Switzer Lake – George Washington National Forest, VA

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A closer drive than Lake Moomaw, but less secluded

On the border of Virginia and West Virginia, at 2362 ft above sea level, lies the beautiful, Switzer Lake (aka Skidmore Dam, Skidmore Lake). The 118 acre lake serves as a water supply reservoir to the town of Harrisonburg, Virginia and watershed for the George Washington National Forest. When I heard that the lake did not allow gas motorboats, I wanted to go to check it out. We had actually planned for an overnighter but decided against it when the temperatures dropped.

It was significantly cooler in the mountains at approx 45F. We also forgot to load our food cooler in the car….. a small detail. Nevertheless we made the most of the situation. We met some nice folks from Louisiana who gave us their stack of fire wood after exchanging camping stories and canoe trips. We made a huge fire and heated some naan on the stones. It was a windy but beautiful day with the leaves at near-peak colors and the clear lake, sparkled in the sun.

For those who plan to camp here, Switzer Dam appears to be a much more popular camping location than Lake Moomaw (located in Bath County) due to the ease of access to the campsites, most of which are drive-in camp spots. The lake is also only 30 minutes away from James Madison University, and is a popular place to hang out. The lake is stocked with brook trout and the surrounding rivers and streams in the area also have healthy populations to fish.

I have heard conflicting stories about whether camping is allowed immediately next to the lake. I think the best way to find out is to call ahead and ask which areas are permitted. There are several campsites situated in the forest, just a tad farther from the lake that appear to be safe spots to camp.

Since this is not an official camp ground, Lake Switzer doesn’t have the benefits of regular site maintenance. So it’s up to us to keep this place clean. It kills me when I find beer cans, tin foil, fishing line etc at campsites. Remember to pack out whatever you bring in!



17 thoughts on “Switzer Lake – George Washington National Forest, VA

    • You are so right Jeff, it has become a fact of life. Which is the sad part. I have no doubt that you would do your part. I’m not sure how we can change this mindset among campers.


      • I think the answer is to teach children when they are very young to respect the land and to be good ambassadors. I have 5 little grandsons that have learned these life lessons and they are going to be great stewards of the environment.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I completely agree. Growing up in Canada the schooling system also played a large role of training this into our minds through field trips, camping trips and visits to First Nation communities. We need to find a way to reach a bigger population to get the same message to.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Many thanks for your “like”, John. I much enjoyed the images in your blog. Beginning with the simple ambition to build a canoe / kayak – that choice being determined somewhat by the size of my garage workshop, I’ve discovered something of the culture of kayaking in your part of the world – inspirational!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I believe camping is prohibited in the area immediately around the lake since its owned by the city of Harrisonburg. Go off in the woods a little ways and it’s fine.


    • Hey Michael, thanks for the heads up. I’ve always wondered about this, and have heard mixed things. Have you ever heard of anyone ticketed?


      • Michael is correct! Camping is not allowed anywhere near the lake and there are plenty of signs around that will indicate that. Switzer Lake (sometimes called Skidmore lake) is the main water supply for the towns in the area. If you are on the main road, Skidmore Fork, follow it past the first river crossing. Once you cross this concrete river bridge, you’ll begin to see campsites immediately. Many of them are easily accessible, even by car. For a more “offroad” experience, you can continue past the second river crossing. That, however, will require more than a standard passenger vehicle.

        I’ve been camping in this area for over a decade and it’s a wonderful place to go for a truly outdoor experience. Be sure to put any food you have inside a locked car, with the windows closed, especially at night. I’ve seen plenty of black bear in this area and they have been known to wander into campsites and tear into coolers.

        Switzer lake does have a boat launch but it is not always feasible to use. During years of less rainfall, the boat launch will not extend into the lake. Of course, any watercraft that you can carry into the water (paddleboat, canoe, etc.) will be no issue.


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