History of High Rock
High Rock Lake is North Carolina’s second largest lake. Located in the Piedmont region of the state, it boasts three hundred and fifty miles of shoreline and stretches through Rowan and Davidson Counties.
The dam was built in the mid 1920s for the purpose of using the power of the Yadkin River to generate electricity for the Aluminum Company of America’s (ALCOA) smelting operations. The company built a series of four hydroelectric power plants on the river and the High Rock Lake dam is the northern most project.
The perfect spot for the dam was determined to be where centuries of erosion formed a narrow gorge through a major ridge in the Uwharrie Mountains. High Rock Mountain is the tallest point in the Uwharries and towers over the dam creating a unique and stunningly beautiful landscape.
The "High Rock" name comes from the boulder strewn top of the mountain. It seemed natural for the lake to carry the same name.
Construction of the dam was a major feat of engineering and much of the work was documented by a young photographer from Lexington named Herbert Lee Waters. According to the Davidson County Historical Society, Waters was only twenty-four years old when he was contracted by the Tallassee Power Company, a subsidiary of ALCOA, to photograph the project. It was his first big commercial job. The collection of his images can be seen at the Davidson County Historical Museum and on their website.
When ALCOA shut down the aluminum smelting operations in 2007 the company sold the hydroelectric facilities to Cube Hydro Carolinas. It is now operated under the name “Eagle Creek Renewable Enerergy.” According to the company website, the High Rock facility generates 141,660 megawatts-hours of clean electricity each year, supplying enough energy to power 13,621 homes.
The lake formed by the dam stretches nineteen miles upstream to the mouth of the South Yadkin River near Salisbury. Arms of the lake area formed by various creeks that flow into the lake. Some of these like Abbott’s Creek start many miles away.
High Rock Lake has seen major development in recent years. What was once a place known for crude weekend fishing cabins has seen a rise in new construction with home prices reaching into the millions. It has also become more than just a weekend getaway with an increasing number of permanent residents. But one of the most striking features of the lake is the amount of undeveloped land surrounding it. Thanks to efforts by several land conservation groups, much of the shoreline is being preserved so the unspoiled beauty can be enjoyed for generations to come.
The scenic beauty and ample recreational opportunities continue to draw visitors from all over the region. High Rock Lake has a reputation for being one of the best places to fish in the state. Numerous tournaments are held here each year and the lake has also hosted the prestigious “Bass Master Classic.”
High Rock Lake is certainly an economic engine for surrounding communities. Lexington, Salisbury and Denton have enjoyed the benefits of their proximity to the lake and continue to look for ways to connect with lake residents and visitors. There is no question that the “High Rock Lake Life” is attractive and area businesses hope to capitalize on it.
Nearly a century after the dam was constructed much has changed. But more and more people continue to discover the rich history of High Rock Lake and the bright future that lies ahead.
Lake Fun Facts
High Rock Lake is a reservoir lake at the confluence of the Yadkin River and South Yadkin River. Several major creeks also feed the lake including Abbott's Creek, that originates north of Greensboro.
High Rock Lake is the second largest lake in North Carolina behind Lake Norman. It covers 15,180 acres (61 km2) and there are 365 miles (587 km) of shoreline.
When the lake is full, the water surface level is 655 feet above sea level.
The lake's name is derived from neighboring "High Rock Mountain", the tallest mountain in the Uwharrie Mountains.
The Yadkin River begins near Blowing Rock in the North Carolina Mountains and flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Georgetown, South Carolina. After it is joined by the Uharrie River, the name is changed to "Great Pee Dee." North Carolina's portion of the Yadkin River basin covers 7,200 square miles of land area and contains nearly 6,000 square miles of freshwater streams and rivers.
High Rock produces a long term average generation of 141,660 megawatt-hours of clean electricity per year, enough to power 13,621 homes.
High Rock Lake is now managed and operated by Eagle Creek Energy RE.