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Philpott Lake Dam & Overlook


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 has 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 and yellow-throated warblers are also easy to find in these pines. Other area species to look for include blue jay, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, fish crow, 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 it. 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 Martinsville, head north on VA-57/N. River Rd/Fairystone Park Hwy, turn right onto SR-904/Philpott Dam Rd, and follow it to the parking area.

Location & Directions

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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)

  • Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • Acadian Flycatcher
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • Yellow-throated Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Fish Crow
  • Carolina Chickadee

Seasonal Bird Observations


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