By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
Park closes boat ramps as Lanier water levels near 4-year low
A-Drought closes ramps pic1
Three of the four boat ramps for public use at War Hill Park in Dawsonville have been closed as water levels in Lake Lanier hit a 4-year low. The fourth ramp, an extended low water ramp, remains open. - photo by Allie Dean Dawson County News

Dawson County officials closed three of four boat launching ramps at War Hill Park last week, citing the constantly receding water level in Lake Lanier as a safety hazard for boats going in and out of the water.

Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Henson said that the fourth ramp, a lower water lamp, was extended a few years ago when there was a drought and will remain open for public use. War Hill Park is one of the few public parks on Lake Lanier with a low water ramp.

Henson advised boaters to be mindful of their surroundings and use extreme caution under the current conditions.

Lake Lanier was at 1,062.46 feet above sea level on Oct. 31, the lowest point in more than three and a half years.

The summer full pool is 1,071 feet, and the winter full pool is 1,070 feet.

After a wet winter last year, spring was unusually dry. Rain mostly came in bursts during the summer, such as with thunderstorms.

Hurricane Matthew, which devastated much of the East Coast, had little effect here.

Dawson County is considered in extreme drought- along with much of Hall County and North Georgia, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Currently, 22 public boat ramps at Lake Lanier are closed due to low water.

The lake has about 100 islands. As water levels drop, more of those islands become exposed and temporary islands surface - a serious danger to boaters.

The Army Corps of Engineers' navigation program manager, John Matlack, marks surfacing hazards with large pink buoys. So far, he says, he has 48 out. When the lake's level hits 1,062 feet, he says he'll likely put out another 16 or 17. 

Lanier is still far from the historic low water level of 1,050.79 feet, which took place on Dec. 26, 2007.

One of the outcomes of that drought was the Corps stopped issuing dock permits. Earlier this year, the corps announced no more new permits would be issued until further notice as the lake had reached its limit of 10,615 docks.

Authority figures in Gainesville are advising that citizens move their docks, as Lake Lanier is 8.5 feet below full pool and falling.

"If they don't do it now, they might be stranded," said Val Perry, president of the Lake Lanier Association. "We're hearing we might have a normal winter, which would be OK, but we were supposed to have more rain than we've had so far, and we haven't gotten any."

Staff writer Allie Dean contributed to this story.