FAQ City: What Lies Beneath Lake Norman?

Dec 18, 2018

Mooresville resident Lauren Sullivan has a boat she takes out on Lake Norman from time to time. She and her husband will cruise across the water, sometimes towing a wakeboard from behind. Like most people, she knew the lake was man-made, and that got her wondering: what might have been swallowed up by all the water, and what happened to the people who once called the area home?

Lauren Sullivan, a Mooresville resident
Credit Nick de la Canal / WFAE

"I know it wasn't just barren land. People lived here," she said, "And when I wakeboard, I'm pretty much dancing in their sky. So I want to know what is below me when I'm out on the water."

It's fun to think there could be remnants of a past civilization beneath the lake — like Charlotte's own lost Atlantis. The lake was completed in 1963 by Duke Power, and it's certainly big enough to hold an underwater city. It covers more than 32,000 acres. It has 520 miles of shoreline, and it touches four counties.

Even President Trump was impressed when he made a visit to Charlotte in August, though he overstated its size.

"Largest man-made lake in the world by far, right?" Trump said on his visit.

It's only the largest man-made lake in the state.

Chuck McShane, author of "A History of Lake Norman."
Credit Chuck McShane

On this episode of FAQ City, we'll meet up with two experts - Chuck McShane, a journalist and writer who published "A History of Lake Norman" in 2014; and Capt. Gus Gustafson, a local fishing guide who's been fishing the lake since way back when it was just a river.

As we'll learn, there's plenty that's still at the bottom of the lake, including old infrastructure, automobiles, old homes, cemeteries and perhaps more that's yet to be discovered.

A marker at Centre Church in Mooresville notes a section of the graveyard that was moved to the church from a site now under Lake Norman.
Credit David Boraks / WFAE

Special thanks to our two experts, and to the staff at Duke Energy's "Energy Explorium" in Huntersville. To learn more about what lies in the depths of the lake, check out this mapping project by students at Davidson College: Explore The History of Lake Norman.

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