Actual Factual Gwinnett: Why do we have so little of Lake Lanier?

This is "Actual Factual Gwinnett," a regular column in which Tyler Estep answers reader questions about Gwinnett happenings and history. Read previous editions — like this one examining that mysterious statue atop the Mall of Georgia — by clicking the hyperlinks at the bottom of this column, where you'll also find information for submitting your own questions. Enjoy!

Greetings, friends. Let's go lakin'.

Reader Avery writes: "Is the Buford Dam considered to be in Gwinnett County? If so, how come we have the dam but very little of the actual lake?"

Innnnteresting question, Avery, and one that's bounced around in my tiny little brain more than once over the years.

The Buford Dam — which was built in the '40s and '50s to plug up the Chattahoochee River and create northeast Georgia's favorite manmade lake (as well as, you know, hydroelectric power) — is indeed in Gwinnett. You can see lots of pretty old pictures (and learn a little more history) in the photo gallery here.

In the map below, you can also see how little of the lake Gwinnett (in red) lays claim to (though it's worth noting that Lanier is a federal reservoir, so no county actually "has" any part of it, just varying amounts of land butting up to it): so little? Relax, Ave, we're getting to it. I didn't know the answer so I asked the proper authorities — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"The adjacent counties and the area they have along the lake," public affairs chief E. Patrick Robbins told me, "is a result of where the waters backed up due to terrain when Buford Dam was constructed and established county lines."

Or, to put it another way:

"We did not change any boundary lines, they are what they were prior to the lake."

So yeah...they basically just kind of, like, stopped up the 'Hooch and it filled it up like that. I'm oversimplifying a bit, of course — there was an in-depth plan, and they knew where the water was going to go — but you get the gist.

Of course, none of that is overly exciting, Avery — so how 'bout we take this opportunity to look at cool old AJC stories about Lake Lanier and the Buford Dam? Ones that say things like "as the crow flies" and "Economic Monolith for Dixie" (1948) ...

...and "Now they've gone and put the Chattahoochee River through a mountain (1954) ...

...and "site of the Buford Dam and the huge reservoir it will create" (1949):

All that a little too cheery for ya, Avery? Click here to find out just how deadly Lake Lanier has become.

Or don't. Not much of it's in Gwinnett, anyway.

I, Tyler Estep, am a staff writer with the AJC and a Gwinnett County native. To submit “Actual Factual Gwinnett” questions, contact me at, @ByTylerEstep on Twitter or via the form below.