High Rock Lake is a reservoir located on the Yadkin River in central North Carolina in the counties of Davidson and Rowan. Built in 1926-27 by the Tallassee Power Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa), the lake is the northernmost of a series of four hydroelectric projects designed at the time to support the company’s Badin Works, a large aluminum smelting operation located 16 miles downstream in the community of Badin. After the permanent closing of the Badin Works in 2007, Alcoa continued to operate its Yadkin hydroelectric facilities until selling them to Cube Hydro Carolinas in 2016. At the time of construction, High Rock was the largest reservoir in North Carolina and one of the largest in the United States. When full, its surface covers 15,180 acres (61 km2) with 360 miles (579 km) of shoreline and is 59 feet (18 m) deep at the dam. Normal pool elevation is 624 feet above sea level (655’ 1926 Alcoa datum). Upstream, the Yadkin River drains 4341 square miles (10,290 km2) of the land area of North Carolina’s northwest piedmont.The dam was built in a small gorge formed where the river cuts through a major ridge of the Uwharrie Mountains. High Rock Mountain, the highest point in the Uwharries, towers over the adjoining dam site creating one of the most picturesque views found in the North Carolina piedmont. Both the mountain and the lake are named for the “high rocks”, a large outcropping of rocks located on the ridge approximately half a mile east of the dam. Being its furthest upstream resource, High Rock was managed by Alcoa during most of its years of ownership not only for its electricity production, but also to control water levels in all the Uwharrie Lakes downstream. This often resulted in extreme drawdown during summer months when normal river flow was low. The impoundment extends some nineteen miles upstream from the dam to the mouth of South Yadkin River near Salisbury. Major arms of the lake are formed by numerous creeks including Flat Swamp, Abbotts, Buddle, Swearing, and North and South Potts in Davidson County; and Panther, Dutch Second, and Crane in Rowan County. The main trunk’s widest point exceeds one mile. Since its construction, surrounding communities including Lexington, Salisbury, Southmont, Spencer, and Denton, have enjoyed tremendous economic benefit through recreation driven by the lake. High Rock has proven to be one of the outstanding sites in the southeast for inland sailing, power boating, and fishing. In recent years, paddling has been added to the list with the designation of the Yadkin River State Canoe Trail which traverses the length of the lake along with the trail’s Daniel Boone Heritage section which terminates at the lake’s York Hill Access.
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