Lake Norman History and Attractions

The largest man-made, freshwater lake in North Carolina, Lake Norman offers a full range of lake activities, from fishing to boating to sightseeing. Read on to learn how Lake Norman came into existence and about the attractions you can now enjoy on this stunning body of water.

The History of Lake Norman

Before becoming the largest man-made body of freshwater in North Carolina, the Lake Norman area was home to the village of Long Island, which consisted of textile mills, homes and family farms. In the early 1900s, James Buchanan Duke and his successors at Duke Power – formerly Southern Power Company – began buying land from farmers around the Catawba and Wateree Rivers in preparation for a dam that would fulfill their vision of an industrialized South.

However, it wasn’t until 1959 that construction began on Lake Norman, named after former Duke Power president, Norman Cocke, as part of the Cowans Ford Dam project. It took four years to build and fill the dam that impounds the Catawba River, and two years to fill the lake. In the process, homes, bridges, mills, camps, cemeteries, schools, stores, churches and even a famous battleground from the Revolutionary War were submerged underwater.

Today, the inland sea delivers freshwater to the cities of Charlotte and Mooresville, and the Cowans Ford Dam serves as a peaking power plant, providing electricity when there is a high demand during hot summer days and cold winter nights. Lake Norman is also essential to the operations at the coal-fired Marshall Steam Station and William B. McGuire Nuclear Station, which provide electricity to the Piedmont region.

Lake Norman Attractions

With over 500 miles of shoreline, Lake Norman presents plenty of opportunities for outdoor exploration all year round. Whether you plan on spending the day fishing or leisurely gliding along the water, look for boat and jet ski rentals on Lake Norman. Guided fishing tours are also available for those unfamiliar with the area. During the warmer months, you can rent out paddle boarding and windsurfing equipment for an exciting day on the water.

Throughout the rest of the year, Lake Norman State Park offers 30.5 miles of single-track trail for mountain biking, as well as several hiking trails. During the summer, the state park also offers boat rentals, campsites and a swim area. For sightseeing and lunch and dinner cruises on Lake Norman, check out Queen’s Landing.

To begin planning your trip to Lake Norman, contact the Mooresville Convention & Visitors Bureau today.