Lake Lanier Information

Lake Lanier lies with its southern border 36 miles northeast of Atlanta, Georgia, in Dawson, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Hall, and Lumpkin counties. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) manages Lake Lanier. Lake Lanier covers over 37,000 acres with 692 miles of shoreline, an average depth of 60 feet, and a maximum depth of 160 feet. 

Lake Lanier has 160 large and small islands. The Chestatee and Chattahoochee rivers feed Lake Lanier, which originates in the Chattahoochee National Forest of the North Georgia Appalachian Mountains. Hall and Forsyth Counties contain most of the lake. The U.S. government purchased over 50,000 acres to build Lake Lanier’s Buford Dam. 

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and local law enforcement patrols Lake Lanier. Georgia, Alabama, and Florida hold water rights to this reservoir. Bottomland hardwood-cypress forests and plenty of wildlife line the shorelines of Lake Lanier. Visitors and residents are cautioned to be extremely careful boating on and swimming in Lake Lanier, especially after dusk. 

The Georgia DNR reported between 2008 to 2018 there were 42 fatalities, and in 2021, there were 14 boating-related fatalities, 67 injuries, and 114 incidents. Since the Lake Lanier’s inception, 700 have drowned. Its waters are murky. It is hard to see where someone is when they go overboard or become distressed when swimming. Lake Lanier is beautiful with much to offer, so these statistics do not deter people from experiencing its natural wonders. Lake Lanier sees almost 12 million visitors annually.


Lake Lanier History

Its official name is Lake Sidney Lanier (1842–1881). Sidney Lanier served in the Confederate Army as a private who worked on a blockade-running ship. The U.S. government imprisoned him in 1864 during the Civil War. He contracted tuberculosis then. Sidney Lanier was much more than a war veteran. He played the violin, flute, piano, banjo, and guitar. He was an author, lawyer, and still is a famous poet. 

Lake Lanier was named after the poet and Confederate army veteran, Sidney Lanier. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the Buford Dam, which created Lake Lanier, and Morgan Falls Dam, 20 miles downstream, in 1957. Both dams regulate navigation and flood control on the Chattahoochee River to regulate the flow of water from the Buford Dam to Atlanta. The Buford Dam produces hydroelectricity. 

The Cherokee Indians populated the mountains and Lake Lanier region for hundreds of years before they ceded their land in 1817 and 1819 in two treaties to the U.S. government. The Cherokees operated this territory as a trading center. The land opened up to settlement after the treaties. Lake Lanier mostly touches the borders of Hall and Forsyth Counties. Hall County on the east was established in 1818 and Forsyth County on the west in 1831. 

Scots-Irish, English, and German descendents settled the area first. The mountains near Lake Lanier experienced a small gold rush from 1828 to about 1840 that brought thousands of people to northwest Georgia. This part of Georgia saw little Civil War action, and it did not have the plantations of southern Georgia, but men from the region joined Confederate companies in large numbers. The railroads arrived in Hall County in 1871.

Before and after the gold rush, farmers primarily grew cotton, and after the railroads came to Gainesville, the county seat of Hall County, the area became a textile industry hub. Then it developed into a poultry hotspot after WWII. The major poultry producers of Gress Foods, King’s Delight, Mar-Jac Poultry, and Pilgrim’s Pride are located in Hall County.

The creation of Lake Lanier brought an economic boom to northwestern Georgia. Hispanic residents, attracted by industry, and lake property homebuyers account for much of the population boom around Lake Lanier today. Visitors will hear Spanish and English in this region. Lake Lanier boasts loads of nature with 76 parks and recreation areas, seven USACE campgrounds with almost 500 campsites, eleven full-service marinas with restaurants, gas docks, pump-out stations, and boat storage.


Lake Lanier Fishing

Predominant game species include largemouth, spotted, striped, white, and yellow bass, bluegill, black crappie, channel and flathead catfish, longnose gar, yellow perch, green, redbreast, and redear sunfish, brook, brown, and rainbow trout, walleye, and warmouth. Lake Lanier bass fishing is famous, especially for striper fishing because it is one of the premier striped bass fisheries in the U.S. 

