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Top Story No. 7: Lake Lanier turns 50

POSTED: January 10, 2008 5:03 a.m.

The lingering drought and dropping lake levels seemed like just a blip on the radar this summer as everyone celebrated Lake Lanier's 50th year.

There were warnings that if the area didn't receive significant rain - it didn't - that Lake Lanier could hit a new record low - it did. In April, Lanier was only about three feet below full pool; now, the water level stands some 20 feet below full pool.

The golden anniversary of the lake was marked by a summer full of events: 50 days for 50 years, sponsored by the lake's marinas and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Celebrations ran the gamut from boat shows and barbecues to fireworks and regattas. After a summer full of boating on the lake, now only two boat ramps remain open on the lake and navigation is a tricky endeavor at best.

Even The Times honored the history of Lake Lanier with a special three-day series called "A Day on the Lake" in early July in which reporters and photographers trolled the lake from sunrise to sunset.

Lanier began forming in 1956 when the gates of Buford Dam closed, and it didn't reach full pool until 1959.

But event organizers choose 2007 as the celebration of Lanier's 50th because the lake opened for business, both for recreation and power, in 1957. The first power was generated from the dam on June 17, 1957. Holiday Marina, the first marina on Lanier, opened that year, as well.

Now, Holiday and other marinas on the lake are struggling to keep their docks floating and boats in the water as the level of Lanier continues to drop.

Some important milestones in Lanier's history:

  • 1946: Congress OKs building Buford Dam.
  • 1950: Ground breaking is held on site.
  • 1956: Gates of dam intake area closed.
  • 1957: More than 250,000 people visit Lake Lanier as lake opens for business and first power is generated.
  • 1959: Full pool level of 1,070 feet is reached.
  • 1974: Lake Lanier Islands opens.
  • 1981: Lake Lanier reaches a record low level of 1,052.66 feet
  • 1996: Olympic canoe/kayak events held at Clarks Bridge.
  • 2006: More than 8 million people visited Lake Lanier.
  • 2007: Lanier celebrates 50 years as lake's level falls to a new record low.


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