Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area is a 42-acre preserve with more than 12,000 feet of shoreline located in the Bayside Borough of Virginia Beach at the corner of Shell Road and Northampton Blvd. The area is a popular fishing destination, and recent improvements include:

  • New boat ramp
  • Formalized car and boat trailer parking
  • Stabilization along the shoreline to prevent erosion and re-establish native vegetation
  • Several fishing and overlook platforms
  • Floating crew dock 
  • Pedestrian Bridge to connect the north and south parcel
  • Renovations to the existing soft surface trail along with installation of hard surface trails
  • New playground and picnic shelter
  • New park office and restrooms

Though the natural area surrounding Lake Lawson and Lake Smith is being improved by the City of Virginia Beach, the City of Norfolk still owns the water/reservoir and 25 feet around the water. As such, Norfolk currently​ controls the use of water regulations, including the requirement for a boat permit ​to use the water.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

For shelter reservations, please call 385-PARK.​

 Boating


  • Mot​orized and non-motorized boating is permitted
  • Motors no larger than 10 H.P may be used; If a boat with a larger motor is put in the reservoir, the larger motor must be disabled
  • All boats, including canoes, kayaks and paddleboats (i.e. paddle wheelers), must have a valid City of Norfolk Boat Permit; the reservoirs of Lake Smith/Lake Lawson are governed by the City of Norfolk
  • S​wimming and the use of stand up paddle boards, sail boats, water skis, jet skis, tubes, rafts and other inflatables is not permitted
  • All boats must comply with Virginia and U.S. Coast Guard boating regulations​​​
  • Anyone under the age of 12 must be with an adult
  • Average water depth of Lake Smith and Lake Lawson is about 4.5 feet with a maximum depth of about 9 feet​

 Fishing


  • Fishing is permitted from designated shore areas and overlooks; boat fishing is permitted at designated areas with a boat permit​
  • Fishing maps can be found at Norfolk.gov​
  • A Virginia Freshwater Fishing license is required
  • Net fishing is not permitted; rod and tackle only
  • Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries regulations apply
  • Average water depth of Lake Smith and Lake Lawson is about 4.5 feet with a maximum depth of about 9 feet 

 History and Master Plan

​The property was acquired in multiple parcels between 2005 and 2009 through the Open Space Acquisition Program from the City of Norfolk and private landowners. The Lake Lawson / Lake Smith Master Plan was established in December 2010 with input from the public. The plan, which was very well received, provides a framework for planning, recreational programming, development and management of the site. ​