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service stock Lake Lanier and other Georgia designated trout waters with three species of trout grown at the Buford Hatchery south of the lake. Hundreds offshoot inlets with thousands of coves line the borders of Lake Lanier, which gives anglers superior fishing opportunities. 

Lake Lanier anglers catch trophy stripers year-round, and they are huge. Fishing guides report that stripers weigh the most from the full moon in February to the full moon in April, but May is great for stripers too. Sometimes they bite more at night, and Lake Lanier’s striped bass record was 47 pounds in 2010.  

Striped bass move to deep-water around points, submerged islands, and river and creek beds in the summer at 20 to 40-feet, but sometimes they move down to 70 to 100-feet deep. Fall and winter brings cooler water, and stripers roam into shallow areas where they hang out at rocks, stumps, and standing timber. The other bass species also go to deeper water in summer. 

Anglers will find crappie spawning in shallow areas with grass, stumps, and brush. Crappie hold in deep water through summer at 12 to 20 feet, but they will move deeper. Brush piles and flooded timber also attract more crappie. In spring, look for spotted bass in fish cover and structure in shallow water, such as submerged timber and points leading to deep water. 

Catfish like deep pools and runs over sand or rocks and hang out in most areas of Lake Lanier.  Bluegill are found on open banks, but will typically swim in areas that have some sort of structure. In April and early May, after spawning, walleye roam in the upper reaches of the main lake and the rest of the year, walleye move into the lower lake and close to the bottom around brush piles and trees between 20 to 40-ft deep. 

The lower portions of Lake Lanier have limited fish cover. The upper creek and river channels provide more shoreline structure with fallen trees, humps, overhanging banks, rocky drop-offs, and stumps. Brush piles have been placed around docks and in coves, and tree tops have fallen into the lake, but Lake Lanier does not contain a lot of vegetation or brush piles. To fully experience great fishing your first time at Lake Lanier, pro Lake Lanier fishing guides are prolific, but book a fishing charter early during the summer. 

Check out experienced local pro guides on our Lake Lanier Fishing Guides page. 


Boating Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier is Georgia’s largest lake, but it is extremely crowded in the summer, and an average of five people drown each year in this lake. With almost 12 million annual visitors, chances increase that something can and will go wrong. 700 people have drowned in Lake Lanier since it was built, so boaters and swimmers need to be extremely when on this lake. The Georgia DNR gives plenty of warnings to visitors and boaters about dangerous conditions on Lake Lanier. 

First, Lake Lanier’s waters are murky. If someone goes overboard from a boat, and becomes disabled and in distress when swimming, it is hard for their family, friends, or EMTS to locate them under water. The DNR advises all boaters to wear life jackets. Second, there were 525 Boating Under the Influence (BUI) arrests on Lake Lanier between 2008 and 2018. Do not drink and boat. Third, the huge amount of people boating in the summer months greatly increases the chance of boating accidents. 

Lake Lanier Boating Rules:

  • People born on or after January 1st of 1998 must take a DNR-approved boater education course before using a boat on Georgia state waters. 
  • Children under the age of twelve cannot operate a vessel that is longer than sixteen feet. They may run a vessel that is shorter than sixteen feet, but only if the boat has less than 30 horsepower or is non-motorized, as long as a competent adult accompanies them.
  • All boats must have a type I, II, or III personal floatation device (PFD). Boats sixteen to twenty-six feet long must have a Type IV PFD. People on personal watercraft and those under the age of thirteen must wear their PFD while on the water, moving or not.
  • Personal watercraft cannot be operated between sunset and sunrise.
  • While alcohol is permitted on the water, vessel operators cannot exceed a blood-alcohol level of .08 or higher.

With the safety precautions out of the way, Lake Lanier is one of the most beautiful lakes in the U.S. with 160 islands, stunning views, thousands of coves and wildlife. Spring is the best for wildlife viewing from your boat. Lake Lanier’s forests show off bursts of color and are a refuge for squirrels, rabbits, white-tailed deer, and wild turkeys. 

