A Look Through Time: The History of Lake Norman

51c05b751ff1a.imageOn September 20, 1963, Lake Norman was officially born. A river became a lake, and rural land just 18 miles northeast of Charlotte became a thriving lakeside community. Since the lake was formed, the area has grown up to be the centerpiece of a growing region.

“Lake Norman is more than just a body of water, it is a part of our community’s identity,” said Lowry Hobbs of Westport Marina. “It is a part of us, just as much as we are a part of it.”

Families, retirees and tourists flock to the waters of Lake Norman to enjoy all the actives you would expect from a lake its size – boating, skiing, fishing and swimming. But, the story of Lake Norman started far before it became the oasis it is known as today. It all started with a few men who envisioned an opportunity.

Lake Norman: The Early Years


Prior to 1959, the land that is now at the bottom of Lake Norman was largely wooded, and the people who inhabited the region were primarily farmers. That all changed when Dr. W. Gill Wylie of the Catawba Power Company and an engineer named William S. Lee saw an opportunity for progress.

During this time, hydraulic power was one of the biggest commodities of the region. By 1928, ten dams and dozens of powerhouses were built throughout the Catawba River, giving it the nickname, “the world’s most electrified river.” Due to the growing need of power in the region, Dr. Wylie and Lee began talks with Duke Power Company (now known as Duke Energy). The construction of the Cowan’s Ford Dam was then put into motion.

They broke ground on the dam on September 28, 1959. Between 1,200 and 1,500 engineers, laborers and managers worked to complete the massive project. After four years of steady progress, Cowan’s Ford Dam was finished. In the end, Duke Power spent $62 million on the dam, which is about $481 million today with inflation.

Lake Norman is Formed

51c05b0e71375.imageIt took another two years to fill the lake after the dam was built. Once it officially took shape, it was named after retired Duke Power President Norman Atwater Cocke. On September 20, 1963, Cowan Ford Hydro Station off N.C. 73 in Huntersville began commercial operation, officially marking the birthday of Lake Norman.

“In addition to being a great place to work, play and visit, Lake Norman has also done a lot of great things for our area,” said Hobbs. “The lake has helped with flood control, and it provides a dependable source of power and water. It has done a lot for our community, and it will continue to do so as we move forward into the future.”

When you plan your next visit to Lake Norman, be sure to stop by Westport Marina for all your boating needs. For more information call us at 704-483-5172 or email us. We look forward to helping you discover what has made Lake Norman one of the region’s most visited destinations!