A BRIEF HISTORY OF LEWIS SMITH LAKE- provided by The Silverock Lining.
We believe Smith Lake is one of Alabama’s great treasures. An area of
natural beauty with an abundance of fish and other wildlife, it’s easy
to get spoiled by all Smith Lake has to offer. With 500 miles of
shoreline, Smith Lake is one of the cleanest water sources in the
country. And Smith Lake is more than just a spot for recreation, it
plays an important role in providing hydroelectricity and drinking water
to the region.
The Black Warrior River system was a vital waterway in North-Central
Alabama, especially with the abundance of coal in the area. To improve
water routes and commerce on the river, Alabama Power erected the Smith
Lake dam in 1961. The dam is one of the largest earth and rock-filled
dams in the Eastern United States. In addition to improving conditions
on the waterway, the dam’s powerhouse generates roughly 233,000
megawatts of electricity each year.
The building of the dam created the reservoir that we enjoy today:
21,200 acres and 500 miles of shoreline. The lake extends to three
counties: Walker, Winston and Cullman. The lake adjoins the Sipsey
Wilderness area and the Bankhead National Forest and is home to some of
the best fishing in the South–with species ranging from Large Mouthed
Bass, Striped Bass, Black Crappie, Bluegill and Channel Catfish. The
lake has been a destination for fishing tournaments recently, including
the BASSMASTERS series. Please note, a fishing license is required to
fish Smith Lake.
The lake was named for Lewis Smith, former president of Alabama Power
who spearheaded the dam project. Few residents were displaced as a
result of the flood zone, but there was a town that was established in
1853 called Falls City, Alabama. It’s post office was disbanded in 1953
and it’s not known how many residents were displaced.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the building of Smith Lake
dam. It’s nice to look back at how far the lake has come and how it has
transformed the area.
Lewis Smith Lake was created in 1961 by the Alabama Power Company as a result of the company's construction of Lewis Smith Dam to produce hydroelectric power and improve river traffic conditions on the Sipsey fork of the Black Warrior River and provide recreational opportunities. The 21,200-acre
lake straddles portions of Cullman, Walker, and Winston counties in north-central Alabama.
Still, even after the government locks and dams were operating,
lack of water during dry periods restricted barge traffic.
By the middle of the twentieth century, Alabama Power and the
federal government were discussing the potential benefits of
building a dam and creating a lake on the upper reaches of the
Black Warrior to provide a new source for electricity, a new
recreational asset for Alabamians, and better navigation
downstream. A dam on the Sipsey Fork also would provide an additional
source of drinking and industrial water for homes and businesses
Construction of Smith Dam began on Nov. 25, 1957. The $29 million
project was formally dedicated on May 23, 1961, and named
for Alabama Power Company president Lewis M. Smith, who had been
closely involved in its planning and design. The earth- and
rock-filled dam is 2,200 feet long and 300 feet tall, one of the
largest dams of its type in the eastern United States. The
dam's base is a quarter-mile wide. A high-water emergency spillway
was built on the west bank to accommodate heavy floods
that were predicted to occur once every 50 years, but as of 2008,
water in the lake has never risen high enough to flow into