Lake Rabun, GA

Summer of 1936 in a Century Thunderbolt – Photo courtesy of www.lakerabun.com

SINCE THE EARLY DAYS OF WOODY BOATER we have been aware of a very special lake in Georgia – named Lake Rabun. Just 90 miles north east of Atlanta in the Chattahoochee National Forest, Lake Rabun has a ton of history, and along with that history comes – you guessed it – a ton of wooden boats.

tahoe tessie2

“Tahoe Tessie” (#6682) a 1941 Gar Wood Streamliner relocated to Lake Rabun from Lake Tahoe just a few years ago – to join two other Streamliners, another 1941 (#6668) and a 1939 (#6274).

For example, only seven pre-war Gar Wood Streamliners are known to exist today, and three of them currently reside on Lake Rabun. Also, Rabun Boat House (more affectionately known as “Hall’s”) has been a landmark and gathering place servicing the Lakemont community since the 1930’s.

Lake Rabun, GA

Vintage Hall’s Boat House photo courtesy of lakerabun.com

Although we haven’t made it down to Lake Rabun yet – it is definitely on our short-short list of historic lakes to visit. Then a few weeks ago we received an e-mail from fellow Woody Boater Bud Boland to let us know that Lake Rabun is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this Fourth of July weekend. A perfect way to celebrate Independence Day!

Bud suggested we contact the folks at the Lake Rabun website who have a wonderful archive of vintage photos from the area. This great website was developed by “The Lake Team” (Michael McGaughey, Craig Kettles, Sarah Gillespie) at Harry Norman Realtors (since 1930) which also describes the interesting history of Lake Rabun dating back to 1915 and the various amenities in the area.

We received permission from “The Lake Team” to publish a few of their vintage photos from the website which, as you will see, work perfect for Bud’s story today. – Texx

Lake Rabun, GA

Back in the day on Lake Rabun, Georgia – vintage photo courtesy www.lakerabun.com

Lake Rabun, Georgia
Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary This Weekend!

Hi Matt and Texx,

First off, thank you for everything you do for the hobby. Your website is great and a welcome addition to the hobby. I am, admittedly, not as active as I should be, but I can recall about 12 years ago when I was restoring my Chris-Craft Sportsman that there was simply not enough website coverage devoted to wooden boating. Being a younger hobbyist (early 30s) I naturally went online to try and get my fix.

Secondly, I wanted to bring to your attention an event taking place the weekend of July 4th, specifically Sunday, July 5th, 2015 at Lake Rabun (in NE Georgia) at 10 a.m. Lake Rabun will hold its Annual Wooden Boat Regatta.

Lake Rabun, GA

Vintage 1937 Lake Rabun photo courtesy www.lakerabun.com

This event takes place each year, but this year Lake Rabun celebrates its 100th anniversary and a special effort is being made to engage as many wooden boats on the lake as possible. I would guess that typically 40 or so boats participate in any given year, but it is estimated that there are approximately 80+ wooden boats on the lake, so this year could be quite a sight to see. Word on the street is that a notable magazine will be present to document the event (I’m thinking maybe Garden & Gun).

I wanted to let you all know about this in case you haven’t already heard and may have a “field reporter” present to document the fun for the Woody Boater website.

I don’t see much mention of Lake Rabun on the website, but it is a wooden boating gem in the northeast corner of Georgia in the mountains. Long considered a retreat for wealthy Atlantans, it is a beautiful and woody-filled lake. In fact, it was home to the largest Chris-Craft dealer in the southeast. Consequently, it is known for its wooden boat floatilla. I believe it is also home to 2 or 3 of the remaining Gar Wood Streamliners in the world.

Lake Rabun, GA

Vintage family photo courtesy www.lakerabun.com

As for story-telling content, you are in luck. Given that the lake celebrates 100 years this year, the Lake Rabun Association (LRA) has been assembling a lot of historical information and stories and compiling it into a beautiful book and DVD. The book “Lake Rabun – Georgia’s Lake Como” is the long anticipated Centennial History of Lake Rabun and is being printed in anticipation of a 2015 Labor Day delivery. The 280 page book is a literal feast for the eyes and contains a complete history of Lake Rabun, or “Lakemont” as the “long-timers” call it. – LRA website

Lastly, Ben McCracken is the long-time mechanic on the lake who runs his own restoration shop (www.rabunboathouse.com).

