Frequently Asked Questions About Smith Mountain Lake
Can you tell me a little bit about Smith Mountain Lake?
Smith Mountain Lake is the largest lake located completely within Virginia. It was created when Appalachian Power Company built a massive hydroelectric dam in the gap at Smith Mountain starting in 1963.
The Blue Ridge Mountains provide a scenic backdrop for the lake, which spans 40 miles in length and more than 500 miles of shoreline. The shoreline extends through the counties of Franklin, Bedford and Pittsylvania.
The region has grown into a haven for fishermen, a prime destination for vacationers, and a home to more than 20,000 residents, many of whom are retirees. People often visit SML for vacation, fall in love with it, and make moving to the lake their retirement dream.
Why should I choose Smith Mountain Lake as my vacation destination?
SML offers an abundance of activities both on and off the water, including a variety water sports such as boating, kayaking, wakeboarding, water skiing, and jet skiing.
Fishing is a popular pastime for residents and visitors alike. In 2018, Bassmaster Magazine voted Smith Mountain Lake the 18th best lake for bass fishing in the Northeastern Region of the U.S.
While there’s plenty to do for those who prefer to stay active, there’s also ample opportunity to kick back and relax in a clean, quiet environment, away from the frantic pace of the city.
For more details, check out our Visitor and Newcomer Guide.
When is the best time to visit Smith Mountain Lake?
With its moderate temperatures, a visit to Smith Mountain Lake is terrific year-round. The most popular time to visit is from May through September when schools are out for the summer and air and water temperatures are warm. However, early spring and fall are enjoyable as well with moderate temperatures and reduced boat traffic.
What is there to do at Smith Mountain Lake for kids?
In addition to all the water sports activities, there are countless things to do with kids. Examples include visiting a local alpaca farm, touring nearby historic sites, visiting SML State Park or SML Community Park, hiking, biking, shopping, miniature golf, feeding the carp at Bridgewater Plaza, and hanging out on a dock. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
For more ideas, check out our Visitor and Newcomer Guide.
About the SML Visitor Center
What will I find at the Smith Mountain Lake Visitor Center
The SML Visitor Center is located at 16430 Booker T. Washington Hwy., #2, Moneta, on the main level of Bridgewater Plaza.
Here you can find a wealth of information about the lake area from its knowledgeable and friendly team of volunteers. Numerous magazines, information about area restaurants, things to do, accommodations, and local businesses are available free of charge.
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sat. 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Sun. 10:00 to 4:00 pm (Memorial Day-Labor Day only), Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day
Where can I get a map of Smith Mountain Lake?
Maps of the lake are available at the SML Visitors Center. Unfortunately, we cannot mail out maps.
Where can I get an SML Visitor Guide?
The annual Smith Mountain Lake Visitor and Newcomer Guide is free, printed annually and available in digital form, as well as a full-color glossy magazine.
Boating and Fishing
Where can I rent a boat, jet ski or watersports equipment?
With more than 20 marinas and rental companies spread across the lake, renting watercraft is easy. However, marinas vary in terms of types and sizes of boats, kayaks, and jet skis available. It’s recommended that you reserve a boat well in advance of your trip. This is especially important on the weekends and during peak season.
Do I need to take a boating safety education course to operate a boat at SML?
In all public waters in Virginia, operators of PWCs (Personal Watercraft commonly referred to as jet skis, Sea Doos, Wave Runners) age 14 and older and all operators (regardless of age) of motorboats with a 10 hp or greater engine need to take a boating safety course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and accepted by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
All operators of PWCs and operators of motorboats with a 10 hp or greater motor, are required to have a boating safety education course completion card on board when operating a PWC or motorboat.
VDGIF Boat Virginia Course is offered FREE of charge to the public. See course schedule here.
What if I'm renting a boat at SML?
While taking the full boating safety course is highly recommended for you and your passengers' safety, boat operation with a rental or lease agreement from a motorboat rental or leasing business and completion of a dockside safety checklist is also acceptable.
Do I need to take the boating safety course to operate a canoe, kayak or rowboat?
No. Canoes, kayaks and other manually-propelled boats do not need to meet the requirement.
