norris dam


Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.

 — (Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It)


This beautiful grist mill near Norris, Tennessee, was built by James Rice and his sons, who finished it in 1798.   It was originally built in another location, and was moved to its current site when the land was going to be flooded due to the construction of Norris Dam. 

The mill is called an “overshot design” mill because the water to turn the wheel is channeled through a flume to the top of the wheel where it pours over it.  

Four generations of the Rice family kept the mill in operation until 1935 when the land it sat on was bought by the TVA because the dam was going to cause it to be flooded.    At different times during its use, in addition to being used to grind flour, the mill powered a sawmill, a cotton gin, a trip hammer, and even a dynamo to supply electricity to the mill and the Rice home.

Members of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Parks Services carefully labeled each and every piece of the mill; and then disassembled it and moved it to its current site adjacent to Norris Dam.  In 1953, the mill was donated to the Tennessee Department of Conservation.