Lake Norman, North Carolina, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - North Carolina - Piedmont -

Lake Norman’s 32,510 acres garner it the superlative of being North Carolina’s largest manmade lake. An impressive 34 miles in length with 520 miles of shoreline, Lake Norman is fondly nicknamed the Inland Sea. Conveniently located near Charlotte and Interstate 77, Lake Norman is a popular vacation destination.

The lake was named for Norman Atwater Cocke, a retired president of Duke Power. Duke Power created the lake for hydroelectric power and water supply by damming the Catawba River. The Cowans Ford Hydroelectric Station began supplying electricity in 1963. Duke Power also built the McGuire Nuclear Station and the coal-burning Marshall Steam Station. The lake provides cooling water for both stations. The Marshall station began producing electricity in 1965 and the McGuire station in 1981.

Lake Norman’s full pond elevation is 760 feet above sea level with a maximum depth of 110 feet and an average depth of 34 feet. Duke Power controls the water level to provide electricity, accommodate heavy spring rains, supply municipal water, and provide recreational opportunities. The maximum water drawdown is 15 feet.

With so many acres and miles of shoreline, the best way to see the lake is by boat. Several marinas grace the shores of Lake Norman, providing boat launches, boat slips, boat storage, boat rentals, boat repairs, and gas stops for when you need to refuel. With no horsepower or speed limit on the lake, powerboats, bass boats, sailboats, and pontoons share the sparkling waters with kayaks, canoes, and even the occasional paddle boat.

Lake Norman State Park hosts thousands of campers per year at its 33 campsites. Equipped with tent pads, picnic tables, and grills, the campsites afford a level of comfort while allowing you to commune with nature. Late at night, sleeping amidst the trees, you will feel closer to the lake than you thought possible as you watch the stars, smell the pine trees in the breeze, and let the sounds of nature lull you to sleep.

Anglers arrive at Lake Norman from miles around, with ‘fish-tales’ echoing in their minds of record-winning catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, striped bass, and yellow perch and white perch. Bass tournaments come to the lake annually, a testament to the opportunities available here. During winter, stripers are abundant and brave souls face winter’s chill to drop a line in and reel in a big one. If cold isn’t your pleasure, spring and summer bring warmer temperatures and the possibility to catch the lake’s other resident fish, so don’t despair. There truly are some prize-winning catches awaiting at Lake Norman.

Outdoor lovers are pleased to find miles of winding hiking and mountain biking trails available to the public. Pick a path, and you will be presented with beautiful lake vistas, mountain scenery, mature hardwood forests, and many opportunities to interact with the area wildlife. Nature photographers are advised to take their cameras, as photo opportunities await around every bend. Mountain bikers are encouraged to take the Itusi Trail, a 6.7 mile up-and-downhill path that winds through the forest and along the edge of the lake, providing a pleasant yet challenging biking adventure.

It’s impossible to look at Lake Norman without wanting to dip your feet in. Designated swimming areas, complete with sandy beaches, will lure you to the lake’s shores. You’ll find the water to be pleasantly warm, and the sun above to be just bright enough to warrant a little nap on your beach towel. And when all that relaxation has really worn you out, take a box lunch to the nearby picnic area and indulge in a delicious pick-me-up.

Things to do at Lake Norman

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park

Fish species found at Lake Norman

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Striped Bass
  • White Perch
  • Yellow Perch

Lake Norman Photo Gallery

Lake Norman Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Duke Power

Surface Area: 32,510 acres

Shoreline Length: 520 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 760 feet

Average Depth: 34 feet

Maximum Depth: 110 feet

Water Volume: 1,093,600 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1964

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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