Are there any other exemptions to the boating safety course requirement?
There are limited exceptions. Find out more information about the law here.
Is there a minimum age to operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC)?
The minimum PWC operator age is 16, except those 14 or 15 year olds who have completed and passed an NASBLA approved boating safety course.
Do we need to wear life jackets?
- Life jackets (PFDs) are mandatory for any child under 13 years old when the boat is underway. We strongly recommend having smaller children wear a PFD when they are on or around a dock.
- Each person riding on, or being towed by a PWC (jet ski, etc.) must wear a USCG-approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD).
- Each person being towed behind a boat must wear a USCG–approved PFD if no observer is on board.
- If PFDs are not worn at all times, they must be readily accessible. This means you must be able to reach the life jacket and put it on without delay in an emergency.
For more information, view Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.
Do I need a fishing license?
Yes, a license is required to fish in Virginia. A variety of freshwater fishing licenses are available, including as short as 5 days or as long as 1-4 years.
- Landowners, their spouses, their children and grandchildren and the spouses of such children and grandchildren, or the landowner’s parents, resident or nonresident, do not need a license to fish within the boundaries of their own lands and inland waters.
- Youth under 16 years of age.
- Tenants, on the land they rent and occupy, are not required to have a license, but must have the written permission of the landowner.
Where can I buy a fishing license?
Locally, you can purchase a fishing license in-person at Kroger, Food Lion, SML State Park and Bridgewater Marina, among others. Resident fees are lower than non-resident.
Are there fishing guides available for hire?
Yes, there are a number of experienced, knowledgeable fishing guides who usually offer half-day and full-day excursions with equipment provided. It’s recommended you book in advance. Search They can show you the best techniques and places to fish on the lake. Search the Visitor and Business Directory of this website for "Fishing Guides."
Where can I find current lake temperatures?
Visit smlfishfinder.com for current lake temperatures.
Where can I find current lake levels?
Visit smlfishfinder.com for current lake levels.
Where can I find public boat launches at Smith Mountain Lake?
Please visit the VDGIF website for a listing of public boat launches at SML.
Parks and Recreation
Where can I go hiking?
Smith Mountain Lake and surrounding areas offer residents and vacationers abundant hiking opportunities. Easier hiking options include SML State Park, and Smith Mountain Lake Community Park, both of which also feature views of the lake. Booker T. Washington National Monument offers two trails for casual hikers. For more serious hikers, we suggest a short drive to Peaks of Otter or the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Check out these website for more information on hiking around the SML area:
Are there any bike paths at Smith Mountain Lake?
Bikes may be ridden on the hiking trails at the SML State Park.
Additionally, a series of bike routes spanning a total of 50 miles are available in Bedford County on the public roads near the SML State Park. Helmets should always be worn and care taken since bike riders share the road with motorists on these routes. Brochures containing maps of the routes are available at the SML Visitors Center at Bridgewater Plaza or at the SML State Park.
Where can we go for a picnic?
Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Smith Mountain Lake Community Park and Booker T. Washington National Monument offer attractive areas for a picnic. A large picnic area also is available near the Smith Mountain Dam Visitors Center, located off of Virginia 40.
Are there any beaches at Smith Mountain Lake?
What can I do at Smith Mountain Lake State Park?
In addition to a full range of water-related activities, including swimming, fishing and boating, the park offers miles of hiking trails, cabins, primitive camping, picnicking, a visitor center and interpretive programs. The park covers 1,148 acres, including scenic views of the lake. The fishing pier is universally accessible.
As of 2019, the following fees apply.
- Parking: $7 (standard vehicle)
- Weekday: Ages 2 and under, free; Ages 3-12, $1.50; Ages 13 and Over, $2.50
- Weekend: Ages 2 and under, free; Ages 3-12, $2; Ages 13 and over, $3
- Boat launch fee: $3 per boat
For more information, call (540) 297-6666 or visit the park’s website.
What can I do at Smith Mountain Lake Community Park?
