Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park
Wednesday, July 17, 2024



Local Students Learn About Watersheds and Ospreys

During Field Trip to Smith Mountain Lake State Park 


“Fifty-six 2nd – 5th grade students from Moneta Elementary and Huddleston Elementary recently visited Smith Mountain Lake State Park and learned about local watersheds and wildlife,” said Park Interpreter Jet Lawler.  The students were part of an after-school program funded by a 21st CCLC grant. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) is a federal grant awarded to state educational agencies to provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours to complement their regular academic programs.  Three programs; “A Drop in the Bucket,” “Incredible Journey,” and “The Fabulous Fish Hawk,” were presented by Lawler and Friends of SML State Park members Janis Erickson and Donna Haarz.  The students also took a short hike to view the park’s osprey nesting platform, said Lawler.  The birds are currently overwintering in the Caribbean, but will be returning to the area in early March. 


Youth Fishing Clinic


The Bedford County Parks and Recreation brought together a group of enthusiastic volunteers who put smiles on the faces of over 100 youths who attended the annual Fishing Clinic at Smith Mountain Lake State Park.  Through the cooperation of the Bedford County Parks & Recreation Department, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Smith Mountain Striper Club, Bedford Moose Lodge, Bedford Outdoor Sportsman Association, Friends of SML State Park, SML Marine Volunteer Fire Co., Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bridgewater Marina, area youth were educated and entertained on everything from boating safety to fish identification.  Youth from ages 6-14 were able to practice casting and compete for prizes.  They also caught live trout, and experienced a ride on a fire boat. Two new stations were added to this year’s event.  Canoeing proved to be a big hit. Participants were teamed up based on age and after instruction on water safety and paddling, they hit the water and tried their hand at maneuvering in Smith Mountain Lake.  In the second new station the participants, using the latest technology with multiple monitors, were able to get a feel for what it is like to navigate a boat in open waters.   They also tried their hand at skeet shooting and target practice using laser rifles.


Music in the Park - Friday Night Band

Friday Night Dance Band 2016

Left, Adam Cecil on fiddle, Stan Rowe on bass, Russ Boyd on banjo and Dolley Maxzy on guitar.

Cloggers 2016

Cloggers dressed and ready to dance 

Cloggers Dancing 2016

Clogger dancing to the music of the Friday Night Dance Band, demonstrating the art of flatfooting.


Prior to the performance, Park Interpreter Jet Lawler, was seeing how many pelts Gabe Banks, center and Joshua Smith could identify.  She was showing them fox, raccoon, possum, skunk, fox, beaver, coyote and others.   


Master Naturalist's Nature Expo

The Friends were represented by Donna Haarz (pictured), at the Master Naturalist’s Nature Expo held at Booker T. Washington National Monument. The event was sponsored by the Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists. Donna furnished information about the State Park and Friends activities.


Business Expo

The Friends took part again this year in the Smith Mountain Lake Business Expo sponsored by the Regional Chamber of Commerce.  Pictured from left are Dave Gearhart, President of the Friends, Pat Eastwood, Visitor Service Specialist, Virginia State Parks and Jim Gerhart.  Information was provided about park programs and amenities as well as activities of the Friends.

Mother's Day Tea Party

Moms were the focus of attention at the Picnic Pavilion at the Discovery Center of Smith Mountain Lake State Park. Park Nature Interpreter, Jet Lawler, with a little help from the Friends of SML State Park provided a variety of teas and special treats to stave off that “sinkingfeeling” in the afternoon between meals as the Duchess Stanhope of England had intended. After tea, everyone got a chance to view the nearby butterfly garden, identify the plants and the role milkweed plays in the survival of the monarch butterfly. The moms and friends then planned to go on a wildflower walk, followed by a ride on the new park tour boat.

Wet-lab Environmental Educational Center

Chief Ranger, Jared Vandergriff, Smith Mountain Lake State Park, accepts a check for $1,000 from President Dave Gearhart, Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park.  The money was originally donated by AEP to the Friends for the development of the Wet-Lab.

