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Lake Sidney Lanier, better known as Lake Lanier, stretches out over 38,000 acres and 692 miles of shoreline along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in northeast Georgia. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created Lake Lanier during the 1950's by constructing the Buford Dam and impounding the Chattahoochee River. Lake Lanier provides flood protection, hydropower production, water supply, recreation, fish and wildlife management, and navigation downriver.
Construction of the Buford Dam and powerhouse took six years, from 1950 to 1956. The lake began filling in 1956 and reached its normal elevation of 1071 feet above sea level in 1959. Lake Sidney Lanier is named after the Georgia born poet and musician who died in 1881.
Lake Lanier is a premier residential location and vacation destination located about an hour northeast of Atlanta. Recreational opportunities are limited only by your imagination, whether you choose fishing, camping, boating, sailing, picnicking, swimming, hiking, or geocaching. The Corps operates 46 park areas around Lake Lanier with more than 70 boat launch ramps, 20 swimming areas, 8 campgrounds, hiking trails, and hundreds of picnic sites and shelters. Many private marinas around the lake provide boat launch ramps, boat slip rentals, dry boat storage, boat rentals, fuel, pump-out facilities, shower and laundry facilities, restaurants, and supplies.
More than 100 islands dot the surface of Lake Lanier, ranging from small hill-tops poking above the water line to the largest - Three Sisters Island - at 148 acres. The islands are popular boating destinations for hiking, wildlife viewing, swimming, picnicking and geocaching. Houseboat rentals are popular, and boaters stake their claims in the islands' quiet coves.
Anglers flock to Lake Lanier for black bass, spotted bass, largemouth bass, and striped bass. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources stocks the lake yearly with striped bass fingerlings, since stripers do not usually reproduce in freshwater. Trout fishing below Buford Dam is also popular, including rainbow, brown and brook trout. The Corps advises anglers to use caution when fishing below the dam. When water is released from the dam, levels on the Chattahoochee River can rise 11 feet in a matter of minutes. The Corps sounds warning sirens before scheduled water releases.
Hikers will enjoy Lake Lanier's flora and fauna along two trails. The 3.8 mile Laurel Ridge Trail, located near the Buford Dam, provides beautiful views along the lake's shoreline and the banks of the Chattahoochee River. The 1.05 mile Little Ridge Trail provides wildlife viewing opportunities.
Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River supply water to 3.5 million Georgians. Communities around the lake can withdraw up to 100 million gallons of water daily from the lake. Cities and counties downstream from Lake Lanier, including Atlanta, depend on water released from the lake into the Chattahoochee River through the Buford Powerhouse. These cities and counties can withdraw up to 3.5 million gallons daily from the river. The extreme drought during 2007 lowered water levels from a normal level of 1071 feet above sea level to 1050 feet, necessitating extreme water conservation efforts.
More than 7.5 million people visit Lake Lanier every year for its aqua-blue water, varied recreational activities, and spectacular scenery, so pack your bags and plan your trip soon.
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