Norfork Lake Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Norfork Lake is celebrating its 75th anniversary. The lake is one of the most desired fishing destinations in Arkansas. Its remoteness allows you to really lose yourself in the natural beauty and splendor it provides.

Beautiful sunset over Norfork Lake.

Norfork Lake is rich with history dating back to WW II. The dam was originally created to be one of six dams built to accomplish flood control in the White River Basin. However, it ended up being used for so much more.

House of Representatives member Clyde T. Ellis and others, knew that the lakes and rivers of Arkansas could be powerful sources for creating electric power for the war effort. For years prior to the war, Ellis had been pushing hydroelectric power. He knew that Arkansas retained the necessary resources to provide electricity to the defense industries, and in 1941 his efforts paid off. The Flood Control bill passed the House, granting full authorization for power facilities at Norfork Dam.

It was completed in June 1943, and power generation starting in June of 1944. Congress also approved construction of three additional Arkansas dam and reservoir projects in 1938 for flood control. These included Nimrod, Blue Mountain, and Clearwater.

President Truman at the Norfork and Bull Shoals Dedications circa July 2, 1952.

Norfork and Nimrod were the only two dams that included power generating equipment. Although Nimrod was fitted with penstocks for power turbines, it was completed in 1942 without the remainder of the equipment needed to allow for hydroelectric power generation. The other two dams, Blue Mountain and Clearwater were tabled until after the war, but Norfork Dam received military priority status and became the Little Rock District Corp of Engineers’ first war project because of its categorization as a power source for future defense projects. As a result, Arkansas ended up becoming became a vital resource in war effort contributions.

Today, Norfork Dam and Lake provide a multitude of benefits to the state of Arkansas. In 2017, Norfork created revenue amounting to approximately 6.5 million to U.S. Treasury. “The lake is an integral part of the White River System which was designed for flood risk management to help protect homes, businesses and properties across a large part of Arkansas from the flooding” said Chief of Operations for the Little Rock District, Kevin McDaniels. And in 2017, the dam prevented 4.5 million dollars in damages based on the dam’s flood control prevention mechanisms.

However, flood management is not the only benefit Norfolk offers Arkansans. McDaniels goes on to discuss how the dam and lake also provide, “Hydroelectric power to thousands of homes, abundant recreational opportunities, outstanding hunting and fishing and high quality habitat for fish and wildlife.”

Fishing is still king here. Almost all varieties of fresh water fish are found in the lake, and it also contains one of the best striped bass fisheries in Arkansas. Numerous state record setting catches have come out of Norfork Lake here such as a rock bass, weighing in at 1 pound 8 ounces.