• River: Chattahoochee River
• Surface Area: 38,542 Acres
• Shoreline: 540 Miles
• Length: 44 Miles
• Volume: 1,917,000 Acre Feet
• Drainage Area: 1,040 Square Miles
Lake Sidney Lanier, often referred to as Lake Lanier, is a reservoir in the northern portion of Georgia. Lake Lanier was created by the completion of Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River in 1956, and is also fed by the waters of the Chestatee River. It was named for poet Sidney Lanier, and was built and is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is patrolled by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The lake is in Hall, Forsyth, Dawson, Gwinnett, and Lumpkin counties, split about 60%, 30%, 5%, 4%, and 1% respectively, filling the valley into numerous small arms and fingers. The former thalweg of the Chestatee and the Chattahoochee south of it form the county line between Hall and a tiny corner of Gwinnett to the east, and Dawson and Forsyth to the west.
One of the main purposes of the lake is flood control downstream of the lake, mainly protecting metro Atlanta. There have only been three major flooding events on the downstream section since the construction of Buford Dam. The most recent flooding event was in 2013.
The lake's original lake and authorized purposes were to provide hydroelectricity, navigation, flood control and water supply for Atlanta.
Lake Lanier began filling in 1956, and in 1957, 20 miles downstream, Morgan Falls Dam was raised to regulate the flow from Buford Dam to give Atlanta water during the hours it was needed most. The foresight of the entire project was confirmed in early fall of 1958 during two solid months of drought which would have left the Chattahoochee and its tributaries nearly dry, if not for the Buford Dam.
Since the 1990s, the Corps of Engineers, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama have all been fighting for use of the water held in Lake Lanier. Federal law mandates that when a river flows between two or more states, each state has a right to an equal share of the water. Additionally, other laws such as the Endangered Species Act require that water be available for threatened or endangered species that live in or around Chattahoochee River and Apalachicola Bay.
Lake Lanier is particularly known for its boaters, houseboats, jetskiers and there is also a local water park, The Lake Lanier Islands waterpark. The 1996 Summer Olympics rowing and sprint canoeing events were held at the lake. It also hosted the canoe sprint World Championships in 2003 at the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club.
Every year from mid-November through December, Lake Lanier Islands are decorated with holiday lights, know as the Magical Nights of Lights, one of the world's largest light shows.