How Wide Is Georgia’s Lake Allatoona?

Written by Samantha Stanich
Updated: July 20, 2023
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Locally pronounced al-TOON-uh, Lake Allatoona is an artificial reservoir in Georgia created by the United States Army Corps of Engineers on the Etowah River. The lake sits in the state’s northwest region, spanning 12,000 acres with 270 miles of shoreline. Much of the shoreline is wild and underdeveloped. The lake is one of the 10 biggest lakes in Georgia, and the massive waters are the perfect spot for boating, swimming, and fishing!

This beautiful lake is only 30 miles outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

Not only is the 11-mile-long lake serene and stunning but is also one of Georgia’s cleanest lakes. Lake Allatoona is 12,000 acres wide or said another way, it has 12,000 acres of surface area. The state contains over 30 lakes, and you can describe Lake Allatoona as “the intersection of heaven and Georgia.” The pristine waters welcome visitors throughout the year to bask in its richness and beauty.

Why Did the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Create the Lake?

Aerial view of Lake Allatoona just after the sunset

The lake holds water that drains from 1,100 square miles of land.

©RodClementPhotography/Shutterstock.com

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created Lake Allatoona in 1949 for flood control, hydroelectric power generation, water supply, and water quality for Atlanta communities. The lake was also created to drive development on the waters and encourage recreation, fish and wildlife management, and attract tourists to the area. The lake is the oldest multipurpose project in the South Atlantic Division.

The organization built a dam that created the lake. It blocks the waters of the Etowah River. Even in 1950, the project cost a pretty penny, around $31,500,000. However, the corps achieved the mission of the lake. As one of the most frequently visited U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes in the nation, Allatoona Lake sees over seven million visitors each year. They also learn the lake’s history at the visitor center and can even visit Civil War battlefields nearby.

Civil War History of Lake Allatoona

Allatoona Pass Cival War Railway Cut

Atlanta fell only five weeks prior to the Battle of Allatoona Pass.

©Cody100589/Shutterstock.com

Before Lake Allatoona was a thriving recreational paradise, it was a bloody battle spot of the Civil War. On the western shore of the lake and Emerson-Allatoona Road sits the Allatoona Battlefield, where the Battle of Allatoona Pass occurred. It was a vicious, eight-hour battle in 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War. The battle stories are rich in dramatics, but the truth is that it is one of the most tragic fights of the war. Over 1,500 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded, or went missing.

It was the first major engagement of the Frankling-Nashville Campaign of the Civil War. The Confederates were led by Maj. Gen. Samuel G. French, attacking Union soldiers under Brig. Gen. John M. Corse. However, Confederate soldiers were unable to dislodge the Union troops from protecting the railroad. The battle inspired the hymn by Peter Bliss Hold the Fort. This song was the surrender message of the French “in order to avoid a needless effusion of blood.”

Is Lake Allatoona Clean?

As one of Georgia’s cleanest and clearest lakes, it offers pure drinking water to surrounding communities. Professionals constantly check Lake Allatoona for blue-green algae and other potential contaminants due to their importance to the area. A lake’s clarity depends on the levels of algae in the lake. If the levels are low, the lake is clear. This means that the soils surrounding the lake are fast-draining and healthier.

The water from Lake Allatoona is also important because groundwater makes up only 1% of Atlanta’s total water supply. The city’s unique geology prevents access to water below the surface because, due to the mountains, there is a thick layer of granite that limits the amount of groundwater. Therefore, surface water, or in this case, lake water, is the best, if not the only, source of water. This is why water management by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is critical. They make sure the supply, treatment, and distribution are safe, clean, and reliable.

Every year, local non-profit groups come together to keep the shores of Lake Allatoona clean. Residents want to ensure the lake remains clean and beautiful for years to come, not just to attract tourists but to keep their drinking water safe.

A beautiful sky above Lake Allatoona in Georgia on a hot summer day.

Reservoirs like Allatoona ensure that areas have water year-round, even during times of drought.

©Veronica Burchill/Shutterstock.com

Is the Lake Drained Every Year?

During the winter months, the engineers drain Lake Allatoona for the purpose of flood control. This occurs so the lake can collect runoff from seasonal rainy seasons. It needs more room for storage. The normal capacity of Allatoona Lake is smaller compared to the amount of water that drains into the lake during heavy rains. So, in order to prevent flooding, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lower the water in the winter because it is when heavy rain fluctuates the most severely. In the summer, rainfall decreases, and the engineers raise the lake water with the dam to around 840 feet above sea level. This is also when recreational use of the lake is at its greatest, and the lake needs the water the most.

