Lake James is a large reservoir in the mountains of Western North Carolina which straddles the border between Burke and McDowell Counties. It is named for tobacco tycoon and benefactor of Duke University, James Buchanan Duke. The lake, with surface elevation of 1200 ft (366 m), lies behind a series of 4 earthen dams. It was created by Duke Power between 1916-1923 as a hydro-electric project. It still generates power today and is the uppermost lake on the Catawba River system.