Mountain Lake is an interesting place for many reasons. It’s a place of mystery, fame, and nature combined to create a beautiful mountain top lake and lodge for any to visit. The lake is one of only two natural lakes located in Virginia, the other being Lake Drummond in the Great Dismal Swamp. The lake is to be believed to have formed over 6,000 years ago from underground springs and rock slides creating dam like features to block water from draining down the mountain. Today the lake is used as a resort alongside the Mountain Lake Lodge providing as a hotel for visitors. The lodge now offers many activities from hiking to clay shooting and many more to provide guests with a great experience.
Christopher Gist with the Ohio Land Surveying Company is the first known European to have discovered the lake in 1751. The lake was named Salt Pond, after how settlers would salt cattle in the basin of the lake. The name was also given to the mountain that the lake was located on being still named Salt Pond Mountain today. In 1957, the land of Salt Pond was bought by General Herman Haupt who would renamed the lake to Mountain Lake. Haupt turned the location into a resort attracting visitors from the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad that was built nearby.
After WWI and during the Roaring 20s, the resort became well known for its music and entertainment scene including an all female orchestra that played in the lodge from 1922 to 1925. In the 1986, Mountain Lake reached Hollywood fame when director Emile Ardolino used the lodge and lake to represent The Kellerman’s Resort in the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing”. The film starred Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey and was about a young girl falling in love with a the resort dance instructor. Many of the film locations still stand today and can be seen on a self guided tour of the lodge.
In late 2008, the lake mysteriously began to drain for an unknown reason. Eventually all that was left was a small puddle surrounded by the dried lake bed. With the lake gone, guests of the resort discovered human bones on the bed. The bones were later identified as a Samuel Ira Felder. Records showed that Felder fell overboard while fishing late at night in 1921. His body never resurfaced resulting in an unsolved mystery for years.
Depending on rain levels, the lake still refills to decent levels, followed by draining shortly after. Studies from multiple universities including nearby Virginia Tech discovered drainage holes within the lake bed. There has been multiple attempts to plug the holes with local stone and sediment, which has only resulted in a slower drain. Today researchers are still trying to figure out the reason for the leak. Multiple television shows and articles have came from this mystery and many can be found with a quick online search if your interested.
Mountain Lake Lodge: Our History
Roanoke Times: Researchers find new drainage hole at Mountain lake. By Tonia Moxley