Lake Anna (LKA) is one of the largest freshwater inland reservoirs in Virginia, covering an area of 13,000 acres and is located 72 miles south of Washington, D.C. within Louisa, Orange, and Spotsylvania counties. The lake is easily accessible from Fredericksburg, Richmond, Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, and Hampton Roads. It is one of the most popular recreational lakes in the state.
The reservoir is formed by the North Anna Dam on the North Anna River. In 1968, 18,000 acres of farmlands was purchased by VA Dominion Power along the North Anna and Pamunkey rivers to provide clean, fresh water to cool the nuclear power generating plants at the North Anna Nuclear Generating Station. By 1972 the lake bottom was cleared of all timber and the dam was nearing completion. It was projected to take three years to completely fill the lake, but with the additional rainfall from Hurricane Agnes, the lake was full in only 18 months. The first communities broke ground at about that same time and now some 120 different communities dot the shores of the lake. In June 1978, the first of the two reactors went into commercial operation. The second unit followed in December 1980.
Lake Anna is approximately 17 miles long from tip to tip, with 200 miles of shoreline. The lake is divided into two sides: the public side and the private side. The public side is roughly 9,000 acres, while the private side is roughly 4,000 acres. The private side is formed of three main bodies of water, connected by navigable canals. The public and private sides are divided by three stone dikes. The private side has no marinas or public access ramps; only property owners and North Anna Power Station employees have access to the waters of the private side. The public side has several marinas and boat launches, including a boat ramp at the state park. The public side sees significantly higher boat traffic than the private side, especially on summer weekends.
The public side is known as the “cold” side because it provides water to cool the generators at the power plant; the private or “hot” side receives warm water discharge from the power plant. The private side can be substantially warmer than the public side, especially near the discharge point, where it can be too hot for swimming. The private side has an extended water sports season. Some water circulates back out of the private side into the public side through underground channels; consequently, the public side is warmer in the southern area near the dam where the lake reaches 80 feet in depth. In the winter, some fish migrate to these warmer waters.
Preliminary steps toward the addition of a third reactor have raised protests from environmentalists and property owners, who fear an increase in the water temperature and a decrease in the water level, particularly on the private side. According to Dominion, the water discharged from the plant is usually about 14 °F warmer than the intake water.
The dam creating the lake, North Anna Dam, is a 5,000-foot-long and 90-foot-high earthen embankment dam. It is 30 feet wide at its crest which sits at an elevation of 265 feet above sea level. The dam’s spillway is in the center of its body and is 200 feet wide, containing three main 40-foot-wide and 30-foot-high radial gates. Two smaller 8.5-foot wide and tall gates on the outer edges of the spillway section maintain normal discharges. Normal elevation for the reservoir is 250 feet. The dam’s hydroelectric power plant is located on the west side of the spillway and is supplied with water via a 5-foot-diameter penstock. The plant consists of two small open runner turbine-generators, the larger with a 775 kW capacity and the smaller rated at 225 kW for a combined installed capacity of 1 megawatt.
The lake’s shoreline is now dotted with houses, restaurants, marinas, campgrounds, and a state park. Lake Anna State Park is located directly on the lake’s public side eastern shore. The park has a maintained beach area with snack bar, picnic area, boat launching ramps, docks, an exhibit center plus several miles of hiking, horse trails and tours including gold panning excursions to the remains of the Goodwin gold mine. The state park also offers waterfront rental cabins with boat docks for overnight lodging.
Lake Anna is one of Virginia’s premier fishing waters, hosting a fish population of striped bass, largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and bluegill, and is the site of numerous bass tournaments. The lake is served by over half a dozen marinas and several public boat launching sites which charge a small fee for launching services. For everyone’s safety, the lake is patrolled by the Department of Wildlife Resources’ conservation officers, Spotsylvania and Louisa counties sheriffs’ offices, and the Coast Guard Auxiliary Lake Anna Flotilla #87. Thanks to the dock sign program, 911 call centers in Louisa and Spotsylvania routinely dispatch deputies and EMS, who are patrolling or who can be dispatched on the water, by dock sign numbers. Dock signs have improved response times in many emergency situations on the lake.
Lake Anna is nestled in a rural area that offers relaxation through recreational opportunities like swimming, sailing, boating and adrenaline-pumping activities like tubing, kayaking, wakeboarding, and jet-skiing. There is also imbibing to be had at the numerous wineries, breweries, and distilleries nearby plus entertainment to enjoy at concert venues and local museums that take you on a historical journey from the early Native Americans to the Civil War. Enjoy the great outdoor activities in and around the lake like fishing, golfing, and flying. Lake Anna is sea plane friendly! LKA is a beautiful place to visit and even a better place to call home!
It’s Better to Wake at the Lake!