Popular & Clean Lake Lanier
Taken from Gainesville times artical
There are plenty of lakes in Georgia, and nearly all of them offer recreational opportunities. But
many people drive right past those other bodies of water and head straight for Lake Lanier.
"One of the advantages of this lake is its size," said Jan Butze, dockmaster at Aqualand Marina on Lanier.
"You've got more room to play, especially for the sailboats and power boats. There's also lots of island space, lots of places to pull up onto the beaches."
Fishing guide Bill Vanderford said Lanier is
a top choice for anglers, and not just in Georgia.
"Lanier gets national attention because of its fishing tournaments, and it's pretty well known anywhere," he said. "I hear from people all over the world
who are interested in Lake Lanier."
Vanderford said Lanier will always be his first choice among Georgia's lakes.
"It probably has the best water quality of any of the lakes in our area," he said. "Anything on the Chattahoochee River south of Atlanta is going to be polluted. But Lanier's
headwaters are near Helen and Dahlonega, where there's not much industry."
Len Jernigan, manager of Holiday Marina near Buford, said Lanier just offers a more pleasurable experience for boaters.
"Lakes such as Allatoona (near Cartersville) don't have the clarity of Lanier," Jernigan said. "Their water is muddier. And the shoreline is more convoluted, so there's not as much open water to cruise around in."
Lanier's 38,000-acre surface area and 160-foot maximum depth create a wide variety of habitats for fish and other wildlife.
"I can't think of a lake that has a more diverse population of fish. Both cold-water and warm-water species can thrive here," Vanderford said.
While Lanier is a great playground for fishermen, it's paradise for the fish.
"They (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) didn't clear the forests when they built Lanier. The trees underwater provide plenty of places for fish to hide out," Vanderford said.
And the Georgia Department of Natural Resources keeps the lake stocked with the most desirable species, so no angler goes home unhappy.
"Their stocking program for striper is excellent," Vanderford said. "And in terms of the size and number of fish, this is probably the best spotted bass lake in world."
But Lanier is also a huge draw for boaters of all kinds, regardless of whether they care about fishing.
"The lake's main advantage is that it's close to a major city, and Atlanta does provide the bulk of our business," said Janis Helmka, office manager for Aqua Sports Adventures, a boat rental service based at Holiday Marina.
But it isn't just proximity to a metropolitan area that brings people to Lanier.
"It's a really beautiful lake," Helmka said. "You have mountain views, and great facilities. The campgrounds are some of the finest I've ever been to."
Lanier attracts about 8 million visitors each year, with activities ranging from swimming, picnicking and camping to sailing, fishing and water-skiing.
"In terms of just the number of individuals who participate, swimming is probably the most popular activity," said Michael Lapina, a park ranger with the corps at Buford Dam.
That's partly because it's among the cheaper options. A parking fee of just a few dollars gives a whole carload of people a day filled with swimming, picnicking and playing in the day-use parks. And some activities cost nothing at all.
"During the winter season, you'll see more bird-watchers and hikers," Lapina said. "But most people who come to the lake prefer more active types of recreation (such as water sports)."
Marilyn Phipps, spokeswoman for the corps' district office in Mobile, said Lanier's recreation budget this year is about $3.4 million, out of the lake's total budget of $7.7 million.
While that may seem like a big chunk of change, the corps actually loses money operating its parks.
"We collect slightly over $1 million each year in user fees, but all that money goes to the U.S. Treasury," Lapina said.
For-profit companies such as marinas lease lakeside property from the corps, and they in turn can sublease land to other businesses, such as boat-rental companies.
Overall, Lanier is estimated to have an economic impact of at least $5.5 billion, though it's difficult to break down that total into different categories of recreation.
Vanderford believes as long as the lake stays environmentally healthy, it will be economically healthy as well.