Memorial Day weekend on the shores of Lake Lanier means boating, swimming, tubing, water skiing, splashing — basically anything that involves a dip in the cool waters.
For those who grew up on the lake, it’s all second nature.
For others, the thought of swimming in Lanier just sounds a bit, well, icky. And still others worry about the dangers of swimming in open water.
Here are a few tips to keep everything enjoyable.
1. Don’t swim after a good rain
Runoff brings bacteria flowing down Lanier’s tributaries and into your swimming area. Come across a nasty bacteria and you could get infections and gastrointestinal problems. These bacteria come from the guts of warm-blooded animals and they don’t survive long in the lake, though, so just wait and hit the lake later. How much later? Dale Caldwell of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, which monitors water quality of the lake, suggests waiting about as many days as it rained before you get back in the lake. Sample results available May 26 passed EPA standards.
2. Wear a life jacket when boating
Drowning victims are hardly ever pulled out of Lanier wearing life jackets. If you’re involved in a boating accident and knocked unconscious, all the swimming expertise in the world won’t save you. A life jacket might. Know the boating rules, too, please.
3. Drink responsibly
Some parts of the lake are known for a party atmosphere, but driving a boat while drinking is just as illegal as driving a car while drinking. Drinking can also be a contributing factor in drownings as motor functions are impaired.
4. Watch your kids
When someone goes under the water in Lanier, it’s not quite so easy to see them as when they are in a pool. Swimming to the side of the pool isn’t an option in open water like Lanier, and the bottom of the lake doesn’t always slowly get deeper like a pool, either. Steep drop-offs can surprise even adults. Know the swimming abilities of those you care about.
5. Know where you are
If an emergency does happen, emergency personnel need to know where you are. You can likely pull up your location on your phone and find the nearest roads or landmarks. Dispatch can usually get a general location from mobile phone towers. All that said, sometimes technology fails. “A lake map tucked away on board the boat is a must have back-up,” Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Stephen Wilbanks said. And it never hurts to pay attention and make a mental note of channel markers and major landmarks.