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Lake Shenandoah

Important Notices For This Site

Lake Shenandoah Dam Restoration UpdateBackground:

A flood occurred at Lake Shenandoah. During this event the emergency spillway (north side of dam) was damaged, requiring extensive repair. The Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) engineering staff inspected the damage and, due to the severity, were required by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Dam Safety Division to lower the lake approximately 5 feet from full pool to reduce the threat of the dam failing during a high water event. In addition, DCR Dam Safety recently updated hazard assessment criteria for all dams in Virginia. In order to bring the Lake Shenandoah Dam into compliance with dam safety requirements, it was determined that the dam would need to be completely reconstructed.

Present Work:

• DWR staff constructed an alternate boat launch area, seeded exposed banks to reduce erosion, repositioned the floating pier, and mowed new bank fishing access areas.

• Contractors completed a culvert replacement in the northern arm of the lake and upgraded the road leading to the dam, so heavy equipment can access the area.

• DWR engineering staff are in ongoing discussions with engineering firms to finalize plans to reconstruct the dam and emergency spillway. There are a variety of options that are being evaluated, all of which are extremely costly. Regardless of which option is chosen, DWR will maintain the pool at a lower level than it had been historically out of concern for flooding impacts to downstream structures and upstream structures due to potential backups from the dam during flood events (even after the dam is repaired). The fishery in the lake is intact even in its current state, and we would expect it to do well after the reconstruction of the dam under the current proposals.


Elevation: 1303 ft.

Lake Shenandoah is known locally for the spectacular waterfowl it can attract during migration and in winter. However, the rich diversity of resident birds makes a visit worthwhile any time of year. A trail hugs the perimeter of the lake, providing easy access to the entire area (a small portion crosses private property). Species to look for during the spring and summer include green and great blue herons, black-crowned night-heron, mallard, wood and ruddy duck, and belted kingfisher. The scrubby bushes and vines, around the lake are good places to search for indigo bunting, gray catbird and song sparrow, while fish crow may appear anywhere along the bank. Barn swallow and tree swallow nest nearby and hunt over the lake. Also, be on the lookout for red-tailed and -shouldered hawk overhead. In addition to birds, the lake provides habitat for several species of dragonflies, including eastern amberwing, widow skimmer, common whitetail, and common green darner, as well as an abundance of painted turtles. Various butterflies species found in the maintained pollinator gardens around the lake include eastern tiger, spicebush, pipevine, and red-spotted purple swallowtail, silver-spotted skipper, monarch, pearl crescent and various duskywings.

A visit to the meadow along the western arm of Lake Shenandoah is encouraged for those who want to learn more about meadow habitats, pollinator species like honey bees and Monarch butterflies, the importance of controlled fires, and other wildlife living in the area. This area was restored by the Virginia DWR and partners, who transformed it from mowed parklands into a meadow habitat suitable for pollinator conservation. Beginning in the spring of 2015, DWR staff and volunteers prepared the area and planted wildflowers and grasses attractive to pollinators. Wildflower species include bee balm, smooth beardtongue, Brown Eyed Susan, lance-leaved coreopsis, purple coneflower, and swamp milkweed. Continued maintenance in conjunction with the Virginia Master Naturalists has lead to the success of this project. Other restoration efforts have included prescribed burns to control woody vegetation and stimulate growth of native plants. Additionally, interpretive signs, outreach programs, and community meetings have been supported by a number of organizations and groups: the Rockingham-Harrisonburg chapter of the Izaak Walton League, the Shenandoah Valley Beekeepers Association, the Virginia Master Naturalists, the Grassland Working Group of the Fire Learning Network, Rockingham County, the city of Harrisonburg, and teachers from local schools.

Note: To access the site, a Restore the Wild Membership, Virginia hunting license, freshwater fishing license, boat registration, or an access permit is required.


Location: Just south of 1922 Massanetta Springs Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22801

Coordinates: 38.38185, -78.83929

From I-81 near Harrisonburg, take exit 247A and merge onto US 33 E/E Market St toward Elkton and continue for 2.6 miles. Turn right onto SR 687/Massanetta Springs Rd. In 1.9 miles, turn left and proceed to the parking area overlooking the lake.

Location & Directions

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Site Information

  • Site Contact: Virginia DWR - Region 4 office: 540-899-4169, Contact Us
  • Website
  • Access: Daily, sunrise-sunset; Restore the Wild Membership, hunting license, freshwater fishing license, boat registration, or an access permit is required.

Birds Recently Seen at Lake Shenandoah (as reported to eBird)

  • Mourning Dove
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Fish Crow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Purple Martin
  • American Robin
  • House Finch

Seasonal Bird Observations


  • Environmental Study Area
  • Fee
  • Accessible
  • Hiking Trails
  • Interpretive Nature Program
  • Interpretive Trail
  • Parking
  • Restrooms
  • Kayak/Canoe Launch
  • Canoe/Kayak Rentals
  • Boat Ramp