Norris, Cherokee, Douglas, Watts Bar, Tellico and Ft. Loudoun

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Norris Lake

Dam Information

Norris Dam

  • Construction of Norris Dam began in 1933, just a few months after the creation of TVA, and was completed in 1936.       
  • Norris provides 809 miles of shoreline and 33,840 acres of water surface. It is the largest reservoir on a tributary of the Tennessee River.      
  • The recreational use of Norris Reservoir exceeds that of any other tributary reservoir in the TVA river system.      
  • Norris Dam is 265 feet high and stretches 1,860 feet across the Clinch River.      
  • The town of Norris, built to house workers on the dam, was a planned community that became a model for others throughout the nation. It was sold to private owners in 1948.       
  • The water level in Norris Reservoir varies about 23 feet in a normal year.      
  • Norris has a flood-storage capacity of 1,112,982 acre-feet.              
  • The nameplate generating capacity of Norris is 131,400 kilowatts of electricity.

Norris Reservoir in east Tennessee extends 73 miles up the Clinch River and 56 miles up the Powell from Norris Dam. It was the first dam TVA built, and is named for Senator George Norris of Nebraska, author of the legislation that created TVA.

Norris is a popular tourist and recreation destination, and in summer 2005 TVA opened a new visitor center at the dam. Visitors can learn about the history of Norris, hydropower operations, and TVA’s management of the river system. The facility, located at the top of the dam, is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. It’s staffed by TVA retiree volunteers.

In the 1930s, TVA established demonstration public parks at several locations on Norris Reservoir, including Cove Lake, Big Ridge, and the area around Norris Dam. These parks later became the nucleus of Tennessee’s state park system.

Norris features three hiking trails. The River Bluff Trail is the longest at 3.1 miles and offers rich pockets of wildflowers. The Edge Path is a shady corridor with wheelchair access. The Songbird Trail is, as the name suggests, a popular area for birding.

Water sports at Norris include boating, water skiing, swimming, and excellent fishing. The Tennessee state record brown trout was caught in the waters of the Clinch River below Norris Dam.

The area around the Clinch River receives more than 45 inches of rain a year. In the past, floodwaters on the Clinch sometimes inundated areas hundreds of miles downstream. Norris Reservoir is an important component of the system TVA set up to reduce the risks of these disasters.


The Tennessee Valley Authority was formed in 1933 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal legislation. The act authorizing TVA's establishment (signed on May 18, 1933) authorized TVA to immediately begin construction on a dam at the Cove Creek site. On July 30, TVA renamed the Cove Creek project for Senator Norris and began preparations for the dam's construction. As the agency lacked any engineering or dam construction experience, it relied heavily on the Army Corps' original design, and received ample consulting from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.[1] Hungarian-American architect Roland Wank (1898-1970) revised the initial plans from Bureau of Reclamation engineers, and gave the poured-concrete Norris Dam a modernist style, which was controversial and advanced for the era of construction, but the result would eventually succeed in elevating Roland Wank to the position of Chief Architect for TVA from 1933 through 1944.[3] Construction began on October 1, 1933.

The building of Norris Dam and its accompanying reservoir required the purchase of over 152,000 acres (62,000 ha) of land. 2,841 families and 5,226 graves were relocated. The community of Loyston, located about 20 miles (32 km) upstream from the dam site, was entirely inundated. Approximately one-third of Caryville, at the head of the reservoir's Cove Creek embayment, was flooded and a number of structures in the town had to be moved. Several smaller 30-foot (9.1 m) earthen dams were built along reservoir tributaries to house fish hatcheries. As the project called for the construction of recreational areas along the lakeshore, TVA built two supplemental dams— Caryville Dam and Big Ridge Dam— to impound Cove Lake and Big Ridge Lake, respectively, and ensure these small lakes would remain filled year-round. The Civilian Conservation Corps built recreational facilities and aided in the removal of various structures.[1] The town of Norris, Tennessee was initially built as a planned community to house the workers involved in the construction of this dam.[4]

Norris Dam was completed and the gates closed on March 4, 1936, constructed at a cost of $36 million. The dam's first generator went online July 28, 1936. Although Norris was the first dam built by TVA, it is not the oldest dam owned and operated by the agency. TVA subsequently purchased the assets of the former Tennessee Electric Power Company, including some dams which had been built prior to Norris Dam. The building of Norris Dam and the changes it brought to the region inspired films, books, stage plays, and songs. Folk songs from the construction period express enthusiasm for the benefits that the dam project brought to the region.[1

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