Ben is a great source for information about some of the boats up there. He’s been involved in some pretty great boats and I believe does work on Alan Jackson’s fleet.

Best, Bud Boland

Lake Rabun, GA

Vintage Lake Rabun photo courtesy www.lakerabun.com

An excerpt from the Lake Ruben.com website;

By 1925 the lake became a haven for many residents of Atlanta, who would make the day long trip by car to enjoy the area. Lake Rabun at an elevation of 1689 feet, with a surface area of 835 acres and 25 miles of shoreline, is the second largest lake in the six lake chain. While not as large as Lake Burton, Rabun offers water skiing, fishing, and wonderful afternoon cruises.

Families have been building memories and community on Lake Rabun since 1915. The Lake Rabun Association, was chartered on 25 October 1928 as a succeeding organization to the “Lakemont Boat Club.” The list of charter members read like Atlanta’s Who’s Who of the 1920’s. The original LRA became inactive shortly thereafter due to the Great Depression. The current Lake Rabun Association was formed in 1970 and remains very active on both the lake and in Rabun County.

Lake Rabun remains a haven for many families. With a proximity of only 90 miles from Atlanta, it is the perfect getaway from the heat and traffic of Atlanta summers. The traditions and love for the lake remain constant, even as vintage wood boats and modern jet skis cross paths. The community is very strong and active due to the efforts of the Lake Rabun Association.
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Lake Rabun Boat Parade

Lake Rabun has a rich and unique Fourth of July celebration that is sponsored and coordinated by the Lake Rabun Association (LRA). Each year there is a wooden boat parade that follows the shore lines of the lake. Prizes are given to the most decorated boat and boat house. – courtesy Wikipedia.

Special thanks to Bub Boland for sharing this story with us today. Bud is planning to be on hand this weekend for the 100 year celebration and if the weather (and his iPhone camera) cooperate, will hopefully be sending us a report from the event.

Also thanks again to “The Lake Team” at lakerabun.com for sharing their vintage photos with us today. We have to make a point to get down there one day soon for some southern hospitality.

Texx
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32 Responses to “Lake Rabun, Georgia Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary This Weekend!”
  1. Troy in ANE

    I am hoping Floyd R Turbo can report in on this one, but he could be anywhere in North America this weekend knowing him.

    Sounds like great people and a great time. 80 Woodys on a 835 acre lake, now that is penetration.

  2. Troy in ANE

    OK I know I obsess over this stuff so I had to go look the size of Cobbossee (the lake our family camp is on). It is 5543 acres and I get excited that we have a dozen nice woodies. What you are telling me is that Lake Rabun has 80 (including three GW Streamliners) in an area the size of one of our bays.

    I GOTTA see this one day!

  3. Matt

    We are so making the trip there now! Jimmy fire up Suzy.. We still have some Nabs and Marshmellows left

  4. Bud Boland

    Great job, guys. Thanks for highlighting this special place and special event! Should be quite a feast for the eyes Sunday.

  5. Ronald

    I have been to Lake Rabun maybe a half dozen times and it is in fact one of the most beautiful lakes anywhere, It is a smaller lake but has emerald green water and large evergreen trees and great homes all around. Halls Marina is also a treat to visit. The 1st time there the owner had a 1934? Chris Craft maybe 14ft utility with the tiller steer system in the water that he had restored among others. Its worth a visit for sure.

  6. gene porter

    Matt/Texx
    Thanks much for posting this material.

    I visited this gem in the mountains – by woody (pre-war) U22 – a few years ago. Launched at Halls in the rain and had a marvelous visit with old friends on a steep hillside (the only kind on this lake) near the headwaters. As I recall Lindsey Hopkins, a deceased ACBS stalwart, called this his home waters.

