Lake Travis: History and Legacy

According to the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), the lower Texas Colorado River Basin holds a long history of devastation by floodwaters.

In the two decades between 1930 and 1950, six dams were authorized by the United States Department of the Interior to help handle the flooding. Lake Travis was formed by the construction of Mansfield Dam in 1936 and contracted by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA).

“The dam was built across a deep canyon at Marshall Ford, a long-time river crossing and settlement. The Corps of Engineers still refers to the structure as Marshall Ford Dam,” explains the TSHA. Marshall Ford Dam was complete by 1939. In 1941, it was renamed for U.S. Rep. J.J. Mansfield, who played a large part in the project’s development.

Lovely Lake Travis, together with six other lakes created on the Colorado River by dams, form the Texas Highland Lakes. Lake Austin is another. All were constructed by the LCRA. The other dams pass flood water downstream to Lake Travis, where it is stored until the LCRA can release it downstream safely.

In fact, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority, Mansfield Dam and Lake Travis are the only structures in the Highland Lakes chain specifically designed to contain the floodwaters of the lower Colorado River basin. “The lake can store as much as 260 billion gallons of floodwaters, helping to prevent destruction downstream,” glows the LCRA.

The 270 miles of sparkling Lake Travis shoreline tell no tales of ancient flooding, and few visitors even realize its lifesaving purpose. Dominated by calm, aquamarine water, limestone cliffs and rocky banks, this tranquil lake attracts every brand of water and water sport enthusiast.

From windsurfing regattas and ski boat competitions, to lakehouse and houseboat parties and lounging in inlets on long cigarette boats, Lake Travis has become a favorite summer vacation and retirement destination for outdoor enthusiasts all across the U.S.

Austin REALTOR® Brian Talley appreciates the history behind Austin’s landmarks. He also enjoys helping home-buyers stay on top of the latest in Austin Luxury Home trends. If you’re on the lookout for a Lake Travis luxury home, check out Brian’s Austin Home Search!