Read more here.


Deer Management Program Produces Record Buck

Pictured is Tony Snodgrass with the buck taken on the first day of the SML State Park dear hunt. Read more about the ParkManagement at

The Friends of the Park provided lunch for the 30 hunters that participated.

Recovered Bald Eagle Released Back to Nature at SML State Park
  A young bald eagle believed to have fallen from its nest was released back to nature at the park. Read more at
Smith Mountain Lake State Park Focuses on
Area History and Culture
Tim Sims, Chief Ranger at Booker T. Washington came to the State Park and provided an interpretive program discussing tobacco and its role as a significant cash crop in Virginia. For more information see
Tim Sims, Chief Ranger, Booker T. Washington National Monument displaying a portion of a tobacco plant. Passengers ready to begin their tour on the park's new 30 foot tour boat to learn about lake and park history.

Monarch Butterfly Larvae Successfully Reared at SML State Park 


Park Interpreter Jet Lawler holding the monarch butterfly getting ready to take its first flight. To read more about this project go to

First landing – The monarch butterfly flew about 20 feet and landed on some milk weed. 

American Chestnut Planting

read more about the American Chestnut tree here 

Matt Brinkman, who is overseeing the planting project explains the different strains of American chestnuts in the bags to be planted. 

Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park member, Janis Erickson, staking a predator guard.


Volunteers waiting for lunch.

 Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park member, Patti Gerhart planting a seedling.


The Great American Chestnut Tree

On April 8 the Friends will assist the American Chestnut Foundation effort to re-establish the tree by planting blight resistant seedlings in the park. To read more about the American Chestnut which was once one of the most important trees in the eastern US go to  (pictures provided by American Chestnut Foundation)


First Day Hike


Park Interpreter Jet Lawler describing some interesting plant material along the Chestnut Trail during the First Day Hike at SML State Park

Approximately 65 hikers on the Chestnut Trail for the First Day Hike at SML State Park


Getting Ready to Hit the Road

The Friends have adopted a 2 mile stretch of highway on Smith Mountain Parkway from the State Park to the Saunders Fire & Rescue Station.  Pictured from left are: Patti Gerhart, Dave Gearhart, Ray Judd, Lorraine Judd, Ann Marie Smith, Dot Tipton, Janice Erickson, Donna Gearhart and Jim Gerhart

  Annual Deer Hunt 

Park Ranger John Mitchell, inspecting a buck. Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park members, left, Patti Gerhart, and Doreen Widney, serving food to hungry hunters. Seated is Bill McDonough, member, Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park, keeping statistics on the deer.  Looking on is Park Manager, Brian Heft.

Annual Halloween Party

 Gypsy, 1st place
age 5 and under

         Cleopatra, 1st place                   age 6-10

Dragon, 2nd place
age 5 and under
Hockey Player 2nd place
 age 6-10
  Attendees at the Halloween Party enjoy a hayride.

     Christian Academy Boat Tour


Students from the 6th to 12th grades from the Christian Academy take a ride on the State Park Tour boat operated by the Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park, learned about the lake water properties and took some measurements.  Water samples were brought back to the Discovery Center to measure the pH and look for micro-organisms.

Tour Boat Dedication

 Tour Boat Dedication Day, October 11, 2014
Dave Gearhart, President of Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park hands over the keys for the newly purchased Tour Boat to State Park Manager, Brian Heft, as a gift to the park.  The park has already scheduled two educational tours for school children to help them understand lake water qualities.
Shortly after the dedication, the Smith Mountain Lake State Park Tour Boat leaves the dock at the Discovery Center, fully loaded on its first tour.

Working in the Garden:  The Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park doing some fall cleanup in the Butterfly Garden behind the Discovery Center.  The remaining flowers on the Butterfly Bushes were visited by a few butterflies getting their last drink before making their long trip south.  Pictured are Patti Gerhart left and Nancy Hughes.