Norris Dam and Reservoir
Norris Dam and Reservoir (Norris Lake) turned 80 back in July. In honor of this special event, TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) threw a big party and opened the doors for self-guided tours through the powerhouse. The powerhouse has been closed since the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centers. This event last two days and allowed for locals and tourists to get an up close look at Norris Dam and Reservoir and enjoy family activities. My family and I had loved exploring Douglas Dam, so we couldn’t pass up this chance to explore Norris Dam.
Due to the size of the event, parking was at the nearby Museum of Appalachia. From the museum we were taken by bus to Norris Dam. Normally when you visit there is onsite parking. We didn’t mind the alternate parking because it allowed us to take in the sites while we waited.
Construction on Norris Dam started in 1933, just a few months after TVA was created and it took three years to complete. The dam streches 1860 feet across the Clinch River and is 265 feet tall.
Norris Dam is a hyrdoelectric facility with two generating units that have a net dependable capacity (the amount of power a dam can produce on an average day minus the electricity used by the dam itself) of 110 megawatts. Seeing the generators up close was incredible.
It was a neat experience to see inside the powerhouse since it had not been open to the public in almost 15 years. The powerhouse does have control rooms but we learned much of it is controlled off site thanks to computer technology. I can only imagine the work that went into running the powerhouse 80 years ago before computers.
We were even allowed on a special walk out area overlooking the Clinch River and the dam spillway. It is hard to capture the force of the water in a photo but I tried. The water is not as strong further down but I would not want to fall in right by the dam.
When the Norris Dam and Reservoir were built the town of Norris was built to house construction workers and their family that were working on the dam. It became a model for planned communities across the nation. They created the town instead of just a work camp in order to keep out a lot of the drinking and debauchery that were present in many camps. They wanted the area to be family friendly and in 1948 the town was sold to private investors.
Along with access to the the powerhouse tours, there were exhibit areas that provided information and hands on activities relating to the history of the dam, nature, Norris Dam State Park, water safety, and more. This was a great way to take learning to a hands-on level for children and adults.
Norris Dam has 809 miles of shoreline and 33,840 acres of water surface. Norris Dam and Reservoir is the largest reservoir on a tributary of the Tennessee River. The water level of the Norris Reservoir varies about 29 feet from summer to winter (in a year with normal rainfall) to provide seasonal flood storage. It has a flood-storage capacity of 1,113,000 acre-feet. Besides its functionality as flood-control and as an energy producer, Norris Lake (Norris Dam Reservoir) provides a popular destination for recreational activities.
Locals and visitors can take advance of all the benefits of Norris Lake at Norris Dam State Park which is located on 2,473 acres. There you will find museums, cabins, camping, fishing, hiking, meeting rooms and more. There is also a marina that makes Norris Lake a popular site for fishing and water sports.