Norris Dam is a hydroelectric and flood control structure located on the Clinch River in Anderson County and Campbell County, Tennessee, USA. Its construction in the mid-1930s was the first major project for the Tennessee Valley Authority, which had been created in 1933 to bring economic development to the region and control the rampant flooding that had long plagued the Tennessee Valley. The dam was named in honor of Nebraska Senator George Norris (1861-1944), a longtime supporter of government-owned power in general, and supporter of TVA in particular.
Norris Dam is a straight concrete gravity-type dam. The dam is 1860 feet (570 m) long and 265 feet (81 m) high. Norris Lake, the largest reservoir on a tributary of the Tennessee River, has 33,840 acres (137 km²) of water surface and 809 miles (1302 km) of shoreline. The dam has a maximum generating capacity of 131,400 kilowatts.
The Clinch River flows southwestward for 300 miles (480 km) from its headwaters in Virginia through the rugged, sparsely-populated hills of northeastern Tennessee before emptying into the Tennessee River near Kingston. Norris Dam is located at just over 79 miles (127 km) upstream from the mouth of the Clinch, immediately downstream from the river’s confluence with Cove Creek, which joins the river from the northwest. The reservoir includes parts of Anderson, Campbell, Union, Claiborne, and Grainger counties. Norris Reservoir spans a 73-mile (117 km) stretch of the Clinch from the dam to River Ridge at the Claiborne-Grainger county line. The reservoir also covers the lower 56 miles (90 km) of the Powell River, which empties into the Clinch 10 miles (16 km) upstream from Norris Dam. The dam’s tailwaters are part of Melton Hill Lake, which stretches for 56 miles (90 km) along the Clinch from Norris to Melton Hill Dam.
Norris Freeway, a section of U.S. Highway 441 widened in the 1930s to aide in dam construction, crosses the top of Norris Dam and connects the area to Interstate 75 at Caryville to the west and Knoxville to the south. Along with the reservation maintained by TVA for the operation of Norris Dam, most of the lower Norris Reservoir is surrounded by conservation lands, including Norris Dam State Park adjacent to the reservation, the Cove Creek Wildlife Management Area across the lake to the north, and the Chuck Swan State Forest, which protects a large undeveloped area a few miles upstream.