Was Lake Allatoona Called the “Dead Sea?”

This nickname for the lake was far from the truth. It was due to that, at one time, fishing was tough on the lake due to the rock and clay at the bottom of the lake, rendering it infertile. So, if you couple that combination with the pressure of producing good fish in a Georgia lake, outcomes a silly nickname.

It is silly because the lake is far from dead. In fact, the irony of the whole name is that it is one of the first lakes to completely recover from the drought of 2007. The fish are plentiful, and in reality, it is the nickname that is dead — not the lake.

What Is At the Bottom of Lake Allatoona?

The ruins of Etowah are purposely at the bottom of the lake near the dam. When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brought the hydroelectric dam to Allatoona Lake to help surrounding areas, the wonderful invention came at a price. The area sacrificed the town of Etowah so that the area could prosper.

The former town was a thriving industrial region. Before the Civil War, around 2,000 residents lived in the town. There was a rolling mill, a flour mill, a carpenter shop, a foundry, spike, and nail mills, a hotel, and iron workers’ homes. In 1949, water poured into the iron town. Considering it victim of the war, and there wasn’t much left, nothing was salvaged. The single monument recognizes Etowah along the Etowah River. It is Cooper’s Furnace which stands behind the dam to mark the ghost town. However, the town did move the graveyard out of respect.

Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain State Park north of Atlanta

The town of Etowah was flooded when the land behind the dam turned into Allatoona Lake.

©Rob Hainer/Shutterstock.com

Can You Swim in Lake Allatoona?

Yes. The lake is completely safe for swimming. There are 15 boat ramps throughout Lake Allatoona, and the waters have a maximum depth of 145 feet. The lake can get chilly in the winter months, but in swimming weather, from June to August, the temperature ranges from 65 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lake Allatoona boasts campsites, boat ramps, marinas, and parks on its shoreline. There is an activity for everyone at the lake! You can swim, rent a boat, have a wonderful picnic, or go fishing, all while admiring the magnificent Georgia scenery.

Camping

There are eight campgrounds with over 600 campsites for public use along the lake, thanks to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Every campground offers a wide range of campsites. This includes double campsites, group campsites, primitive campsites, and even premium campsites with electrical and water hookups.

The campgrounds also offer a large number of amenities, such as group picnic shelters, swimming beaches, playgrounds, boat ramps, showers and restrooms, coin laundry, and even basketball courts!

The campgrounds are:

  • Campground GPS
  • Victoria Campground
  • McKaskey Campground
  • McKinney Campground
  • Old Highway 41 #3 Campground
  • Payne Campground
  • Sweetwater Campground
  • Upper Stamp Campground

Boating

Tourists and locals seem to always rank Allatoona Lake in the top spots when it comes to being one of the best lakes in the state. It is the ultimate lake for every water activity imaginable when it comes to boating. You can fish, waterski, sail, kayak, canoe, you name it, you can do it on the lake!

Fishing

Allatoona Lake is known as one of the best lakes to catch different species of bass. From spotted and largemouth bass to striped and hybrid bass, the lake offers great fishing for all ages and levels. In fact, between 30 and 60 thousand striped bass fingerlings are annually stocked in Allatoona Lake, so it shouldn’t ever be lacking in fish. Fishermen hit the lake in the early morning or dusk when fewer boats are on the waters in hopes of catching a beauty. Other fish include catfish, carp, sunfish species, bluegill, and crappie.

Striped bass caught by angler

The striped bass is fished both commercially and recreationally.

©Steve Brigman/Shutterstock.com

Size Comparisons of Lakes in Georgia

LakeAcresShoreline
Lake Allatoona12,010270 miles
Lake Sinclair15,300417 miles
Lake Oconee19,071376 miles
West Point Lake25,864525 miles
Richard B. Russell Lake26,650540 miles
Lake Lanier37,000692.2 miles
Lake Seminole37,500376 miles
Walter F. George Lake45,000640 miles
Lake Hartwell56,000962 miles
Clarks Hill Lake71,000400 miles

Where is Lake Allatoona Located?

The lake sits on the Etowah River. It is only 30 miles from Atlanta. However, the lake and the bustling city seem like they are worlds apart. Lake Allatoona is in the northwestern part of Georgia, with most of it lying in Cherokee County and a significant portion in southeastern Bartow County. Also, a small portion of the lake sits in Cobb County, not far from Acworth. The waters are serene, and much of the north side of Lake Allatoona remains undeveloped and wild.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Rob Hainer/Shutterstock.com


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