Lakes are a popular attraction in the mountains of north Georgia. What most people don't know is that each lake has a declared purpose that determines things such as minimum and maximum water levels, frequency of release, and quantity of water released, which can have a major impact on recreation, which is the reason the lakes attract so many people.
Tallulah Lake, completed in 1912, was built expressly for power generation. The completion of the dam restricted water flow through Tallulah Gorge, once the most popular vacation destination in the Southeast United States. Today, so-called aesthetic releases increase the flow of water through the gorge on a regular schedule.
Lake Burton, completed in 1925, is a watershed lake designed to hold water for power generation. The term watershed means that the lake is used to capture the heavy rains of spring. Seed Lake, between Burton and Tallulah, is a unique type of lake created by a reregulation dam. This allows water released through Burton's generator at peak periods to be reused by pumping it back into Lake Burton during low-use times.
In addition to Burton, Seed (or Nachoochee) and Rabun, Georgia Power also manages two smaller reservoirs, Lake Yonah (325 acres) and Lake Tugalo (597 acres).
Three lakes in the northern tier are so-called TVA lakes, managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority to create power in the mid-central United States. Although Lake Blue Ridge was created in 1925 as Lake Toccoa to generate power locally, it is now combined with Lake Chatuge and Lake Nottely and falls under TVA management. According to a TVA spokesman, the lakes are also used as watersheds, controlling runoff and water flow to lakes further north and west.
Lake Lanier is the gem of north Georgia. Strategically located between State Road 400 and I-85 northeast of Atlanta, the lake is the most popular Corps of Engineers lake in the United States. The dammed waters of both the Chattahoochee River and the Chestatee Rivers are used to aid navigation on the Chattahoochee further south. At least, that is the declared primary purpose of this "multi-purpose" lake. Additional purposes include drinking water, power generation and recreation.
Between Ellijay and Carters, Georgia, Carters Lake is a watershed designed to hold the seasonal waters of the Coosawattee (Little Coosa) River, which is formed in downtown Ellijay by the confluence of the Ellijay and Cartecay Rivers. Carters Lake has a unique place in Georgia history. Named for Farish Carter, who was one of the richest men in the state before The Civil War, the lake was created in 1970 from one of the best white-water runs in the world. The novel Deliverance is a fictionalized account of an actual event that occurred on this stretch of the Coosawattee shortly before the dam was completed.
East of Cartersville, Georgia, (history of Cartersville) is another watershed, Lake Allatoona, designed to hold the seasonal runoff of the Etowah River. Before its completion in 1947 the spring rains would create problems throughout the Etowah River valley every few years. The city of Rome, Georgia was repeatedly flooded by its waters. Now the lake is drained slowly during the fall and winter, capturing the spring rains for summer recreation.
Many county and city water systems also draw from Lake Allatoona for supplemental drinking water and use it for sewerage disposal. According to Dwight Turner, Public Information Director of the Cherokee County Water and Sewerage Authority, the effluent discharged into the lake is cleaner than the water that's already there.
Smaller lakes throughout the countryside create recreational opportunities for outdoors-oriented people. Among the most popular are Lake Winfield Scott (east of Suches) and Lake Marvin (in the Pocket), both created by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
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