Top 5 Lost Lakes of Macon
Generations ago, life was simple and swimming pools were very rare. Almost no one had a backyard swimming pool and public pools as well as private pools were uncommon. For older generations of Macon, going to a local lake was the place to go swimming. Macon's local lakes were the places that a vast majority went to on hot summer days to cool off and enjoy themselves. With a strong desire to invoke Macon's lost history, we are confident that these 5 lost lakes of Macon will help you remember the old days.
1. Vinson Valley
Opened in 1939 by Mr. W.E. Vinson, Jr., Vinson Valley was one of the favored lakes in south Macon. A farmer by trade, Mr. Vinson discovered a spring on the adjoining property next to his farm and purchased this lot and had the spring dug out to serve as a water source for his cows. In 1942, Vinson built a waterwheel beside the spring fed lake to generate electricity for the first building erected at the park. In 1950, Hwy 41 & Hwy 49 was constructed and Georgia Power came along with electricity, making Vinson’s waterwheel a thing of the past. Vinson Valley grew into a popular summer hangout that had a bowling alley, a juke box that played the latest songs and a snack bar that sold sandwiches, snacks and drinks. Vinson Valley is still in operation today and ran by Vinson’s 80 year old daughter Kitty Pullen.
2. Recreation Park - Ragan's Park
Ragan’s Park, also known as Recreation Park was purchased in 1913 by Thomas Ragan. In the park’s infancy, it was for members only, and it had a lake and bath house. It later became an amusement park that featured a soda fountain, bowling alley, Merry-go-Round, bumper cars and a train ride that went into the woods and around the lake. Bill Ragan purchased the park’s train in 1947 from Dayton, Ohio. The Southern Railroad Co. sent a crew out to paint the train engine in the Southern Railroad’s colors. The train was named “The Little Ponce de Leon.”
3. Kraftsman Lake
Located on Boy Scout Road, off the W. Hartley Bridge extension, Kraftsman Lake was part of the post-war growth of south Macon neighborhoods. Locals tell us that Kraftsman Lake was originally owned by Native Americans and that Georgia Kraft obtained a 100 year lease for the property. Employees of Georgia Kraft paid dues to be a member of the lake and membership allowed mill employees, families and their guests continued use of the lake and its amenities. Kraftsman Lake was a beautiful piece of property that contained some of the coldest swimming water, but after years of neglect, poor management and the devastating effects of the flood of 1994, the lake and grounds at Kraftsman have diminished and are no longer suitable for swimming.
4. Bankston Lake - Tama Lake
Bankston Lake, also later known as Tama Lake was an especially fun gathering spot for weekend "beach parties" during the summer. Beach parties began in the summer of 1964 on Friday nights. The swimming area would close a little early and the "beach" area in front of the snack bar and bath house was used as a dance area that played host to live local bands. Music could be heard blasted over the speakers and Bankston had the best pizza and hot dogs in town at their concession stand. On any given weekend afternoon, Bankston would be filled with a hundred or more people swimming. Bankston Lake was also known as a great place for fishing and later became a pay and fish catfish pond before it became overcrowded with water moccasins.
5. Lakeside Park
Lakeside Park, originally known as the Macon Outing Club (ca. 1897), “one of the best known social organizations in this section of Georgia” was located three miles outside of Macon on the Central Georgia Railroad at McCalls Mill pond. After a fire in April 1910, the Macon Outing Club closed and was renamed Lakeside Park. In the 20’s and 30’s the lake frequently held contests and other exhibitions such as a water carnival and a Motorboat Regatta. Bands begin to play at Lakeside in the 60’s and Phil Walden later bought Lakeside in 1975 and opened up the park to the public. Under the watchful eye of Walden, Lakeside boasted a restaurant, a pub with 5 decks up and over the lake and Macon’s first discotheque that was converted from an old bowling alley. Unfortunately, due to low turnout caused by a very rainy summer, Lakeside closed to the public. Walden later used Lakeside as host to the Capricorn Summer Games and BBQ which included guests such as Andy Warhol, Jimmy Carter and Don King. In 1978, Lakeside was home to the Allman Brothers Reunion.
Andy and Martha Durr created a very loving family atmosphere for everyone with Durr's Lake. The site of the old Durr's Lake featured a skating rink, bowling ally and a 10 acre fishing pond. It is the future location of a Community Center for the Bellevue neighborhood with a playground for children, picnic tables and grills, basketball courts and trails.