What’s the Largest Man-Made Lake in Virginia?

Written by Drew Wood
Updated: September 20, 2023
Share on:

Advertisement


Virginia is home to many beautiful lakes, but none are quite as impressive as the John H. Kerr Reservoir. Also known as Buggs Island Lake, it is the largest lake in the state spanning over 50,000 acres, and offers a wide variety of recreational activities for visitors and residents alike. From boating and fishing to swimming and camping, the John H. Kerr Reservoir has something to offer everyone.

The Largest Man-Made Lake in Virginia
The John H. Kerr Reservoir was created in the 1950s after the completion of the dam.

In this article, we will take a closer look at this stunning lake and all it has to offer. From its history and natural environment to its recreational opportunities and annual events, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the John H. Kerr Reservoir. Whether you’re a local resident or planning a visit, this guide will help you make the most of your time on the lake.

History of the John H. Kerr Reservoir

The John H. Kerr Reservoir, also known as Buggs Island Lake, is a man-made lake located in southern Virginia. It was created in the 1950s as part of the Roanoke River Basin Project, a joint venture between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Electric and Power Company (now Dominion Energy). The goal of the project was to provide hydroelectric power, flood control, and water supply for the surrounding areas.

Construction of the reservoir began in 1952 and was completed in 1953. The project involved building a dam on the Roanoke River, which created the lake by impounding the water behind it. The dam is named after John H. Kerr, a former U.S. Congressman from North Carolina who helped secure funding for the project.

Robert S. Kerr Reservoir Oklahoma,

Construction of the reservoir began in 1952 and was completed in 1953. The project involved building a dam on the Roanoke River.

©Unknown author / public domain – License

Importance of the Kerr Reservoir

The reservoir covers an area of over 50,000 acres and has a shoreline of over 520 miles. It is a popular destination for recreational activities such as boating, fishing, swimming, and camping.

The John H. Kerr Reservoir also plays an important role in flood control and water supply management. The dam’s spillway gates can be used to release water during heavy rain events, helping to prevent flooding downstream. Additionally, the lake’s water is used for drinking water and irrigation by communities in the surrounding area.

Since its creation, the John H. Kerr Reservoir has become a significant source of hydroelectric power and a major recreational spot for locals and visitors. It also serves as an important resource for managing water supply and preventing downstream floods.

The Natural Environment of the Kerr Reservoir

The natural environment around the John H. Kerr Reservoir is a mix of forest land and developments. The surrounding region is primarily rural, with small towns and farming communities dotted throughout the landscape.

The area has a humid climate with hot summers and mild winters. Average temperatures in the summer can reach up to the high 90s Fahrenheit and in the winter it can drop to the low 30s. The area receives moderate rainfall throughout the year, with the heaviest precipitation falling in the spring and summer months.

The majority of the land around the lake is forest, with a mix of hardwood and pine trees. The forested areas provide habitat for a variety of wildlife, including white-tail deer, black bears, raccoons, and a variety of bird species.

In 2011 the largest blue catfish on record was caught there, weighing a staggering 143 pounds! The lake provides habitat for a diverse range of other fish species as well, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, black crappie, white crappie, walleye, bluegill, white bass, white perch, and striped bass. 

In terms of developed land, there are several marinas and campgrounds around the lake, as well as private homes and vacation rentals. There are also parks and recreational areas that provide access to the lake for visitors.

Racoon in undergrowth

The forested areas provide habitat for a variety of wildlife, including racoons, and a variety of bird species.

©John Wherley/Shutterstock.com

What Can You Do at the Kerr Reservoir?

Kerr Reservoir, also known as Buggs Island Lake, offers a wide variety of recreational activities for visitors and residents. Some of the most popular activities at the reservoir include boating, fishing, swimming, camping, hiking, biking, hunting, picnicking, golfing, shopping, and dining. Here are some examples of annual activities and events that take place there.