There are 11 full service marinas on Lake Lanier with all the amenities a boat home or boat visitor could want. Boat rentals include canoes and kayaks, fishing boats, power boats, PWCs, aquacycles, pontoons, and more, from the many boat-centered businesses dotted around Lake Lanier. 

Shop or sell a boat on our Lake Lanier Boats for Sale page. 

Plan your trip to Lake Lanier by calling one of the marinas today on our Lake Lanier Marinas page, and explore our Lake Lanier Boat Ramps Map


Lake Lanier Real Estate

Lake Lanier homes for sale are considered the largest market in Georgia for lake homes and lake lots. Lake homebuyers usually can find about 640 Lake Lanier homes for sale, and 480 lake lots and land for sale. Lake Lanier homes for sale have an average list price of $528,000, but there are numerous other price points. 

U.S. Route 19 runs along the eastern border of Lake Lanier, and U.S. Route 23 runs along its western shores. Nine towns with school districts dot these highways. Buford on the southern border and Gainesville on the northern border are the largest towns, plus eight Walmart Supercenters surround the lake. The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is about 55 miles from Lake Lanier’s southern border. 

To find your dream home, explore our Lake Lanier Homes for Sale page. 


Lake Lanier Cabin Rentals

Some of the USACE campgrounds offer well-maintained cabin rentals. Lake Lanier has developed communities with numerous private, lakefront cabins available. If you want a vacation home rental, the sky is the limit. There are some huge rental homes to cozy cottages surrounding Lake Lanier. 

These rentals come equipped with any amenity and in any size you require. Check vrbo.com and airbnb.com for them. There is no shortage of cabins or vacation home rentals, but during the summer season, you need to book in advance. Lake Lanier is extremely popular. 

Find the perfect vacation home on our Lake Lanier Cabins page. 


Lake Lanier Camping

The USACE operates over 40 parks at Lake Lanier, and the lake offers 76 recreational areas. The Lanier Islands are a cluster of islands in the southern pool of Lake Lanier with RV camping, glamping tents, a lodge, a resort, the Margaritaville entertainment center with a water park, a beautiful beach, a beach bar, a bar and grill, boat docks, and more. The rest of the parks and campgrounds give access to the boating, hiking, marinas, and swimming. 

The USACE does not allow camping on the other Lake Lanier islands. The USACE manages seven campgrounds at Lake Lanier with 482 campsites, and 430 have electric and water hookups for RVs. All USACE campgrounds provide beach areas, boat ramps, pavilions, fire pits, picnic tables, and restrooms. Most USACE campgrounds have showers, playgrounds, ADA accessible sites, and manned entry stations.

The Don Carter State Park offers two-bedroom cabins, 44 tent, trailer, and RV camping, and 14 primitive campsites. Amenities include four picnic shelters, boat ramps and docks, a fish cleaning station, a sandy swim beach, playgrounds, outdoor fitness equipment, and a gift shop. This state park is located on the northern end of Lake Lanier, near Gainesville, Georgia. 

Most of the privately owned Lake Lanier RV parks are not on Lake Lanier’s shoreline because the USACE owns the land. They are located near the lake with access to all the lake recreational areas. Several cities, counties, the State of Georgia, and the federal government manage Lake Lanier’s parks. There is no single set of rules, operating hours or seasons, and no single pass that can get you into all of them. You can buy USACE Georgia annual park passes.

Check out our list of campgrounds and RV parks for your family adventure on our Lake Lanier Camping page. 


Hiking Lake Lanier

The Lanier Islands have four trails. The Legacy Lite Path is a 1.4-mile walk around the Lite grounds of Legacy Lodge. It begins at Legacy South Parking Lot Legacy Lodge. The Cardio First is a 1.2-mile concrete sidewalk that runs from Legacy Lodge to the Clock Tower Roundabout. It begins at Legacy South Parking Lot and connects with the Lanier Trail.

Legacy Limits is a 1.6-mile trek around the tip of Legacy Clock Trail Island. It is a natural trail formed by deer and runs along the water’s edge with natural obstacles. The 1-mile LakeHouse Power Path offers a paved loop past the Grand Hall. It connects with the Lanier Trail. The Lanier Trail offers 2.9 miles of paved sidewalks with gorgeous views and varying elevations. It starts at the Team Building Center and ends at the RV Resort Welcome Center. 

