Creation of Lake Norman Altered the Landscape

Boating on Lake Norman, circa 2002. Image from North Carolina State Parks.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 property for many years.

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.

A ranger and hikers at what was then Duke Power State Park, circa 1965. Image from North Carolina State Parks.The lake is named for former Duke Power CEO Norman Atwater Cocke. A state park, originally named for the company, was established on part of the lakeshore in 1962.

In late 2012, 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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