West Point Lake | West Point, Georgia
West Point GA 31833
Located in west central Georgia on the border between Georgia and Alabama, West Point Lake is one of 10 US Army Corps of Engineer Lakes in the state. The 25,900-acre lake has 525 miles of shoreline. In the Chattahoochee River watershed, it is formed by the Chattahoochee and West Point Dam.
West Point Lake straddles the Georgia-Alabama border right where the Chattahoochee River makes its big left-hand turn to head due south to Florida’s Apalachicola Bay. This Corps of Engineers lake, which extends 35 miles along the river between Franklin and West Point, Georgia, has more than 500 miles of shoreline and 26,000 acres of water surface. Construction of the lake was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1962 with actual construction beginning in 1965 and impoundment beginning in October 1974. The lake is part of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Waterway System, which runs 260 miles from Apalachicola, Florida, to Columbus, Georgia. Water released from West Point Lake helps keep lakes and channels downstream deep enough for navigation. Water stored here during rainy seasons protects downstream towns and farms from flooding.
The 57,000 acres of land used to build West Point Lake shares the same history as many other areas along the Chattahoochee. Here, in this fertile bottomland, the Lower Creek Indians cultivated fields and built large villages of clay-covered, wooden houses. They used the river for fishing and transportation. European traders entered the picture next, using the navigable parts of the river to transport goods. By the early 1800s white settlers drove out the Creeks and began establishing farms, trade routes, cotton plantations, water-powered mills for sawing timber or grinding wheat and corn.
In 1886, the river town of West Point flooded for the first time. The Chattahoochee River waters crested at 26 feet, washing out the bridge that spanned it and severely damaging most houses and businesses. In December 1919, the river rose to over 29 feet, producing the town’s most devastating flood; and in February 1961, it crested at 24 feet, killing one person, covering the entire downtown area and causing one million dollars in damage. But still the people of West Point rebuilt in the river’s floodplain, and in 1962 Congress authorized West Point Lake and Dam.
West Point Lake, 60 miles south of Atlanta’s I-285, provides a stark and fascinating contrast to its U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sister lake, Lake Lanier, 30 miles north of the Atlanta perimeter. West Point Lake extends 35 miles along the Chattahoochee and has a shoreline of more than 500 miles. Lanier extends 44 miles up the Chattahoochee and 19 miles up the Chestatee and has shoreline of approximately 540 miles, depending on the pool level. Lanier has 10 large, lively marinas; West Point has two lazy ones. While on a busy summer weekend thousands of pleasure boats navigate Lanier, only a fraction of that crisscross West Point Lake. Many of West Point Lake’s day use parks, particularly those on the northern end of the lake, have a forlorn, abandoned appearance, while their counterparts on Lanier are beehives of activity. West Point Lake fishing is good-exceptional really-although serious sport fishermen who love to fish the lake will tell you quickly, and emphatically, that they do not eat the fish they catch. The geography is scenic. A strictly enforced 100-yard setback for residential development keeps the landscape uncluttered. It is located near Callaway Gardens, a beautiful and popular resort. In addition to the Chattahoochee, scenic rocky streams like Wehadkee Creek feed the lake.
Ironically, West Point Lake is the first project in the Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division to have recreation considered as a prime benefit along with the generation of electricity and flood control. Because of this and because of West Point’s proximity to three major metropolitan areas-Atlanta, LaGrange and Columbus-the project was identified by the Corps of Engineers as a recreation demonstration project.
It’s hard not to blame the lake’s high pollution levels-and thus the City of Atlanta-as the reason that West Point Lake has not achieved the level of popularity envisioned for it by the Corps of Engineers. Who really wants to sail or ski on a settling pond for metro Atlanta’s development and often untreated sewage? Phosphorus levels in the lake have improved, diminishing the problem of excessive algae growth, and sewage plant upgrades for Atlanta facilities appear to be underway.