Why the Lake Levels Change
The Smith Mountain Project is a pumped storage system, where Smith Mountain Lake serves as the upper reservoir and Leesville Lake as the lower reservoir. Water stored in Smith Mountain Lake passes through turbine-generators at Smith Mountain Dam to produce electricity. The water is then discharged into Leesville Lake where it is retained until it is either pumped back into Smith Mountain Lake for re-use or discharged downstream through turbine-generators at Leesville Dam to produce electricity.
The normal full pond elevation at Smith Mountain Lake is 795 feet, and the typical operation range is between 793 and 795 feet. Under low in-flow conditions, the surface elevation at Smith Mountain Lake may fall below 793 feet. The operating range for Leesville is between 600 and 613 feet in elevation. These levels reflect the connection between the two lakes, where a 1-foot change in elevation at Smith Mountain Lake corresponds to approximately 6.5 feet of change in elevation at Leesville Lake. Refer to the graphic below or read lake level FAQs to learn more about the reservoirs.
Smith Mountain Lake
Throughout the day, water is released from Smith Mountain Lake into Leesville Lake to generate power. This exchange causes Smith Mountain water levels to lower as Leesville lake increases. The return cycle usually occurs at night.
Fast Facts about Smith Mountain Lake
The lake is bounded on the north shores by Bedford County and Smith Mountain Lake State Park, where campsites and cabins are available as well as boat rentals. The more than 1,500 acre park offers hiking trails, picnic areas and ranger programs, such as guided night hikes and canoe trips.
- Smith Mountain Lake is the second largest body of fresh water in Virginia.
- Combined, Smith Mountain and Leesville Lakes are almost 60 miles in length and include 600 miles of shoreline.
- Smith Mountain Lake has several public marinas, including Bridgewater, Parkway, Parkway 2, Mitchell's Point, and Smith Mountain Dock & Lodge.
- The community of Smith Mountain Lake has grown to over 22,000 in large part to vacationers who’ve decided to relocate permanently.
Common questions about lake levels
Two Foot Power Pool
*Under low in-flow conditions, the elevation at Smith Mountain can fall below 793 feet.