In addition to the rowers, the boats, the festivities and the fans, the recent U.S. Rowing Southeast Regional Championship had another star: Lake Olmstead itself.
All decked out with red and yellow necklaces of buoys across the lake that formed the racing lanes, the lake also at times wore its sparkling diamonds, and was ready for the latest event as it has been since it was formed in 1873, “water backing upon water,” when Rae’s Creek was dammed rather than going under the expanded canal to the Savannah River.
It slept well the night before the races began Saturday morning, with its waters calm, protected by the banks on both sides.
The past 10-15 years of improvements stood tall – from repairing the “Lake View Park” grounds (1885) in front of the Julian Smith Casino, to working on the area behind the casino near the lake, as well as the installation of the 18-hole Frisbee course, a tournament site of its own.
The boat rental and colorful kayaks at the Lock and Dam brought the boats and their paddlers down the 1846 canal, with the watery path emptying into the lake for docking at the boat ramp. The paddlers were a welcome site for car traffic on the other side of the lake.
Before the rowing competition, those same waters supported canoeists from the 1800s two-story Boat Club, and a boat rental shed, both near the present-day docks. The lake stepped it up a notch when it moved from canoes to powerboats as it played host to waterski shows in the 1960s until about 1980, complete with a performer lifted on a kite and a ski jump that sent them airborne.
Welcome canoers, waterskiers, kayakers and rowers. The functions change, but not the lake. It’s ready when the next generation is. Who says good planning doesn’t pay off?