly-facing docks, decks and windows get morning sun and afternoon shade but require owners to watch SML’s magnificent mountain sunsets from their boats or neighbors’ homes across the street. West-facing properties enjoy the sunsets in exchange for hot afternoon sun that may necessitate tinted windows, awnings or shades to reduce AC costs and protect furniture.
Proximity to other stuff – There’s only one major bridge across this very large lake, so you may wish to chose where you want to locate with respect to where you wish to shop or might work, whether you’ll travel to your lake home from north or south, proximity to church of choice, etc. Just remember: Once you are a Laker, no complaining about “having a lake in the way” is allowed. It’s a way of life that only the fortunate few are privileged to enjoy.
Watching the star shows – The dark skies around rural SML make for incredible star gazing, an after-dark pass-time from most decks and patios. If heavy tree cover blocks your upward view, get in your boat and idle out a bit, lay back and enjoy the brilliant skyscape. Safety reminder: running lights stay “on” while adrift after dark.
Many characterize Smith Mountain Lake as an Angler’s Paradise. Benefiting from VDGIF (Virginia Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries) stocking programs, bass—especially the strong-fighting, great-eating “striped bass” (also known as “rock fish” when fished in coastal waters)—are plentiful. Those who opt for a half or full day with any of the lake’s professional fishing guides (search Laker Media’s Laker Magazine, June, 2019, for a partial list) typically net their limits and can enjoy a fresh fish dinner that evening. Stripers routinely run 16 to 18 inches (4-6 pounds, but “citation” fish–20 pounds/37” and up for stripers–are not uncommon. Slot limits are sometimes in effect to allow medium-sized fish to mature into trophy size. Serious fisher folk can join the SML Striper Club to hang out with others who share their passion and know the best baits and places to use them.
The nationally-televised BassMaster Classic was held here in 2007, and there is an annual spring Bass Classic. More localized tournaments are held most weekends. Prospective visitors can find schedules and other good fishing info at www.dgif.virginia.gov.
Pan fish can be easily caught off privaer docks, and there is a public fishing pier at the SML Community Park in Franklin County. Anglers must carry an inexpensive license (available in convenience stores and tackle shops, by phone or on line at www.virginia.gov) except for dock owners and their children fishing off their own docks. Cove casting for stripers can yield impressive fish, especially when a “bait-fish boil” erupts within casting distance of dock or shore. Trolling with down lines, planer boards and umbrella rigs can all be productive, depending on season, water temperature, moon phase and weather conditions. Angling advice for visitors is dispensed freely anywhere bait and tackle are sold.
A local song praising the delights of SML proclaims, “You know, the fishing is fine for those who know where to try!” Few leave disappointed by that promise.
If you want to spruce up your bathroom but you don’t want any remodeling involved, try a few of these simple updates to give your bathroom an updated look and feel.
1. New Hardware- replace your old towel bar, toilet paper holder, hand towel holder, and vanity knobs with new modern ones.
2. New Shower Curtain and Towels- By hanging a new shower curtain, towels and hand towels your bathroom will have a whole new look and feel. Try a pop of color to add some brightness to the room.
3. Paint the Walls- A new coat of paint is one of the best ways to create the biggest change.
4. Hang a New Mirror- Replace your old mirror with one that has a bit of character.
5. Add a Backsplash- A simple backsplash above your vanity will help give your bathroom that custom look.
You don’t have to go through all the work of a remodel in order to make a big difference!
SML is home to many sailing enthusiasts, and two sailing clubs (Blackwater Yacht Racing Association (BYRA) on the Blackwater River at Pelican Point and VISA (Virginia Inland Sailing Association) on the Roanoke near Bernard’s Landing—hold regular spring and fall races and regattas. Indeed, the months of April, May, September and October normally offer the best sailing breezes, whereas brisk sailing winds breezes are harder to find in summer months. Still, summer’s gentle breezes are perfect for fledgling sailors, and VISA offers a number of learn-to-sail programs for kids, using a fleet of Lasersand Flyhing Scots.
Pelican Point Yacht Club on the Blackwater has the most masts rising from its well-maintained floating slips, but sailboats can can be found in several other marinas as well. Vessels moored at home docks are often brought around to Pelican Point for VISA’s class regattas, typically handicapped by the club’s race committees to ensure every crew has a chance to show on a given Saturday.
SML’s unusually deep water means even deep-keeled sailboats can roam without fear of grounding and find secluded anchorages for overnight stays or a cooling swim on a warm summer day.
