Dams in Rabun County

Museum Exhibit

Dams and Hydroelectric Power: Progress at a Price

The 1,200-foot drop in elevation along a contiguous 26-mile portion of the Tallulah and Tugalo rivers in Rabun, Habersham and Stephens counties was viewed as ideal for generating hydroelectric power for a growing Atlanta. Between 1913 and 1927, six hydroelectric dams and generating plants were built along this stretch of waterway. Construction of the first dam on the rim of Tallulah Gorge sparked Georgia’s first environmental battle in 1911, led by the widow of a Civil War general. The conservationists were defeated in court. In the end, Atlanta was supplied with all the electricity it could use, and the hydroelectric dams created a series of beautiful recreational lakes. But progress came at a price. Burton, once the largest town in Rabun County, was purchased by the utility company and submerged under the 2,775-acre reservoir now called Lake Burton. And the raging waterfalls in Tallulah Gorge, once called the “Niagara of the South,” were tamed and silenced as river water was diverted from the gorge to the Tallulah Falls hydroelectric plant.

Visit our Dam & Lake Exhibit

Want to learn more about dams and lakes in Rabun County? Visit our Museum to view this exhibit and many others that tell the stories that shaped Rabun’s history.