The 37-acre Smith Mountain Lake Community Park is a family-oriented facility providing swimming, fishing and family recreation. The park is open year-round (dawn to dusk) and offers a partly-covered handicap accessible fishing pier with seating, picnic shelters with grill, playground area, restrooms, hiking, jogging, a two-mile trail system, and seasonal sand beach/swimming area with lifeguards on duty.
The beach is open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., May 25 -August 11, 2019. The cost of using the beach/swimming area is $2 per adult and children 3 and under are free. There is no admission or parking fee.
For more information, call (540) 483-9293 or visit PlayFranklinCounty.com
What kind of lodging is available at Smith Mountain Lake?
Whether you’re at SML for a quick getaway or you’re lucky enough to enjoy a longer stay, great lodging is easy to find. Our community offers a range of accommodations, including quaint B&Bs, vacation rental homes and condos, hotel and resort suites and lakeside camping spots for both tent and RV adventures.
Where is there to eat at Smith Mountain Lake?
From American grill to Asian fusion to Mexican and Italian, your favorite cuisine is on the menu of a Smith Mountain Lake restaurant. More than a dozen are on the water, accessible by boat. In addition, many provide take-out options, patio seating, live music and Internet access.
Relocating to Smith Mountain Lake
What is it like to live at Smith Mountain Lake?
Framed by the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Smith Mountain Lake is filled with natural beauty. A large and growing portion of the more than 20,000 residents live at SML full time. Many find they can work from home while others live elsewhere but have a place at the lake to enjoy on weekends and vacations.
Residents spend a good deal of time on or near the water during the warmer months. Boating, fishing, participating in water sports, or just sitting on the dock with a glass of wine are all popular activities.
The area offers convenient medical and dental care, multiple fitness facilities and yoga studios, several golf courses, tennis and pickleball courts, access to groceries and other necessities, friendly people, an active arts and music community, numerous service and social clubs, a wide range of churches, and plentiful volunteer opportunities.
SML's winter weather is relatively mild; average snowfall is 12 inches over the season. Winter is when residents catch up on all the indoor projects they don't get to during the boating season. There are still plenty of events and activities that take place during the winter months to keep anyone as active as they wish to be. Residents enjoy the different "faces" of SML as the seasons change. Fall foliage reflecting off the water is absolutely stunning. And the lake turns into an astonishing winter wonderland when it gets an occasional light snowfall. Anglers are out on the lake year-round.
What are the real estate tax rates at SML?
Smith Mountain Lake is spread over three counties, so tax rates vary, but are relatively low compared to other areas, and well below those found in larger cities.
- Franklin County: $0.61 per $100 assessed value
- Bedford County: $0.52 per $100 assessed value
- Pittsylvania County: $0.62 per $100 assessed value
Where can I find information about starting or expanding a local business?
Franklin County Office of Economic Development
1255 Franklin Street, Suite 112
Rocky Mount, VA 24151
Bedford County Office of Economic Development
122 East Main Street. Suite 202
Bedford, VA 24523
1 Center Street
P.O. Box 426
Chatham, VA 24531
Where can I find demographic data about the area?
About the SML Regional Chamber of Commerce
What are the benefits of joining the Chamber?
Increase your company’s exposure, connect with other SML business professionals and recruit new customers by joining the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce!
Please visit the following pages for detailed information:
Questions? Contact us at 540-721-1203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do I join the Chamber?
Joining is easy! Simply fill out our online application.
What kind of events does the Chamber organize?
In addition to monthly opportunities for networking and professional development, the Chamber organizes (or assists in organizing) a number of annual events, including:
How can I volunteer at the SML Visitor Center?
We’re always looking for outgoing and organized volunteers to join our team. For more information, contact us at 540-721-1203 or email@example.com.
I’m already a Chamber member. How do I access my business directory page?
How is the Chamber involved in public policy?
The Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce spearheads the business community’s involvement in public policy issues through its Government Affairs Committee.
The committee analyzes policy issues, makes recommendations to the Board of Directors, and drafts letters and other communications to convey the organization's positions. The Chamber voices dissent or support, as appropriate, for key legislation and government action.
Visit our Public Policy page for additional information, as well as the current year’s public policy agenda.