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Bear Creek Reservoir is an infant as far as reservoirs go; it was completed and dedicated in 2002. In August 2009 anglers and boaters finally had a place to put in their crafts as construction of a public boat ramp was finally completed. Now the 505 acre lake is well on its way to becoming a fixture in the Northeast Georgia Mountains tourism region. Even at its young age, the lake looks like it has been there forever, as towering trees line the banks and large fish swim the water.
The Georgia General Assembly created the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority in 1994 at the request of four counties: Barrow, Jackson, Oconee and Athens-Clarke. The Authority oversees Bear Creek Reservoir, including its design and creation. A dam 90 feet wide impounds the reservoir. Its construction required nearly 400,000 cubic yards of earth. Construction of the dam and reservoir cost about $47 million dollars. Its purpose is to provide a raw water supply and water treatment to Barrow, Jackson, Oconee and Athens-Clarke counties.
For a long time anglers just had access to Bear Creek Reservoir from the shore, even though a fishery was a part of the plan from the beginning. The Department of Natural Resources even stocked the water with hybrid bass, but the aftermath of 9-11 and Homeland Security concerns caused delays in allowing access to the reservoir for anything other than bank fishing at the designated public area. Nearly eight years after the dedication, a public boat launch has been constructed. Now anglers have a try at the big fish swimming the reservoir at its deepest, 70 feet. Bear Creek Reservoir is undergoing residential development, so contact a local real estate agent to find your dream lake home or lot.
You will find the Bear Creek Reservoir along Highway 330 in Jackson County. The city of Jefferson runs the boat launch. Anglers will find the water filled with catfish, bass, brim, and crappie. Boaters will need to take note: only trolling motors are allowed on Bear Creek Reservoir; diesel and gas engines are prohibited. All crafts must be 20 feet or less in length. There is a fee, and you can only access the water when the ramp is open. No swimming is allowed in the reservoir.
Bird waters will enjoy spying waterfowl on Bear Creek Reservoir. There are four good observation areas. One is along the dam on Savage Road. American pipits and sparrows are common in the winter. In the summer common yellowthroats are frequent visitors. From Savage Road take a right onto Old Savage Road for a look at some of the quiet bays of the reservoir. Wood ducks and hooded mergansers enjoy the back waters of the reservoir. A third observation area is along Route 330. It is a fishing pull-off and small parking area. From there it is a short walk down to the water's edge for a good look at the lake. Another pull-off is along a hill about a half mile down the road. At this spot you can see the bay behind the water control facilities.
After spending days on the water, you may want to check out the surrounding area's numerous opportunities for entertainment. Bear Creek Reservoir is in Jackson County. The county is also home of the University of Georgia. Fall brings the campus to life as the Bulldog football team vies for the SEC title. The Georgia Museum of Art is also on the UGA campus. The permanent collection includes nineteenth and twentieth century American paintings, American, European, and Asian works on paper and the Samuel H. Kress Study Collection of Italian Renaissance paintings. The UGA Performing Arts Center has a yearly performing arts series offering different genres of dance and music.
The Georgia Museum of Natural History is in Athens, a short jaunt from Bear Creek Reservoir. The collections of archaeological, biological, geological, and paleontological materials are studied by University of Georgia students and viewed by the public. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is three miles from the UGA campus. More than 300 acres are included in the complex with portions bordering the Middle Oconee River. The Botanical Gardens feature special collections and specialty gardens. A tropical conservatory displays a broad array of native and exotic plants. Five miles of nature trails offer serene paths natural areas of the grounds.
Just a short drive from Bear Creek Reservoir is the Crawford W. Long Museum. Dr. Long was the first to use ether for surgical anesthesia. His personal artifacts and documents as well as early anesthesia equipment are displayed in the Medical Museum. One of the buildings in the museum complex is the 1858 Pendergrass Store building houses a recreated 1840's doctor's office and apothecary shop. Exhibits on making medicine and early treatments help tell the story of an early country doctor and the obstacles he needed to overcome.
Bear Creek Reservoir offers vacationers an opportunity to meander the placid waters of one of Georgia's newest lakes and a chance to reel in a fish worthy of a tale. The off water activities in the area are diverse enough to offer something for everyone in the family.
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