    • floyd r turbo

      You are correct Gene, Lindsay had a cottage there and boathouses are limited in size to 24′ width, I believe. In order to accommodate his collection, Lindsay had a small warehouse built to rotate out fresh boats that included (at one time or another) a 1936 CC 22′ triple, ’49 CC racing runabout, 192? Dodge 20.5 split cockpit, ’25 Dodge 24′ high speed launch (now owned by his friend Mike Favila), 1936 18′ Duke Playmate, 194? 19′ Garwood double cockpit, ’56 16′ Lyman outboard (Wanda’s boat), 193? 21′ Ditchburn triple…and those are just the ones I delivered.

      • Texx

        Thanks for chiming in today Floyd. You certainly know the area well.

  7. Jerri Nowlen

    What an EXCELLENT article on another North Georgia gem. Lake Rabun and Lake Burton are two wonderful Georgia power lakes. One of the great benefits of being a Georgia power lake is that water levels remain constant, even during droughts. For those who like lake Chatuge, you will love lakes Rabun & Burton too. (Just sayin’ Matt & Texx… time to plan your June 2016 trips! 🙂 ) Bud, thank you so much for sharing these photos and I can’t wait to get a copy of the book and DVD.

  8. Wilson

    What a treat to read about and see pictures of this little Georgia gem. My wife was born in that neck of the woods and had cousins who owned”the” dress shop in nearby Clayton. An so it was back in the early 80’s we trailered my very first Chris Craft, a 16′ Riviera, to Hall’s boat house where she was launched for her maiden voyage. As luck would have it was had water pump trouble but a local, I had not known before, Buzz Stone, motored out, towed us to his place and offered wine and cheese on his dock while we contemplated the problem. Another couple, the Witham’s who have obviously been there a long time as their house was (is) on Witham Point were so taken with the visitors that they invited us to a cocktail party at their house the next night. Their daughter, “Bunky” , if I remember right, even offered to let us take dad’s boat out for a spin. I was a very special weekend of which we have lasting memories. In fact one that has prompted us to return to that lake several times. If I had known Lindsey at the time, I’m sure he would have taken us in too…Incidentially, I talked to Wanda by phone during the Tavares show. she seems to be doing quite well.

    A Tallahassee friend, Walter Law,( no relation to Jud Laws who also lived at Lake Rabun) had a college classmate that owned or operated Hall’s fo a while….And that little tiller operated Chris…I don’t recall seeing it there but I do recall it be being showed at the nearby Lake Hartwell show.

    If you contemplate over nighting at the Lake Rabun Inn , make sure you get the bidal suite. It is the only one with an attached bathroom. The other rooms share a bath at the end of the hall. Breakfast there on their patio also provides fond memories.

    As Bob Hope would have said…”Thanks for the memories”

    • floyd r turbo

      Wilson, you may remember Buzz Stone was a lawyer also (how coincidental) that he should run into you there. I had heard years ago he retired from the legal profession and was trying his hand at building Adirondack furniture as a hobby/business. He was quite the southern gentleman from my contact with him.

  9. Marten Anderson

    Notice “Hall’s Playboy” at the dock in the background in the Century Thunderbolt photo. Does anyone have specific info on this Thunderbolt or “Hall’s Playboy?”

  10. m-fine

    That lake was just born geologically and it is already a classic! Our lake is about 13,000 years old and is just a baby.

  11. floyd r turbo

    The Mathis Dam finished in 1915 by Georgia Power created Lake Rabun, one of a series of dams creating also Lake Burton, Lake Seed, and Lake Tallulah. Burton is lowered during the winter to control possible winter/spring water flow from heavy rains. The late Lindsay Hopkins (and the delightful Darrell and Jill Dyas) was (and are) one of the very few on the lake who ventured outside the tight knit group of the well healed and take their boat(s) on the St John’s River Cruise or attend ACBS events. Lindsey was executive (financial) producer of the first ACBS video used at events to inform potential new members. (I worked with Bill Head the chief videographer as a grip) For the most part, unless you are “introduced” somehow to this group via contacts as Wilson Wright did you’ll find its a “closed” lake to outsiders. (To my knowledge, there’s no public boat ramps). I canoed out to the boat parade 30 years ago and was told to “get back” when I approached to get information and pictures on some of the parade boats that we paddled “near”. Apparently, we were riffraff in a wooden canoe, lol. 25 years later, I was came back as a boat show judge thru another contact and that’s another story for another time.

