TVA Norris Dam

October 29, 2007 -- York, SC

One thing we never have to worry about when visiting our good friends Tim & Chris is going hungry. Tim is an amazing chef and throws together, with little apparent effort, the most wonderful meals. I'm going to have to pace myself or I'll gain weight for sure during our visit. We do have a few work projects on the docket that may burn up a few pounds so it may balance out in the end.

While we were in the Knoxville area a few days ago we took an afternoon and drove up to one of the TVA dams to learn and recreate a little. The Tennessee Valley Authority, or TVA, is a federally owned corporation created by congress in 1933. It's goal was, and is, to provide electric power, flood control, navigation, and economic development in the watershed of the Tennessee River -- an area comprising most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. It has 29 dams on the Tennessee or it's tributaries that produce electric power and another 20 non-electric producing dams that work together to provide electricity to over 8.5 million people today. The pools of water backed up behind the dams are long narrow lakes that are great for recreation and waterfront vacation/retirement homes.

By any measure, the Tennessee Valley area was in sad shape in the early thirties. The depression only worsened things. By some accounts as many as 30% of the population suffered from malaria. Incomes were only about $600 per year with many families existing on far less. The land had been farmed too hard leading to depleted soils, erosion, and declining crop yields. Even the best timber had already been logged off. There was little industry due to the remoteness and difficult terrain. Things were tough.

The TVA played a huge part in reviving the area. It provided many jobs during construction of the dams. The electrification of the area brought all the benefits of a cheap clean power source. Industries, and resulting jobs, were attracted by cheap power. The TVA taught farmers how to improve crop yields and manage the soil. They introduced fertilizers. They replanted forests. It was, and is, a tremendous success story.

The dam we visited was Norris Dam. It was the first dam in the TVA system. Completed in 1936, it took 3 years to build. It is 265 feet high and 1,860 feel long. It holds back a pool of water 129 miles long. Although not the largest dam in the system, it's still impressive. Nearby campgrounds, hiking trails, boat launches, and park-like picnic areas were also developed as part of the projects.

We hiked on some trails near the dam and ran into two deer -- a doe and her fawn. They were so unconcerned about us that we could close, maybe only 40 or 50 feet from them. I even had enough time to get a few pictures; here's one... the deer is laying down right in the middle of the picture:

We enjoyed the time at Norris Dam. It reminded me that, once upon a time, the government was successful at something.



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