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Water Safety

The Chattahoochee River has long been popular with kayakers, tubing enthusiasts, canoeists, swimmers and fishermen, but it can be very dangerous.

Johns Creek Fire Department Water SafetyOver the past few years, the Johns Creek Fire Department Swift Water Rescue Team (check out their water safety video) has rescued dozens of people from the frigid, rushing water of the Chattahoochee.

During a water release from Buford Dam, the river can rise as much as 11 feet in a matter of minutes. Coming from the depths of Lake Lanier, the water can be as low as 47 degrees, cold enough to bring on hypothermia and hamper efforts to swim to shore.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who manage Lake Lanier and dam, typically release water weekday afternoons, but not always. Releases occur within minutes after warning sirens stop.

Find out about releases by calling 770-945-1466 or by listening to 1610 AM on the radio. The announcements may precede the releases by a few hours or even a few minutes. River users may also view the daily schedule for releases (select Buford Dam/Lake Sidney Lanier).

River Safety Tips:

  • Call ahead to see when the Corps of Engineers plans to release water, or better yet, call just before entering the river. Be aware of the time and head for the shore when the release is scheduled. Even though it may take a while for the water to get to you, don't wait.
  • Always wear a flotation device when you're in the water.
  • Keep an eye on the water level – note the water level on a solid fixture, such as a bridge support. Later, if the water level is higher on the fixture, don't assume it's a fluke. The water is rising and it's time to get out!
  • Just because you're in a boat, don't assume you're safe. People have drowned after their boat struck rocks broadside and flipped.
  • Make sure someone knows where you are. Then, if you're stranded or clinging to a rock with rushing water tugging at you, someone can find you and alert authorities.
  • Pay attention to where you are – there are mile-markers along the river. That way if you do have to make an emergency call, you can tell authorities where to find you.

For more information, watch the JC Swift Water Rescue Team's Water Safety Video, and review the US Army Corps of Engineers safety tips for Lake Lanier.