Lake Lanier in northeast Georgia is a favorite recreation spot for millions each year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that some 7.5 million people visit Lake Sidney Lanier annually. And why not? Boating, fishing, camping, swimming? Yes, please! Sign me up!
But most people don't know the history behind this popular man-made lake. Or more specifically, they don't know about the sunken livelihoods at the bottom of this monumental 39,000 acre reservoir. Nor may they know about the scores of farms that were swallowed up by the rising waters, farms that had been in families for generations.
Additionally, most people may not even wonder what's at the bottom of this more than 1,100-foot-deep body of water. Gorgeous sunsets, warm sunny days and life on the water can have that effect, right?
Lake Sindey Lanier was created in the 1950s as an answer to the area's water supply needs, including those of the growing metropolitan area of Atlanta. After much effort on the part of many people, the groundbreaking for the project, which included the new Buford Dam, took place in the spring of 1950.
Soon after, the government began buying up all the land needed for the project. They purchased more than 50,000 acres, reportedly paying landowners thirty dollars per acre. Some 700 families had to move to make way for the lake. Some moved their homes, but others just moved their belongings.
It's been reported that the landowners were also paid for each building they were leaving behind. It's unclear whether this Apple Cider stand was moved or abandoned when all was said and done. But other buildings were abandoned, some of them to be torn down, especially the wooden buildings. Any buildings and structures that would be tall enough to extend above a water depth of 35 feet at the high water level were removed.
Several block buildings and structures that weren't tall enough to extend above a depth of 35- feet remain at the bottom of Lake Lanier, mostly in a decomposing state, the mortar holding the blocks together having crumbled long ago. But there are remnants of the farms that still protrude above the water line.
If you want to see some remnants of the farms that used to dot this countryside that is now Lake Lanier, you only have to look at the horizon. The 160 islands that grace this beautiful lake are actually the hilltops of those farms. They're beautiful and lush and seem to carry on the legacy of livelihood for the families that were forced to move to make way for progress.
A drought in 2007 caused the lake levels to lower by several feet, creating painfully low levels for some residents with docks and boats, and creating havoc on the area's water supply. Here you can see how these floating docks had become beached due to the low water levels.
That same drought exposed the stadium seating for the old racetrack now at the bottom of Lake Lanier.
The track and the memories etched into this plot of land are at the bottom of Lake Sidney Lanier.
In 2013, YouTube user and diver,
captured some amazing footage of some ruins at the bottom of this lake.
These red arrows we added point to pieces of wood. The one on the left appears to point to wooden flooring or decking amid the other rubble here, which includes building blocks.
Did you know about the sunken history of Lake Sidney Lanier? Are you among the 7.5 million who enjoy spending time on this man-made reservoir each year? We’d love to know the answers to both in our comments!