30+ Interesting Lake Norman Facts You Should Know (History and More!)

Last Updated on April 27, 2022

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We think you should know these Lake Norman facts, whether you live in the Charlotte area or consider yourself a resident of our inland sea.

This guide shares some basic stats and geography before digging into the history of Lake Norman, so buckle up. It’s going to be a fun and informative ride.

Read More: Lake Norman State Park (+ 8 Great Things to Do!)

Basic Lake Norman Facts (Basic Stats and Geography)

Lake Norman Facts
  • The first of our guide to Lake Norman facts is the most obvious to locals. Lake Norman is North Carolina‘s largest manmade lake or artificially created lake. Whatever you call it, this body of water is huge!
  • The lake is named after Norman Atwater Cocke, former president of Duke Power.
  • Its surface area is 32,510 acres (50.8 square miles) and catchment area is 1,790 square miles.
  • The maximum length of Lake Norman is 33.6 miles and its maximum width is 9 miles.
  • Average depth is 33.5 feet, with a maximum depth of 112 feet.
  • Lake Norman has an elevation of 760 feet at full pond.
  • There are about 60 islands above the waters of Lake Norman.
  • Lake Norman offers 520 miles of shoreline, although that measurement is not completely reliable.
  • The Catawba River feeds into Lake Norman (or inflows) from the north.
  • Lake Norman drains (or outflows) into Mountain Island Lake, northwest of Charlotte.
  • The lake serves multiple purposes, including the following:
    • Provides electricity to the Piedmont region of North Carolina and South Carolina.
    • Powers generators at the Cowans Ford Dam hydroelectric station.
    • Supplies water to towns and cities (including Charlotte) in four NC counties
      • Lincoln County
      • Catawba County
      • Iredell County
      • Mecklenburg County
    • Cools reactors at McGuire Nuclear Station and drives reactors from the steam that is generated.
    • Helps control flooding during periods of torrential rain.
    • Hosts wildlife including various native plants, birds, bass (especially striped bass), beavers, raccoons, deer, frogs, turtles, and snakes.

Read More: 125+ Interesting Facts About North Carolina

Where is Lake Norman?

Lake Norman NC Screenshot via Google Maps Map data 2022 Google
Map data ©2022 Google.
  • Lake Norman is north of Charlotte and is in within a two hours’ drive from more than a few prominent cities and towns:
  • I-77 and NC-150 are two major roads that cross Lake Norman at multiple points.
  • The reservoir is located in the following North Carolina counties:
    • Catawba
    • Iredell
    • Lincoln
    • Mecklenburg
  • Lake Norman towns and settlements including the following:
  • Cornelius
  • Davidson
  • Denver
  • Governors Island
  • Huntersville
  • Lake Norman of Catawba
  • These communities contribute to a population of about 25,000 in the Lake Norman area.

Read More: Day Trips from Charlotte

The History of Lake Norman

Lake Norman State Park Visitor Center
  • The land at the bottom of Lake Norman (and around it) once belonged to the Catawba Indians. In 1600, the Catawba numbered about 5,000 people.
  • Unfortunately, disease and war with the rival Iroquois reduced them to just 60 fighting men.
  • The Catawba also faced violence and displacement by settlers and the US Government.
  • Their presence in the area was replaced by settlers, who brought slavery and cotton-dominated agriculture to the area.
  • After the Civil War, the East Monbo and Long Island cotton mills arose and provided jobs and homes for area residents.
  • After years of planning and convincing of locals, the mills were closed in the 1950s to allow for the creation of a dam. The dam would harness electrical energy while also limiting drought and floods for years.
  • While there were benefits, the dam’s construction caused hundreds of employees and families to move. They left behind towns, buildings, and roads, all of which lie at the bottom of the lake today.
  • Duke Power Company (Duke Energy today) began construction on the dam at Cowans Ford in 1959.
  • Cowans Ford was also where General William Lee Davidson was killed in the Revolutionary War.
  • That dam is what created Lake Norman, leading to the industrialization of nearby Charlotte and its economy.
  • Lake Norman State Park was formed around the lake in September 1962, when Duke Power Company donated 1,328 acres of land along the northeastern shore of the lake.

Read More: The NC Tripping North Carolina Travel Map

Lake Norman Today

Lake Norman State Park boats
  • Lake Norman’s shores are lined with homes and recreation areas, including the state park.
  • The Lake Norman Yacht Club and the Peninsula Club are also here, with large memberships of permanent and seasonal residents.
  • Finally, a “Lake Campus” is operated and owned by Davidson College.
  • Lake Norman is a wonderful destination and place to call “home,” and the State of North Carolina is working to preserve it.
  • In 2001, the State established a regulation to help with erosion issues due to stormwater runoff and other factors. As a result, new homes must be built with a 50-foot “buffer zone” to preserve vegetation.
  • Another serious problem is radiation, which has been confirmed in area ground water. This is due to coal ash contamination by Duke Energy.
  • Hopefully, industry, the government, and environmental leaders can come together to keep Lake Norman a great place to visit for everyone.

Read More: 30+ Awesome Things to Do in Statesville

Got any Lake Norman Facts to Share?

We hope these Lake Norman facts prepare you for the next time someone has questions about it. Also, if you have any additional findings to share, you can let us know in the comments section or by email.

More Things to Do in the Lake Norman Area

Beyond reciting Lake Norman facts, there are plenty of things to do in the area. Here are some guides to help you.

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