The Smith Mountain Project began with the Army Corps of Engineers constructing an 816-foot-wide, 235-foot high, 30-foot thick (at it’s base) pump-back-storage dam across Smith Mountain Gorge on the Roanoke River near Huddleston. VA. Completed in 1963, with the resulting reservoir (Smith Mountain Lake) reaching “full pond” on March 7, 1966, SML is first and foremost a power-generation facility. To be granted it’s current license to operate the Project, American Electric Power (AEP) was required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to develop a Shoreline Management Plan to ensure that the flowage remains suitable for power generation.
Under the Plan, AEP retains authority over all structures and shoreline modifications below the 800-foot elevation contour (5′ above “full pond” water level of 795′). The approved Shoreline Management Plan places certain restrictions on dock location, size and configuration. Thus, dock construction and shoreline erosion control plans must be approved by AEP, and any non-complying aspects, unless grandfathered in writing in 2005, must be brought into compliance before property can transfer. Properties must have at least 100′ of shoreline to qualify for construction of a dock. On lots with 100′ to 300′ of shoreline, dock area may measure up to 1500 square feet, including slip space, roof overhangs and walkways greater than 6′ wide. Shoreline properties with over 300′ of shoreline may have docks up to 3000 square feet in area. Storage enclosures are limited to 80 square feet.
A copy of the SML Shoreline Management Plan can be viewed at www.smithmtn.com.
You’re sure to be dazzled at the array of water sports you can enjoy at beautiful Smith Mountain Lake. Water temperatures typically reach 80 degrees by early June and stay swim-comfortable right through September. Water is see-your-feet clear in all but the upper reaches of SML’s feeder rivers and creeks, and somehow feels extra refreshing in the deep coves down where Smith Mountain plunges right to the lake shore. For an especially memorable outing, take along a swim-platform picnic or evening hors d’oeuvres and anchor to float on noodles, life jackets or swim rafts.
Tow sports like tubing, skiing, wakeboarding and wake surfing are all the rage on SML: the adventuresome indulge and the more cautious enjoy watching from decks and docks. Tow-capable boats, both runabouts and pontoons, can be rented by the hour, day or week at nine different marinas. So can paddle boards and kayaks, but paddle craft often come with waterfront home rentals.
Sailing is popular and two sailing clubs host a series of spring and fall regattas for serious sailors. Power boaters can spend hours exploring SML’s many coves and creeks, poking in and out of countless coves and checking out lakefront properties.
Kids can enjoy catching sunfish right off the docks with no license required; professional guides will also help anglers find the lake’s great-eating striped bass. SML is home to some 24 on-water restaurants, and meal excursions by boat are popular. Fare ranges from fine dining to pizza, Mexican, burgers and other moderately-priced choices. An early-morning smooth-water run for pancakes and coffee is an absolute delight!
While there are a multitude of activities to beckon you out on and into the water, relaxing dock-lounging is also treasured activity here. Most lakefront properties have deep swimming water off their docks; some have gradual beaches. The SML Water Safety Council recommends that children wear life jackets whenever on, in or near the water.
You’ll walk in and say ”this is it”. The beautiful paver drive welcomes you upon entering. The design, layout and quality have everything you want-all on one level and the perfect downsizer home. Superior construction with crown moldings, hardwood flooring throughout (no carpet), granite counters, a paved walking trail around the pond and gazebo, what’s not to love? You can walk across the street to the local YMCA, and located just minutes to shopping, medical offices, pharmacies, the library and salon, its all at your finger tips.
Location, location, location. Half of buying a home is all about finding where you want to live. You may have found your dream house, but if it’s not in your dream neighborhood, then it’s not your dream home.
To find the neighborhood that is just right for you, start by making a needs and wants list and be sure to include activities, services, and hobbies that dictate the amenities you need nearby.
The internet provides an immense amount of information so do a little digging.
Check it out in person. Drive through the area multiple times and at different times of day so that you can get a true feel for the area. Consider taking long walks to truly absorb how it would feel to live there.
How far is your potential home from your job? For some, a long commute would be a deal breaker. What is your tolerance? Be sure to drive the route multiple times at the exact times you will be traveling to and from work.
Do your research on property taxes and any other special assessments, especially in new areas and areas that have associations.
Research crime statistics, school ratings, and any neighborhood noise or restrictions that would hamper your enjoyment.
Visit the local park and chat with neighbors to ask what they enjoy most about living in the area.
It’s easy to fall in love with a nice home, and it’s even better when a great lifestyle that is your perfect fit goes along with it.
Email me if you would like information and property searches, I will be happy to assist.