The Lake Gaston Dam was completed in 1963 and is located in the small town of Thelma, North Carolina on the Roanoke River. The dam creates a lake of over 20,000 acres, 34 miles long, and approximately one and one half miles wide at the lower end of the lake. It has over 350 miles of shoreline. Normal height of the water is 200 feet above sea level and by regulation the water depth may vary only one foot plus or minus from the normal level except in case of emergency.
Lake Gaston borders the counties of Mecklenburg and Brunswick in Virginia and Warren, Halifax and Northampton in North Carolina.Lake Gaston begins on the western end at Kerr Dam, built in 1953 for flood control. Below Lake Gaston is Roanoke Rapids Lake, a smaller lake built in 1955 for hydroelectric power.
The lake is not federally owned. It was formed when the Virginia Electric Power Company built the dam to generate electricity for Dominion Resources, which owns the lake. When water is allowed to pass through the Gaston Dam powerhouse, the station’s four generators can produce up to 55 megawatts each, or a total capacity of 220 megawatts.
Lake Gaston is well stocked with game fish which include striped bass or rock fish, large mouth bass, crappie, sunfish and several varieties of catfish. Other species of fish sometimes caught are walleye, yellow perch and chain pickerel.
Near the center of the lake, the Eaton’s Ferry Bridge crosses the lake. The Eaton’s Ferry operated on the Roanoke River until 1962 when Eaton’s Ferry Bridge was completed across Lake Gaston about a mile upstream of the ferry location. The ferry’s history goes back to the mid 1800’s when it was pulled across the wide river by slaves. The “two-vehicle” ferry was later propelled by a tug with the crossing taking ten minutes.
There are hundreds of subdivisions around the lake where many own retirement homes and many others own homes for weekends or vacations. There are an estimated 150,000 people in the immediate area. There are a few campgrounds and a minimum of public facilities on the lake.
Web Links For Additional Information: Detailed Article on the Flow of the Roanoke River & The Impact of Dams