Lanier and other lakes offer reflections of fall color

There’s hardly an autumn splendor more beautiful in north Georgia than colorful leaves reflected on the water. Leaf looking by water reveals spectacular views not visible on country roads or fall festival grounds. Motor boaters on large north Georgia lakes – Lanier, Chatuge, Hartwell, Blue Ridge and Carters – have opportunities to head out on blue waterscapes to see mirror images of brilliant landscapes. And, those willing to lug a jon boat, canoe or kayak to smaller, more remote mountain lakes may get a dose of quiet solitude with their leaf-looking. Here’s a glimpse of water venues from which to view the season’s beauty:

Aerial view of Lake Lanier in the fall

Fall along the northern shores of Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier
Margarita and Brunch Cruises from Margaritaville at Lanier Islands: Although not marketed as leaf looking tours, these weekend food-and-drink social outings give those onboard a two- or three-hour fall tour with a captain. Those desiring some socializing and an adult beverage with their leaf-looking can pair those on the 96-passenger capacity excursion yacht. “About mid-October, you see the foliage change,” said Jamie Fields, who manages catering and special events for Margaritaville. After summer has faded a new ambience emerges around the lake. “I like getting out when it’s cooler,” Fields said. As temperatures fall, colors brighten the last two weeks of October, even on the south end of the lake. “In late October everything on the lake is beautiful in my opinion,” Fields remarked.

The Saturday evening Margarita Cruise floats from the resort cove up toward Port Royale in Forsyth County. On the 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. cruise, the setting sun adds to the twilight palette on the water. Those on board can relax with as many as six margaritas or other bar drinks and dine on nachos, shrimp cocktail and barbecue sliders. The Sunday Brunch cruise travels down toward the dam, showing off the lake’s deep hue reflecting the changing leaves. It features “bottomless Mimosas” plus a breakfast buffet. Both cruises can be booked at

Other Lanier ports of color: Boaters of both motorized and non-motorized crafts might seek a quieter salute to fall along northern stretches of the lake, such as at Don Carter State Park. A boat ramp accommodates motorboats and canoes and kayaks at the park at the Chattahoochee River end of Lanier. A cruise along the Flat Creek tributary (not the Flat Creek in the city of Gainesville) yields an especially secluded stretch of forest along a pristine shore.

Keep in mind that various Lanier marinas and boat retailers occasionally host fall color cruises. Check websites to find out what’s coming up.

Lake Chatuge
The gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains seem to rise up from the water on this TVA lake near Hiawassee. About 60 miles from the northern reaches of Lake Lanier, the lake flows along 123 miles of shoreline with public boat ramps, campgrounds, swimming beach and numerous playgrounds.

Lake Hartwell
This 56,000-acre lake off I-85 about 75 miles from Lanier’s northern shores straddles Georgia and South Carolina, with boat ramps, state parks, and U.S. Army Corps parks in both states. Georgia’s Tugaloo State Park juts out from a forested peninsula just across the water from South Carolina’s Hartwell State Park.

Lake Blue Ridge
This smaller 3,300-acre reservoir in Fannin County flows through the heart of a thriving tourist destination in Blue Ridge. Formed by the damming of the Toccoa River, the misty lake features pretty views of a mostly undeveloped shores surrounded by mountains. Several boat ramps and a full service marina offer options for launching. It’s located about 70 miles northwest of Gainesville off Ga. 515.

Carters Lake
Near Ellijay, another mountain town popular with tourists, Corps-managed Carters Lake shimmers below a rugged 62-mile shoreline that once held the Coosawattee River, inspiration for James Dickey’s 1970 novel Deliverance. About 60 miles west of Lanier, the small reservoir seems a world away. A marina and Corps parks with multiple boat ramps provide access.

Small mountain lakes
These mountain gems, one at a city park, are flanked by forests on mostly undeveloped shores. Gas-fueled motors are prohibited except at three Georgia Power lakes in the Tallulah River watershed. Leaf lookers can float mostly undisturbed on crafts with electric trolling motors or paddle their own canoes, kayaks, rafts or jon boats. Some require hauling watercraft up and down steps or gravel paths. Canoe, kayak and pedalboat rentals are available at state parks. Picnic tables and campsites are available at lakes in state parks and at U.S. Forest Service sites.

Lake Zwerner/Yahoola Creek Reservoir
The 141-acre reservoir is the closest upland lake from Lake Lanier. Just north of Lanier off Morrison Moore Parkway skirting Dahlonega, the lake provides most of the mountain town’s water supply. A paved parking area allows easy access. A moderate hiking trail runs the circumference.

Unicoi Lake with mist on water and fall leaf colors

Unicoi Lake

Unicoi Lake
About 33 miles from Lake Lanier’s northern sections, this little jewel sparkles just outside Helen, where Oktoberfest is in full swing. Paddlers and hikers enjoy this get away from the brews and chicken dances.

Fall leaf colors reflected on Lake Trahlyta at Vogel State Park

Lake Trahlyta at Vogel State Park

Lake Vogel
This striking beauty, the centerpiece of Vogel State Park, sits near the base of Blood Mountain, the highest summit of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. About 33 miles from north Lake Lanier, the lake at Georgia’s second oldest state park is one of the most scenic.

Tallulah Falls Lake
Smallest of Georgia Power’s reservoirs, this 63-acre lake is within Tallulah Gorge State Park, one of north Georgia’s most popular state parks. Hills of color descend into the reservoir on the opposite side of the dam that spans the Tallulah River. It’s about 48 miles from Lake Lanier north, off Ga. 365. Also check out other Georgia power lakes in the Tallulah River watershed, Burton, Rabun, and Seed. Accessibility is somewhat limited. Gas powered boats are permitted at these.

Fall colors in trees around Lake Winfield Scott

Lake Winfield Scott

Lake Winfield Scott
A much-loved Forest Service campground off Ga. 180 between Dahlonega and Blairsville surrounds the lovely 18-acre lake.

Dockery Lake
This gorgeous six-acre trout-stocked lake lies below trails that cross ridges near Suches. Eleven primitive campsites offer lakeside and lakeview vantage points. It’s located about 13 miles from Dahlonega off Ga. 60.

Lake Russell
The 100-acre lake near Mount Airy, Ga. and Cornelia offers a peaceful respite, with two campgrounds and a grassy beach.