Georgia Man Drowns at Margaritaville on Lake Lanier: Report

by TK Sanders

Seven people died on Georgia waterways over the Memorial Day weekend, including Lake Lanier, a lake that boasts a dark, dubious history.

A 20-year-old man drowned Sunday at a Margaritaville resort in northern Georgia, according to the Forsyth County News. Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GNR) spokesman Mark McKinnon said authorities found the man’s body in the swimming area. Game wardens used side-scan sonar to locate him. Local Hall County Fire Rescue also assisted with the search and rescue efforts.

McKinnon said Monday, May 30, that the department was still looking for the man’s family before releasing his name. DNR also responded to a separate incident at Margaritaville over the weekend when a boater collided with an anchored vessel. No injuries occurred during the boat crash, though.

More than 200 people have died in swimming and boating accidents since 1994 in Lake Lanier. Some locals credit a spooky origin story of the lake for its deadliness. The popular 38,000-acre lake north of Atlanta was created in the 1950s by deliberately flooding valley communities and existing cemeteries. And now, thanks to social media, the lake’s supernatural lore and urban legends have found a collective audience of believers.

Lake Lanier has a complicated history of strong-armed land, accidents, and urban legends

The controversy surrounding the lake project, as described by author and historian Lisa Russell, started long before its inception nearly 75 years ago. The US Army Corps of Engineers wanted to create a lake to provide power and water to Atlanta, and they wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

“At first, the government assured land owners they were paying them the true value of the land and buildings; but residents found it hard to price generations of memories, hard work and deep roots,” Russell wrote in her book, Underwater Ghost Towns of North Georgia. “A host of emotions accompanied the talk of relocation. Anger, resentment, fear, anxiety, bewilderment and apprehension to name a few. To them, their land was priceless.”

The Corps tried moving all major structures to allow for the new lake, but the community cemetery likely went overlooked. Engineers would have identified and moved marked graves; but it’s likely that some unmarked ones were inadvertently left behind, said Cesar Yabor, a spokesman for the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Many creepy structures sit peacefully beneath the lake — decaying relics of times past

“The technological capability to identify and verify unmarked burial sites through subsurface scanning or other means was far less robust 70 years ago,” Yabor told CNN.

Over the decades, divers have also regularly seen creepy structures below the water. YouTube boasts lots of videos of divers showcasing sunken houseboats and piles of debris.

One of Lake Lanier’s best-known urban legends involves a car wreck and ghost called the Lady of the Lake. In 1958, two women died after careening over the edge in their car; and locals believe one of them walks the surface in a blue dress at night, lost and restless. Add in the hundreds of people who have died in accidents on the lake over the years (plus the controversial history of the lake’s origins) and it’s no surprise that urban legends get passed down from generation to generation.