What a difference a month can make!  On December 26th of 2012, Lake Lanier was at 1057.5 feet of elevation and as I sit here and draft this entry one month later, we’re at 1062.3 feet, almost 5 feet higher.

Two of those feet came in a single week of time according to this Gainesville Times article:  http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/section/6/article/78549/ 

This is of course, wonderful news for Lake Lanier users from lakefront residents, to campers, fishermen, sailers, cruisers and everyone that’s part of the huge social and economic circle of life that is Lake Lanier.  While water is most certainly good, when it rises as quickly as it has in the last 30 days, there are things to consider when enjoying the lake that might not normally be on the top of your list.

The Icebergs of Lake Lanier!

The inspiration for this post came the other night, as I stood at the end of my dock watching a bass boat stalking a popular hump on the lake.  It was a cloudy night, in fact raining at times.  As the fisherman pointed his craft up the lake and brought the boat on to plane, I thought about the three “icebergs” that I had seen floating around as I left the dock that morning, and how hitting one of these at speed in a small boat is a recipe for disaster.  The icebergs of Lake Lanier are actually dock floats made of foam, some uncovered (illegal to use these days)  and some encapsulated in hard plastic.

When the lake loses water, lots of things settle on the shoreline.  Docks that aren’t being monitored or run out of space to be “pushed out” settle on the bottom, which often isn’t flat and accommodating.   This can loosen the floats attached to the bottom of the dock frames.  The docks and floats twist and torque until they find a comfortable spot to rest, often at odd angles.  When the lake rises, the reverse happens.  Dock flotation is designed to spread the weight of the dock evenly, keeping the dock level when it’s fully afloat.  When the water rises to reach docks that have settled on uneven ground, the first floats to begin floating take all of the stress until the water rises to meet the rest of the dock.  Floats are often torn from docks and ramps during this cycle, and become the Icebergs of Lake Lanier.

The icebergs then travel the lake at the whim of the wind.  If there is moon and/or starlight on the lake, you can often make out their shapes ahead of you, if you’re paying close attention.  They appear as an “anomaly” in your vision….a break in the pattern of the light on the water, or a symmetrical shadow in an asymmetrical world.  If you’re one of the few boaters on the lake with radar, you can often see them as returns that come and go, particularly if there is any wave action on the lake.

While a glancing blow would likely cause nothing more than momentary panic, a square encounter with one of these blocks, designed to float from hundreds to over 3000 lbs depending on their size, could become an unwelcome launch ramp for your small boat, or easily damage the running gear of a larger yacht.

Other “Stuff” that can sneak up on you

Dock floats are not the only thing to find their way into the lake when it rises rapidly, especially if the storm that brings the water includes wind.  Logs, large tree branches, general trash, plastic bags, life vests, floating “islands” and even lawn chairs have been spotted in the lake after a storm having been coaxed from docks, boats and the shoreline into the water by wind.  None of these would make for a fun encounter in a boat, so your level of caution should be raised whenever storm waters are filling the lake rapidly.

So what’s the most interesting thing you have encountered floating out there?