Folks weren't exaggerating low lake levels
Wow. Spurred by the comment in the newspaper, "Remember the 1981 Drought," I searched through my old photographs until I found the pictures I took that winter. I remembered the lake levels being low in the winter of 1981/1982, but I had forgotten just how low the water was.
I had left for college (Auburn U.) in September 1981. It seemed that every time I called home, someone mentioned the continuing drop in lake levels. I believed them to be exaggerating the situation. Was I ever wrong in that assumption!
I took (several) photographs of the lake when I returned for break. At that time, we owned property at another point on Gaines Ferry Road; (they) depict the cove at what is now Four Seasons — the cove lies between Sweetwater Point and Club View.
One photograph shows my father standing at a point along the shore where the water should have been over his head, and he is still some distance from the water’s edge. The other shows the dock pushed out into the cove.
Dangerous items found near dock
The Keim family purchased a lake house on Julian Creek, Lake Lanier in the fall of 1976. Our children were 6 and 10 years old and loved to swim, ski and jump off the dock in cannonball fashion. We had many adult guests who would do the same.
As the water receded from under our dock in 1980, things began to appear along the shore line, which we retrieved and disposed of.
In the fall, school began and the family began spending less time there. During the winter months, as the drought worsened, I decided I should keep a check on the dock to move it out to the water, if possible.
I discovered to my shock, near the water’s new edge, not far from our dock, two 55-gallon drums, filled with concrete, which had two pieces each of angle iron protruding from the sides.
All were rusty and sharp. My heart dropped. What if one of the family or a guest had been injured by those iron pieces ? I had them pulled out of the small amount of water left in front of our dock during the winter.
The drought and the water’s receding may have saved one of us from serious injury.
I also remember that the water level dropped to 1,052 feet above sea level and it was predicted that it may take two years to recover. The lake was at full pool by the summer.
Low lake yielded many treasures
In 1981, we were, like so many at that time, weekenders at our home in Lodgehaven (on the Chestatee). I recall that we had to be very alert to the dropping lake level to avoid beaching our dock.
At the entrance to our cove (near Duckett Mill Park), as the level dropped near its lowest, a small island appeared right in the middle of the cove, which is spring-fed, with old small trees sticking up. As yet, that hasn’t happened again, but we’re on the lookout.
There were far fewer docks then, so beaching was not so obvious as now. As new islands and sandbars appeared, we enjoyed roaming about, picking up old pottery shards and fishing gear galore.
And as is true today, the beaches were covered up with thousands of freshwater mussels and clams. Only then, there was no talk of protecting a few mussels in Florida! The talk then was that the low level was to benefit Lake Lanier Islands in its beach cleanup.
And contrary to general expectations at the time, the lake filled right back up the next summer.
Finally, boaters beware: There are already many old trees and stumps sticking up and many very shallow spots and sandbars. And this will worsen. Night boating is hazardous and all must be very cautious.
W.W. Van Valkenburgh