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Philpott Lake Dam & Overlook

Important Notices

COVID-19 & the VBWTBefore heading out to visit a site on the Virginia Bird & Wildlife Trail, be sure to check if that site has any COVID-19 policies or closures in place. This information is typically posted on a site's own website.


Elevation: 1148 ft.

Philpott Dam was built in 1948 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide flood control in the Roanoke Valley. The dam began hydropower production in 1953. Spanning 3000 acres of water, the lake is surrounded by lands managed by the Corps of Engineers, the Department of Wildlife Resources, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The Corps of Engineers operates a Visitor Center offering information, interpretive displays and spectacular views of the lake and dam. This area provides access to the lakeshore, Smith River downstream from the dam, and surrounding pine forests. For those interested in exploring by water, the lake offers The Philpott Blueway, which is a system of water trails easily accessible from surrounding parks, boat launches and campgrounds.

The towering white pines in the visitor center’s parking lot are an excellent start to exploring the area. This is one of the best places in western Virginia to find the brown-headed nuthatch, scurrying around in treetops. Pine warbler and yellow-throated warbler are also easy to find in these pines. Other area species to look for include blue jay, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, Carolina wren, cedar waxwing, red-eyed vireo, chipping sparrow, and American goldfinch. Barn swallows nest on the dam and can often be seen swarming over the water just in front of the dam. Philpott Lake should be checked for a variety of waterfowl during migration and in winter when horned grebe and bufflehead have been recorded. Black, Forster’s, and common terns have also been known to visit during migration. Wildflowers are prevalent throughout the spring and summer with showy rhododendrons being replaced by deep pink magnolias as the seasons progress. These flowers attract a variety of butterflies, especially the spicebush swallowtail.


Physical Address: 1058 Philpott Dam Road, Bassett, VA 24055

From Bassett, take VA-57 West for 2.6 miles. Turn right on VA-904/Philpott Dam Road for 1.1 miles. The visitor center will be on your right.

Location & Directions

View on Google Maps

Site Information

  • Site Contact: USACE - Wilmington District: 276-629-2703,
  • Website
  • Access: Free, Daily (gate opens at 8:00am)

Birds Recently Seen at Philpott Lake Dam & Overlook (as reported to eBird)

  • Mourning Dove
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Fish Crow

Seasonal Bird Observations


  • Visitor/Nature Center
  • Camping
  • Accessible
  • Hiking Trails
  • Information
  • Interpretive Nature Program
  • Interpretive Trail
  • Lookout Tower
  • Parking
  • Picnic
  • Restrooms
  • Kayak/Canoe Launch
  • Boat Ramp