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Photo from 1938
Picture courtesy of Andrea Blevins

The Story of Norris Lake

Norris Dam was the first dam built by the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority). Construction started on October 1, 1933, only a few months after the agency was created. The gates were closed on March 4, 1936 and Norris Reservoir was completely filled on January 22, 1937. The completed dam helped moderate the disasterous Ohio and Mississippi flood of 1937. The giant drum gates at the top of the spillway were raised for the first time to impound waters that would have swelled a flood more than 600 miles away. The initial cost of the project was $32,269,027

The construction of the Norris Project incurred 16,977,720 man hours of labor. During the construction 8 men lost thier lives, and 962 suffered injuries. The project relocated 2,899 families and caused the removal of 5,226 gravesites. Some of the materials used to build the dam are 1,002,300 cubic yards of concrete, and 225,889 bags of grouting for the foundation.

Norris has the largest flood control storage of any TVA dam on a tributary of the Tennessee - at normal maximum pool the reservoir holds 2,040,000 acre feet of water. Norris' two hydroelectric generators turned out the first TVA electric power in the eastern end of the Tennessee Valley and the transmission line from Norris to the Wilson dam provided the first elements of the distribution system that later spread through most of the valley and beyond.

Norris Lake extends 73 miles up the Clinch River and 56 miles up the Powell River. It has 750 miles of shoreline, and 50 miles of island shoreline giving a total of 800 miles of shoreline. The maximum width of the lake is 1.2 miles with a surface area of 34,200 acres. The watershed area for Norris Lake covers 2,912 square miles. Norris Dam is 265 feet high, and 1860 feet long and is located on the Clinch River at mile marker 79.8 in Campbell and Anderson County, Tennessee. The reservoir is 129 miles long. Norris Lake and the dam were named for George W. Norris, a U.S. Senator from Nebraska. The dam helps control floods in the area, generates electricity, and helps maintain navigation depth on the Tennessee River. Before reaching the Ohio River the water goes through nine different dams, generating electricity at each one.

Located in a ridge and valley region Norris Lake abounds in secluded coves. On these wooded banks TVA established the first demonstration public parks. Later the parks were turned over to the state of Tennessee. Recreational use of the reservoir exceeds that of any other tributary lake. TVA acquired the entire shoreline of the reservoir. Although 56,700 acres of lake land have been sold a continuous shoreline strip dedicated to public recreation has been retained, and 35,300 acres have been transferred or leased to the state of Tennessee and the various counties for public recreation. The state administers two large game management areas, three state parks, and 59 public access sites. There are three county parks. The TVA retains about 22,000 acres for future recreational development.

Lake Norris is a great place for fishing, boating, swimming, and other water sports. Nestled between East Tennessee ridges, Norris Lake points the way to Cumberland Gap and the historic wilderness trail marked by Daniel Boone. With its clear deep water, it produces excellent catches of rock fish, walleye, and bass, as well as the usual species found in other area lakes. June through September night fishing for small mouth bass, croppie, white bass and walleye is a popular activity. Two small wild areas on Norris Lake provide visitors with a mini wilderness experience. River bluff features spring and summer wildflowers and a three mile hiking trail. Hemlock bluff presents spectacular views across Norris Lake from high tree covered bluffs. Museums, scenic hiking trails, and a trail for the handicapped compliment the fine trout fishing and canoeing below the dam. A picturesque 18th century grist mill excite the imaginations of artists and historic buffs alike.

The five counties surrounding Norris Lake are Anderson County, Campbell County, Claiborne County, Grainger County, and Union County.

Average Temperature
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
°C 0.7 2.8 8.1 13.1 17.3 21.2 23.1 22.6 19.2 13.2 8.2 3.1 12.7
°F 33.3 37.0 46.6 55.6 63.1 70.2 73.6 72.7 66.6 55.8 46.8 37.6 54.9

Average Rainfall
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
mm 122.5 119.3 143.0 108.2 123.1 124.3 143.0 113.2 94.7 79.3 103.6 125.1 1400.4

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