Fifty-four years ago, Smith Mountain Lake reached “full pond” for the first time – that’s 795 feet just below the spillway at the Smith Mountain dam, a level officially recorded on March 7, 1966. It was the culmination of a pump-storage hydroelectric project begun in 1960 that tamed the Roanoke River and resulted in two lakes – Smith Mountain and its little sister, Leesville Lake — and two dams. The project ultimately flooded thousands of acres, mostly rural farmland, and involved hundreds of workers to accomplish an engineering feat whose dam centerpiece towers 225 feet and is wedged into the gorge of its namesake mountain.

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