Lake Norman Lake Levels

Lakes all around the country are handled differently in regards to maintaining lake levels. Lake Norman as well as Lake Wylie have dams operated by Duke Energy that control the water levels in these lakes.

The lake has target levels as well as minimum and maximum levels that Duke maintains. You can go to Duke Energy’s Lake Service website to get the current lake level and the target levels. We created a shortcut that will take you directly to the page you need, just go to lakelevel.lakerealty.com. Let’s take a look at that page.

You can see that the current level today is 96.4 ft. You can also call 800-829-LAKE to get this level by phone. This measurement is based on a full pond reading of 100’. As you can see this is right around the target level that Duke has set. If we look at the 13 month history, you can see the variation throughout the year.

Lake Norman Lake LevelsThe black line is the max level at full pond. The blue line is the minimum and the green line is the target. The light blue line is the actual lake levels throughout the year. You can see that there were variations but the actual lake levels hoovered around the target level. So while there are changes in the lake’s levels, they are not nearly as drastic as you will find on many lakes. You can also see that the target level is the highest between April and September which corresponds with the peak periods of recreational activity.

Lake Norman Facts:

  • Year Built: 1959-1964
  • Area: 32,510 acres at full pond
  • Length: 33.6 miles
  • Width: 9 miles
  • Shore Line length: 520 miles
  • Maximum Depth: 110 feet
  • Average Depth: 33.5 feet
  • Capacity: 3.4 trillion gallons of water
  • Volume: 1,093,600 acre-feet

Referencing these tables is also beneficial when you’re out looking at waterfront properties. You want to make sure that your dock has good water depth especially where you are going to be pulling your boat in and out. So if you are out on a dock on February 1st and you have good water when the target level is 94’ and the actual water level is 96’ then you will have a feel for what the water depth will be like on May 1st when the target level is 98’ and actual water level this past year was 98.9’. You can also use the minimum target levels to get a gauge of what the water levels would be at the extremes.

If we scroll down you will also see this statement; “Normal Full Pond Elevation = 100ft = 760.0 ft..” I wanted to take a second and explain the 760 line which is what the 100ft number we mentioned earlier is based on. Let’s jump over to a topo map of Lake Norman that shows the elevation contour lines. When we zoom in you will see the elevation numbers. The 760 lines runs roughly along the shoreline. The 760 elevation line is where Lake Norman is at full pond. It also demarks where Duke Energy’s oversight starts on stops. Any activities that would require permitting or approval at the 760 or below would go through Duke. Above the 760 line, oversight would depend on if the activities were in the buffer zone as well as the specific county and neighborhood guidelines.

Well, I hope this article gave you some good background info into Lake Levels on Lake Norman. If you any questions, please reach out. We are here to help. Looking for a waterfront home? Check out these lake norman waterfront homes for sale.

What is Considered Deep Water on Lake Norman?

When looking at Lake Norman Waterfront homes for sale, potential buyers often ask ‘what is considered deep water on Lake Norman?‘ While there is not an official number, if you have at least 10 feet of water at full pond where your boat will dock we consider that deep water.  Here’s the thinking behind that number.

During the primary recreational season, mid-March to October, Duke Energy has a target level of 96 ft. to 98 ft.  (Lake level is based on full pond reading of 100 ft.  Watch this video for a detailed explanation of Lake Norman Lake Levels).  So, if you have 10 ft’ of water at full pond this would correspond to a depth of 6 to 8 feet when the lake level varies between 96 ft to 98 ft.  This provides plenty of depth for most boats to get in and out.  I will note that over the last 3 years the actual level has ranged from 97 ft. to 100 ft during the primary recreational season.

If you plan to leave your boat in the water year around without using a lift, you will want to be cognizant of the lake level during winter months when the lake is lower.  (If you want to know more info about the lower extreme levels, check Lowest Lake Norman Lake Levels.)

Slide on Lake Norman

How You Use Your Dock Matters

Do you like to float and swim around your dock?  Lots of people primarily use their docks for hanging out and boating in & out.  Others like to float (with or without cocktails), swim or use sliding boards on their docks.  In this case, a foot or two can make a big difference.   For example, at a depth of 5 feet you can stand up and may bottom out when landing the classic cannon ball off your dock.  But just two feet more at a depth of 7′, you can swim without touching the bottom.

