In 1944, due to severe flooding for many years, Congress authorized the construction of Philpott Dam to tame the Smith River. The Smith River is part of the Roanoke River Basin that eventually empties into the Atlantic Ocean at the Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. Five other dams and reservoir systems in the basin, John H. Kerr, Leesville, Smith Mountain, Gaston, and Roanoke Rapids join with Philpott to provide flood control and hydroelectric power generation. The Corps of Engineers began construction of Philpott Dam in 1948 and started protecting the downstream towns from devastating floods in 1951. Philpott Dam construction was completed in 1952 and Philpott Powerhouse began producing hydroelectric power in 1953.

With the completion of the dam, 3,000 acres of mountain valleys in the counties of Henry, Patrick, and Franklin were flooded to create today’s Philpott Lake with its 100 miles of pristine undeveloped shoreline. The lake is surrounded by 7,000 acres of forested land owned and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Adjoining Philpott Lake is Fairy Stone State Park with nearly 5,000 acres of predominately forested land and another 5,500 acres of Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) forest. With all of its water and forests, the Philpott area offers a variety of recreational opportunities for every sportsman and outdoor recreational enthusiast.