The man-made lake was first formed when the Catawba Power Company built the Catawba Dam and Power Plant near India Hook, South Carolina in 1904.This dam impounded the Catawba River and created Lake Catawba, which was utilized to create hydro-electric power. In 1905, the Catawba Power Company became part of the Southern Power Company.
In 1924, the Southern Power Company raised the level of the dam and built the new Catawba Hydroelectric Station to replace the original. This facility opened in August 1925, increasing the surface area of Lake Catawba from 668 acres (2.70 km2) to 13,400 acres (54.2 km2). The Southern Power Company was merged with Duke Power Company in 1927.