Lake Lanier, Georgia, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Georgia - Northeast Georgia Mountains -

Also known as:  Lake Sidney Lanier

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.

Things to do at Lake Lanier

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish species found at Lake Lanier

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brook Trout
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Spotted Bass
  • Striped Bass
  • Trout

Lake Lanier Photo Gallery

Lake Lanier Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Not Known

Water Level Control: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 38,000 acres

Shoreline Length: 692 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,071 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,035 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,085 feet

Average Depth: 60 feet

Maximum Depth: 160 feet

Water Volume: 1,957,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1959

Water Residence Time: 465 days

At LakeLubbers.com, we strive to keep our information as accurate and up-to-date as possible, but if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you!
Please let us know about it on our Content Correction form.

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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