Lake Norman Page

Information, maps and links about Lake Norman

Lake Norman - Island and Sandy Beach

Lake Norman - When the Catawba River finally makes a marked turn to due south some 15 miles downstream from Lookout Shoals Dam it has already become North Carolina's largest lake, Lake Norman. Lake Norman was created in 1964 with completion of Cowan's Ford Dam.  It was the last reservoir to be created of the eleven lakes impounded.

Lake Norman's waters provide an abundance of energy, drinking water and recreation to Carolinians. The 32,475 acres of the lake nearly equal the surface area of the other 10 lakes of the Catawba River system combined.  Water stays in Lake Norman for more than 200 days before flowing through the dam and into Mountain Island Lake.

Three electricity generating stations exploit the water of Lake Norman; one nuclear, one water-turbine powered and one coal fired. The EPA’s list of 44 High Hazard Ash Ponds includes the ash pond at Duke Energy's Marshall Steam Station on Lake Norman. Lake Norman is a source of drinking water for Huntersville, eastern Lincoln County, Mooresville, Davidson, Cornelius, and the northern portion Charlotte. 

Lake Norman swimming beach with sign
The beach at Lake Norman State Park


In total there are 10 public boat ramps, 14 marinas and 3 public fishing accesses on the 520 miles of shoreline. The site of many fishing tournaments throughout the year, Lake Norman also boasts a large and active group of Covekeepers.

Issues on Lake Norman

Lake Norman is one of the cleanest lakes in the Catawba basin, due to its large size and historical lack of development.  However, as the area around Lake Norman becomes more developed, environmental problems are becoming more common.  The most frequently reported problems are excessive discharges of sediment from construction projects, sewage overflows, and stormwater problems.  Homeowners and developers sometimes contribute to the problem by destroying natural buffers around the lake that filter out contaminants and reduce the impact of stormwater.  In addition, there are discharges directly to the Lake from two of the largest powerplants in the State of North Carolina, and approximately 25 other discharges, primarily from small privately owned sewage treatment facilities.

Fish Advisories

There is a statewide consumption advisory, including Lake Norman, for largemouth bass due to mercury contamination.   Women of child bearing age (15-44), pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children under age 15 are advised not to eat largemouth bass.  Other people should not eat more than one serving per week of largemouth bass (an adult serving is 6 ounces of uncooked fish).  In addition, Mecklenburg County advises that women of childbearing age, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under age 15 not eat more than two servings (6 ounces for adults, 2 ounces for children) of Bluegill Sunfish, Farm Raised Catfish, Farm Raised and Wild Trout, or Farm Raised Crayfish;  all other people are advised not to eat more than 2 servings per week of these fish.

In early 2011, Catawba Riverkeeper conducted water, fish and sediment testing that found alarming levels of PCBs, heavy metals and other contaminants in Mountain Island Lake, which is immediately downstream from Lake Norman.  This testing triggered the issuance of extensive fish advisories for the lakes and river sections below Lake Norman, but no advisories were issued for Lake Norman because the fish in Lake Norman were not tested. 

In July 2011 the N.C. Division of Water Quality and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services conducted a joint project on Lake Norman to analyze various fish species for the presence of mercury, arsenic, selenium, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  The species collected and tested were channel catfish, blue catfish, flathead catfish, spotted bass, white perch, and black crappie from the lower section of Lake Norman. The lab results for all sampled species showed that the levels of the target contaminants were within acceptable ranges and considered safe by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.  Small amounts of PCBs and mercury were detected in all samples, which is not good, but is consistent with data throughout the country.  In other words, the testing suggests that at least six species of fish in the lower portion of Lake Norman are safe to eat.

For more information regarding this advisory and others in North Carolina, see the N.C. DHHS website at
For more information regarding the Division of Water Quality and Storm Water Services project on Lake Norman, contact David Caldwell at 704-336-5452, or Jeff DeBerardinis at 919-743-8473 or .

Read more here: "Test Results Show Some Fish from Lake Norman Safe to Eat"

Applicable Regulations

Links to regulations and guidance documents applicable to the Mecklenburg County portion of Lake Norman:
      View Lake Norman in a larger map 
For News about the Charlotte area of the Catawba River Basin click here.

 Statistical information and links to Duke Energy information about the lakes can be found here -> Lakes


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Jan 25, 2017 NC Riverkeeper Report
From the perspectives of 12 NC Riverkeepers, this report discusses how multiple environmental issues pose challenges in the pursuit of clean, plentiful water. Whether you are in North Carolina or downstream in South Carolina, read this report about the state of environmental enforcement.
Dec 13, 2016 Community Foundation of Gaston County grants $5,000 to CRF for Riverkeeper Program
The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
Dec 12, 2016 A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.
Sep 27, 2016 Lake Wateree Fall Cleanup a Sweeping Success
86 volunteers collected 5,490 pounds of trash from Lake Wateree
Jun 13, 2016 Dozens of Youth Reached in Water Education Outreach Program Pilot Lessons
More news…
Report Pollution in the Catawba River

Help protect your River! 

Tell your Riverkeeper if you see:

  • Sewage Overflows
  • Failure to control sediment from construction sites
  • Illegal clearing of buffer areas
  • Fish kills 
  • Unpermitted discharges
  • Other issues that concern you

Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a proud member of EarthShare North Carolina, the North Carolina Conservation Network, River Network and the Waterkeeper Alliance.  It also in in an alliance with Clean Air Carolina to address issues, such as sprawl, that cause air and water problems.

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715 N. Church St., Suite 120 . Charlotte, NC 28202 . Phone: 704.679.9494 . Fax: 704.679.9559