The Don Carter State Park has five trails, the Woodland Loop, 1-mile: paved, Terrapin Cove Trail, 1-mile: natural, Overlook Trail, 1/8-mile: paved, Lakeview Loop Trail, 1/2-mile: paved, and Huckleberry Trail, 3/4-mile: natural. The USACE recreational areas and campgrounds have hiking trails, and elsewhere on USACE property, the public is welcome to hike anywhere on its property and the islands to enjoy the woods, wildlife, and views of Lake Lanier. Where there are no designated hiking trails, hikers should bring a map or compass so they do not get lost.


Hunting Lake Lanier

During November and December, deer and feral hog hunting is allowed on designated islands. Hunters must obtain a permit from the Lake Lanier USACE office prior to hunting. For safety, hunting is restricted to bow and arrow. The USACE does not allow firearms. Canada goose and teal hunting season on Lake Lanier is generally in September. You must have a waterfowl permit.  

You may not hunt these waterfowl within 1000 feet of any dock, house, bridge, road, boat ramp, marina, etc., or in Bald Ridge Creek, Shoal Creek, and any area south of Lake Lanier Islands. In order to get a hunting license, hunters aged 16 and older will need to complete a hunting education course. Residents may sign up for online or classroom courses at gohuntgeorgia.com or by calling 1-800-366-2661.


Lake Lanier Things to Do

Lake Lanier Restaurants offer all types of cuisines at the marinas, the Lanier Islands Resort, and in the historical nearby towns, plus shopping in quaint boutiques, and there are eight Walmart Supercenters around the lake for supplies. The Lanier Islands Legacy Golf Course, Lanier Golf Club, and Chicopee Woods Golf Course are public courses. Only members can book a tee time for Chestatee Golf Club in Dawsonville, but it has a practice range open to nonmembers.

Zipline over Lake Lanier from Margaritaville at the Lake Lanier Margaritaville Waterpark. Rent an aquacycle at Don Carter State Park for 30 minutes or one hour. Take a biplane ride over Lake Lanier from Biplane Rides Over Atlanta or a hot-air balloon ride from Balloons Over Georgia. Or go on a boat tour or cruise from one of the many charter companies serving Lake Lanier. 

Buford and Gainesville are the two largest cities in the Lake Lanier vicinity. After a full day on the lake, many visitors thoroughly enjoy exploring the historic downtowns of these friendly cities. If you visit Lake Lanier from somewhere other than Atlanta, this city is only one hour from Lake Lanier, and one of the most exciting and historical cities in the U.S. with tons of attractions, diverse cultures, and kitschy neighborhood hangouts.  

Plan the perfect day trip or vacation on our Things to Do at Lake Lanier page.


Lake Lanier Zip Codes

Dawson County, Georgia: 30534.

Forsyth County, Georgia: 30536, 30541.

Gwinnett County, Georgia: 30518.

Hall County, Georgia: 30501, 30504, 30506, 30542, 30554, 30566. 

Lumpkin County, Georgia: 30533, 30534, 30564. 


Lake Lanier Weather & Climate 

Lake Lanier sees an average of 40 inches of rain, with no snow, and 229 days of sunshine per year. The winter low in January is 35 degrees and a summer high in July of 95 degrees. April, May, and October are the most comfortable months for this region. January and December are the least comfortable months. 

Keep your eyes on the skies with our Lake Lanier Weather Forecast page. 

Lake Lanier Email Updates


 

Lake Lanier Current Weather Alerts

There are no active watches, warnings or advisories.

 

Lake Lanier Weather Forecast

Friday

Mostly Sunny

Hi: 95

Friday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 72

Saturday

Slight Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 96

Saturday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 71

Sunday

Rain Showers Likely

Hi: 91

Sunday Night

Chance Thunderstorms

Lo: 70

Monday

Rain Showers

Hi: 83

Monday Night

Rain Showers Likely

Lo: 69


Lake Lanier Water Level (last 30 days)


Water Level on 8/25: 41.92 (-0.08)