1937 head 2004

History and Facts on Norris Dam

constructing Norris Dam
Norris was the first Tennessee Valley Authority hydroelectric project, begun in October 1933 and finished in March 1936 on the Clinch River. It is a straight concrete gravity-type dam, 1860 feet long, 265 feet high, and 208 feet thick at the base, equipped with two 50,000-kilowatt generators. Total cost of construction, including acquisition of reservoir lands, was about $36 million.  The project relocated approximately 2900 families and caused the removal of over 5,000 gravesites.


flood before TVANorris 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.  (Right: flood damage before TVA)

Norris has the largest flood control storage of any TVA dam on a tributary of the Tennessee at 1,112,982 acre-feet.  
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 prevent these disasters. Norris Dam controls the runoff from a 29,000 square-mile area of northeast Tennessee and southwest Va.

Norris' two hydroelectric generators turned out the first TVA electric power in the eastern end of the Tennessee Valley.

Photos taken by NARA during Norris Dam Project

Norris Lake extends 73 miles up the Clinch River and 56 miles up the Powell River. Norris Dam is 265 feet high and stretches 1,860 feet across the Clinch River in Campbell and Anderson County, Tennessee. The reservoir is 129 miles long.  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.   At full pool level it covers more than 34,000 acres, and has an average depth of about 75 feet. It holds as much as 830 billion gallons of water.

Norris HouseThe town of Norris, built to house workers on the dam, was a planned community that became a model for others throughout the nation and featured social amenities to promote family life and community cooperation. The design was based on the English garden city movement of the 1890s. Roads followed the contour of the winding terrain, houses did not always directly face the street, and large, grassy common areas were kept for use by the families living there. There were twelve basic house designs of Appalachian architecture using local wood and stone. The houses were some of the first all-electric homes. The community was sold first to some northern businessmen in 1948 and then about a year later to the Norris residents.

Norris Reservoir abounds with secluded coves. TVA established demonstration public parks at Cove Lake, Big Ridge, and the area around Norris Dam. These parks, set up when Norris was built in the 1930s, later became the nucleus of Tennessee’s state park system.

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

Memories & Stories of the Norris Basin & its People

Do you have a memory to share?  A story of how Norris Dam affected you or your family?  Please share with us!  Email the State Coordinator and we will be sure it gets posted.

All historical photos courtesy of National Archives (NARA) and TVA


TVA in Tennessee created by Suzanne M. Pratt .

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