  1. The Virginia Lake Festival, or Lakefest: This is an annual event that takes place in Clarksville, a town located on the southern shore of the reservoir. It features live music, food vendors, and a variety of other activities such as boat races and fireworks. It has been voted a top 20 event for many years by the Southeast Tourism Society.
  2. NC/VA Striper Association Tournament: This is an annual fishing tournament that takes place at the reservoir. Anglers compete to catch the biggest and most striped bass during the tournament.
  3. Clarksville Lake Country Wine Festival: This annual event features wine tastings from local wineries, food, and live music.
  4. Lakefest Classic Car Show: Each year this Clarksville event features classic cars, food, and live music.
  5. Occoneechee State Park: is located on the lake. In the visitor center, you’ll find a replica Native American lodge and museum with artifacts found near the lake.
  6. Prestwould Plantation: This National Historic Landmark is known as the most documented late 18th-century Africian-American site in America.
  7. MacCallum More Museum and Gardens: Here you’ll find organically maintained botanical gardens, an arboretum, and a wildlife sanctuary. Treelined paths let you enjoy trees, fountains, statues, and other artworks.
Poop bags for your dog

There are several hiking and biking trails around the lake that offer beautiful views of the water and the surrounding forest.

©Christian Mueller/Shutterstock.com

Towns and Cities Close to the Reservoir

If you’re visiting the area and want some of the amenities available in town, these are some of the cities located not too far from the reservoir:

  1. Clarksville: This is a small town located on the southern shore of the reservoir. It is the closest town to the lake and is only about 6 miles away.
  2. South Boston: This city is located about 35 miles northwest of the reservoir. It is the largest city in the area.
  3. Danville: This city is located about 60 miles northwest of the reservoir. It is the fourth-largest city in Virginia. It’s significant historically as the last capital of the Confederacy before their surrender in the Civil War.
  4. Lynchburg: This historic city is located about 75 miles northwest of the reservoir.
  5. Greensboro: This city is located about 80 miles south of the reservoir. It is the third-largest city in North Carolina.
  6. Raleigh: This city is located about 130 miles south of the reservoir. It is the state capital of North Carolina.
Raleigh, NC is lovely in the spring.

Raleigh, NC is located about 130 miles south of the reservoir.

©iStock.com/Mark Howard

There are other small towns and communities around the lake that may not be as well known, but they can provide visitors with a variety of services and accommodations and a chance to interact with friendly locals.

When is the Best Time to Visit Kerr Reservoir?

blue catfish vs channel catfish

July-September is the best time to visit Kerr Reservoir for catfishing.

©M Huston/Shutterstock.com

For most people, Summertime will offer the most opportunities for fun on Kerr Reservoir, with plenty of spots for swimming, hiking, camping, and boating being at their busiest then. Those looking to catch fish during their time at Kerr Lake may want to plan a visit for February or March for prime-time crappie fishing. Fishing for catfish is ideal from July through September. Striped bass fishermen have reported considerable success in Kerr Reservoir even in the dead of winter.

Other Large Lakes in Virginia

Here are two other large lakes you might want to check out in Virginia for comparison. Both are popular destinations for recreational activities such as boating, fishing, swimming, and camping and have a variety of amenities such as marinas, boat rentals, and campgrounds.

Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia

Smith Mountain Lake is a man-made lake located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southern Virginia.

©Noel V. Baebler/Shutterstock.com

  • Smith Mountain Lake is a man-made lake located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southern Virginia. It was created in the 1960s as part of the Smith Mountain Pumped Storage Project to generate hydroelectric power for the region. The lake covers an area of over 20,000 acres and has a shoreline of over 500 miles.
  • Lake Gaston is another man-made lake located in southern Virginia and North Carolina. Its creation in the 1960s is a feature of the Roanoke River Basin Project. The lake covers an area of over 20,000 acres and has a shoreline of over 350 miles.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © J. M. Pavlic III/Shutterstock.com


Share on:
About the Author

Drew Wood is a writer at A-Z Animals focusing on mammals, geography, and world cultures. Drew has worked in research and writing for over 20 years and holds a Masters in Foreign Affairs (1992) and a Doctorate in Religion (2009). A resident of Nebraska, Drew enjoys Brazilian jiu-jitsu, movies, and being an emotional support human to four dogs.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

When and why was the Kerr Reservoir created?

The John H. Kerr Reservoir, also known as Buggs Island Lake, is a man-made lake located in southern Virginia. It was created in the 1950s as part of the Roanoke River Basin Project, a joint venture between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Electric and Power Company (now Dominion Energy).

What is the importance of the Kerr Reservoir?

The John H. Kerr Reservoir also plays an important role in flood control and water supply management. The dam’s spillway gates can be used to release water during heavy rain events, helping to prevent flooding downstream. Additionally, the lake’s water is used for drinking water and irrigation by communities in the surrounding area.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.