History of the Lake Lure Dam & Hydroelectric Power

The Lake Lure Dam in the 1930s

It was the intent of the builders of the Lake Lure dam in 1925-26 that its primary purpose would be to create a beautiful lake as the centerpiece of a huge resort/real estate development. Maintaining the lake at a near constant level was very important to establish and hold lakeshore property values and to achieve the goal of making Lake Lure a prime destination for recreation. The Broad River, Cane Creek and Buffalo Creek, as well as several smaller creeks were a perpetual source of water for the lake and the dam was designed with spillways to regulate the water level. As there would be an almost constant flow of water over the dam when finished, Dr. Morse, one of the prime investors, and his company also built a hydroelectric plant in the depths of the dam to harness the power of that water.

The original plant is still in use today. It consists of two hydroelectric turbine generators; one rated at 1200 kilowatts and the other at 2200 kilowatts. Water is drawn through a screened intake, the large vertical cylindrical object in the lake just in front of the dam, and down through the penstock and past the turbines under the power plant floor where it causes the turbines to spin at up to 500 revolutions per minute (RPM). The turbine shafts are attached to large armatures and the spinning of those armatures within fixed coils generates the electricity.

It is a common misconception that the electricity that we generate is used to provide power to the Town of Lake Lure. This has never been the case. We do not generate sufficient power for this and, more importantly, do not generate power 24 hours per day. Since the primary purpose of the lake is recreation, we do not draw the level down during periods of low water flow; we only run the plant when there is enough water coming down the river to operate the turbines. The power that is generated is sold to Duke Power Company through the substation above the dam. We have a contract with Duke Power that sets out the rate that they will pay and also establishes a daily peak period during which they will pay a premium for our power because it is the time of day when usage is at its highest.

Much of the electrical equipment has been upgraded, both for safety and for efficiency, including the interconnection with Duke Power. We plan to relocate much of the control equipment to a new more secure building at the base of the dam and purchase new remote monitoring and operating equipment. The dam is managed by the staff of the Town of Lake Lure and inspected by the state of North Carolina on a regular basis. 

Plans for a comprehensive multi-million dollar dam improvement project are underway. The project will take  4-5 years, but when completed, is expected to extend the life of the dam by fifty years.  Read more about the Lake Lure dam remediation project here.

For reasons of safety and security, the dam is not open for public visits and the entire area is posted against trespassers. Please do not attempt to enter the grounds for any purpose, including fishing in the river, and be aware that pedestrians are not permitted on the bridge above the dam.