Origins of Lake Norman

On September 28, 1959, Southern Power Company—now Duke Energy—broke ground on the Cowan’s Ford Dam on the Catawba River. The dam was the starting point for creating what is now Lake Norman in Catawba, Iredell, Lincoln and Mecklenburg Counties.

The company’s plans for the area actually had their origins in the late 1800s, when the company began buying land around the Catawba River, but it continued to allow people to live on the purchased property for many years.

Duke Power began filling the area with water in 1962 but, since the Catawba River’s flow was not very strong and the dam was not completely finished, it took more than a year to fill it. Lake Norman now covers more than 32,000 acres, making it the largest manmade body of water in North Carolina.

Late last year, archivists from Davidson College began a crowdsourcing project to try and get a firmer grasp of structures and locations that went underwater when the lake waters rose in 1963. One of  the most significant of those locations is the original site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Cowan’s Ford.

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