High Rock Lake is one of Piedmont North Carolina's major recreational sports drawing swimmers, skiers, boaters, fishermen - especially fishermen, sailors and campers. For many people who want to enjoy its beauty year round, including the solitude of fall and winter, the lake is home of a rapidly growing number of permanent residents.
Development of the lake has been astounding since it was built in the late 1920's to provide hydroelectric power for Alcoa's smelting plant in Badin.
The origins of High Rock Lake lie in the minor "rush" for silver, gold and other metals that occurred in North Carolina during the period between the 1860's and the first decade of this century. Although the dam that formed High Rock was not built until 1925, the mining activity led to the construction of the aluminum smelting plant which required massive amounts of hydroelectric power, and hence the dam and lake.
All of the lakes formed by the dams - the Narrows, Tuckertown and High Rock - were non-existent in 1870. There was only the Yadkin River in their place, and a gorge near Badin through which the modest river flowed.
But the discovery of precious metals in the area brought both individuals prospectors and corporate speculators. Hearing tales of twenty-pound gold nuggets, such men as Pittsburgh industrialist George I. Whitney streamed into the Yadkin valley. HIs companies ended up mining granite, and then went bankrupt in 1907, but Whitney started work on a dam right above the Narrows, which he envisioned as providing power for his mining work.
After the bankruptcy, the Whitney Holdings were sold to the North Carolina Electric and Power Company. This company kept the property for two years, and then sold it, in 1912 to a French group, L'Aluminum Francais. This company was then named Southern Aluminum Southern Aluminum abandoned Whitney's dam and began one at the Narrows itself, which would generate the electricity for an aluminum reducing plant at the top of the mountain in Stanly County.
In 1913 construction began on both the dam and the aluminum plant, and plans were made for a town nearby. It was named Badin, who was an official of the French company.
When the war in Europe began in August 1914 the town and plant were emptied because most of the workers were French Reservists. In 1915 Alcoa bought the entire company and moved the aluminum plant down the mountain, where the first aluminum products were produced in August of that year. A wholly-owned subsidiary, Tallassee Power Company was created to produce power for the plant.
In July 1917, the final sealing on the dam was made and by August it was full. At this time, there were more than three thousand men employed at the plant, and the smelter produced almost two million pounds of aluminum. In the same time period, the Carolina Power and Light Company became interested in developing hydroelectric power in the area. The two companies entered into negotiations, and soon agreed that Tallassee would build a small dam at the Yadkin Falls. CP&L was given all of the Tallassee's property below the falls and agreed not to build above the point.
Between 1917 and 1919, a small dam was constructed at the falls, named of course; the Falls Dam. Tallassee also began work on plans for High Rock dam and reservoir. The dam was finally closed in November of 1927, afer more than 10,000 acres of land was cleared of timber, and a number of families were moved from the area that would be flooded. Compensation was also made for the farm land which was to be covered by the reservoir. On April 14, 1928, the reservoir filled for the first time.
During the next few decades, the water level of the lake would rise and fall according to demands of the hydro-electric plant.
The lake was used for fishing, but there was not significant housing construction until the Korean War, when the need for aluminum kept the plant operating at capacity and the lake at a high stable level. Alcoa sold lake front land to developers, and from that point forward the area began to experience growth that has not yet ended.
After years of efforts by the High Rock Lake Association, the various companies using the lake and its tributary, the Yadkin River, agreed in 1967 to institute new water control rules. The rules keep the water level high and stable in the months the lake is used for recreation.
High Rock Lake Parks & Recreation Sites Available to the Public
Dan Nicholas Park, Salisbury (open year round)
Boone’s Cave Park, Lexington
Daniel Boone Heritage Canoe Trail
Eagle Point Nature Preserve, Bringle Ferry Road, is a perfect location for hikers, bird watching or nature walks,
open Friday - Sunday until 5 PM, year-round and free to the public.
Several public accesses and boat launches (all no charge)
N.C. Wildlife Access Dutch Second Creek, Salisbury
Tamarac Marina, Salisbury
High Rock Lake Marina & Campground, Lexington
N.C Wildlife Access, Southmont Abbotts Creek, Lexington
Buddle Creek, Lexington
Pebble Beach access, Denton
High Rock Lake is a top fishing spot for bass, crappie and catfish. Our lake is great for kayaking, canoeing and other paddling in-water activities as the water is normally calm due to its many coves.