There can also be a big difference from the front of your dock to the end of your dock.  Docks will average around 30 ft in length and depending on the slope of the lake bed the depth can change quickly.  Along those same lines you may only have to go out a few extra feet from your dock to be in deeper water.

Because the lake was flooded, the lake bed follows the typography of the land below.  As result the level can change drastically.  I’ve been on parts of the lake that drop 80 feet in a very short distance.  The typography of the lake bed is why you may notice ‘Shoal’ (i.e. shallow) signs out in the middle of the main channel.   How deep is Lake Norman?  The answer varies slightly depending on the source but the stats range from between 110 to 130 ft at Lake Norman’s deepest point.

There are lots of variables to consider when buying a Lake Norman home.  Each property is unique and has its own characteristics when it comes to the house, location, dock and the water.    The houses will vary by size, style, age and layout.  The location on the lake will offer different amenities and feel.  The docks can be covered or uncovered, with or without a lift and old or new.  The water choices will include big view vs small view, cove view vs main channel view, depth of the water and the existing dock set up.   Hopefully, this article helped you further understand the term ‘deep water’ on Lake Norman.

Search Lake Norman Waterfront Homes

If you are thinking about buying a Lake Norman waterfront or listing a Lake Norman waterfront home, you may be wondering, ‘how low does the lake level get?’

You would think this would be easy information to find.  You can easily access the 13 month history on Duke Energy’s website but it does not provide data beyond that.   After googling and searching through old news articles without a definitive answer, I reached out to Duke Energy’s Hydro Operations to get the answers.

So what is the lowest lake level on record for Lake Norman?  Drum roll please…….

Drum Roll

 

The lowest level on record for Lake Norman was 93.1 ft. in 2007. 

I want to point out that the lake level is based on a reading of a 100 ft at full pond which corresponds to the 760 typographical line.   Think of it this way, at 93.1 ft the lake was 6.9 feet lower then when it is full.   We created a video that further explains the Lake Norman lake level and the 760 line.

The chart below displays the lake levels from January 2008 to October 2019.  The blue lines are the actual levels and the red lines are the target levels.  Notice that it only dipped below 95’ in 2 of the last 12 years.  The lowest reading for those 2 years, October 2014 and January 2016, were during the second driest period on record when they bottomed out below 94’.  It’s important to note that lowest reading for each year are typically during the winter months when the target levels set by Duke Energy are lower. 

Lake Norman Lake Level History

 

Lake Norman Water Level History

For many, what’s most important is the lake levels during the recreational months.  From mid-March to October the target lake levels are from 96 ft to 98 ft.  I’ve added another chart below that marks the lake level during July. See the green lines.  Notice that in the last 12 summers the lake level has only gone below 98 ft during July during one year.  That year was 2014 during the dry period noted above.

I also found it interesting that the variation in the lake levels was a lot less over the last three years indicated by the tighter grouping of the blue line.  During this time period, the lake level was mostly above the target level set by Duke Energy.  This makes sense when you note that 2018 was the 5th wettest year on record and the Jan to Feb of 2019 was the 9th wettest Jan to Feb on record.

Lake Norman Lake Levels Boating Season

 

You do see a sharp drop in the lake level in October of 2019 which is unusual considering that Lake Norman experienced the 9th wettest Jan to Feb on record.  Personally, I think there were a few events that contributed to this level.  In June, after a tremendous amount of rain in 12 hours, the lake level reached its max level and as a result Duke Energy released a large amount of water from the damn which led to flooding on Mountain Island lake.  Then in September hurricane Dorian ripped through the Bahamas and as it moved up the east coast there was a potential for a large amount of rainfall in our area.  The lake level was dropped in anticipation.  The rain never materialized and then we experienced abnormally dry conditions.

You may also be interested in another related article, ‘What is Considered Deep Water on Lake Norman’.

MONTH NORMAL MINIMUM (FT.) NORMAN TARGET (FT.) NORMAL MAXIMUM

January

93

96

100

February

91

94

100

March

92.26

95.26

100

April

93.65

96.65

100

May to October

95

98

100

November

93.98

97

100

December

93

96

100

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