    • jim g

      The lake is open to the public. Even though some of the people will try to tell you different. There is the ramp at Hall’s which is owned by them. But you can pay a fee and launch your boat there. There is also one private ramp halfway around the lake but is a real pain to use. Even if you have permission. There is also a public ramp at Rabun Beach. Which is located at the other end of the lake which is referred to as the narrows.

    • Wilson

      I think there is a small ramp in the park on the West ( I think it is West…the end toward Burton) end on the lake

  12. floyd r turbo

    I think the only boat ramp is the private one at Hall’s Boathouse and is very shallow. I’ve delivered several boats from restorers to Rabun years ago. Trying to get anything larger that 20′ down that ramp is difficult due to very narrow roads and you may need 4 w/drive to back out far enough to launch unless there have been recent changes to the ramp.

  13. TommyholmThomasholm

    Thanks for the pic of the Century Thunderbolt. That kid had the fastest boat on the Lake Raburn.

    • greg wallace

      The pre-war 19 Chris Craft Race boat in photo five would give the Thunderbolt a run for its money….I would love to have either one.

  14. Jerri Nowlen

    My mistake Floyd, I did not realize Rabun did an annual draw-down.

  15. Pete DeVito

    I will be at my Georgia house just down the road and will surely be at Lake Rabun this weekend. I sure wish I had my Capri in Georgia to participate in all the fun out on the water.
    Happy 100th Anniversary Lake Rabun!

  16. jim g

    A couple of facts about the marinas on Lake Rabun. There were 2 marinas on the lake. Both were located in the same cove. One was called Hall’s Boat House. Header picture shows one of there many rental Chris Crafts they had over the years. The other was Rabun Boat House. The cove is small so the boat house were basically across from each other. Halls was owned by Guy Hall and if I remember correctly Rabun Boat house was owned by Mr. Worley. Mr. Worley sold out to Halls Boat house sometime in the 60’s. A small bridge was built to connect the 2. There was also a cafe named Rabun Cafe that was between the two. I don’t know when it closed but in the early 70’s it was already starting to fall in. The walls were rock halfway up and are still there. Most of Rabun Boat House was torn down in the late 90’s and most of the rental stalls were given an outside face lift. Anyone who went there regularly in the 70’s will remember Jim Manrey who owned Hall’s at the time. Jim and his band would play one saturday a month and everyone would come and clog.

    One of the stories told me by Mr. Worleys daughter. Who was married to my Industrial Arts teacher at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School. As all the folks from Atlanta left on sunday they would tack a envelop with cash on the dock piling and put the empty manson jars on the dock. I can’t remember the moonshiners name but he was one of the better ones in the area. Would come around to the docks and collect the empty’s and the orders for the the next weekend. Then late friday night after the owners had gotten there from Atlanta. You would here is little outboard putting around the lake as he dropped off the orders for the weekend.

    • Texx

      Thanks for the additional info on Lake Rabun Jim. The more we learn – the more intrigued we are to visit and see the area first hand.

      Love the story about special “weekend deliveries” back in the day. – Texx

  17. jim g

    Also the lake is drawn down 6 feet or so during the winter for the spring rains. Rabun County has the highest rainfall per year outside of Seattle. Every 2 or 3 years Ga Power draws the lake down 20 or so feet to allow owners to work on there boat house or put in new pilings for ones being built. Every once and a while I will have to go survey a bought in a boat house on one of those lakes and its nice when the lake is drawn down 20 feet as all I have to do is let the boat down and walk out on the lake bed to inspect the bottom of the boat.

  18. jim g

    Oh you spelled the website wrong in the header picture. Rabun not ruben

  19. Pete DeVito

    The Lake Rabun Boat Parade this morning was fantastic!! It was a little overcast with a cool breeze and lots of beautiful wood boats of all makes. We had a outstanding view from a top of the Methodist Church Boat House to view all the boats as they finished the parade down in front of us.
    A few pictures of the boats and a couple of Hall’s Boat House.

    • Texx

      Thanks Pete for taking the time to share these excellent photos with us from Lake Rabun today. Looks like a fun celebration for everyone involved. – Texx