HUNTERSVILLE – Lake Norman’s population has skyrocketed from mere thousands in the 1980s to large enough to help grow Huntersville, Davidson, Cornelius, Mooresville and Denver.

That speaks to the lake’s importance, according to Davidson College archivist Jan Blodgett.

“Until almost 1985, no one really wanted to live on the lake,” Blodgett said. “It was too far away from things you’d need that you’d have to go to Charlotte to get.”

Those things, such as hospitals, restaurants and attractions, have blossomed since the lake was built from 1959 to 1963.

So have the prices of homes.

Lot prices for a three-year balance on a lake home cost $795 in the early 1960s. Lots now are often six digits in many areas, reflecting the modern-day demand to live on lakefront property.

Duke Energy’s presence has been a constant since the lake was built as part of the construction of Cowans Ford Dam.

McGuire Nuclear Station, whose nuclear power units were finished in 1981 and 1984, has become a major employer in the area, said Steven Capps, Duke Energy site vice president.

“McGuire has been a big job creator and it continues to provide the lake with power and provide families with good jobs,” Capps said.

The nuclear station employs 1,200 people in its 700-acre campus off N.C. 73. But other businesses, like Lowe’s Home Improvement – based in Mooresville – have also moved to the area since the 1980s population boom.

The contrast between the Lake Norman of old and the modern lake is very noticeable, said Travis Dancy, sales director for Visit Lake Norman, noting the evolution of increased access.

“Over the years, more and more mediums of accessing the lake have come available with the infusion of boat and jet ski rentals, private charter boat services, waterfront restaurants, kayak rentals and paddle boarding,” Dancy said. 

Lake Norman, as a fishery, has also evolved, Dancy added.

“For a lake that used to be termed the Dead Sea in the 1980s, (it) now hosts several regional and national bass fishing tournaments a year and has served as an economic engine in attracting anglers from all over the world.”