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What are the Highland Lakes?

We hear the term “Highland Lakes” all the time, but few of us know the rich history that surrounds this beautiful region of Lakes. Below are some brief history lessons of the 7 lakes that make up the “Highland Lakes”.


Named after Representative James P. Buchanan, who secured the funding to build the lake and dam, Lake Buchanan was formed by the construction of Buchanan Dam by the Lower Colorado River Authority to provide a water supply for the region and to provide hydroelectric power. Buchanan Dam, a structure over 2 miles in length, was completed in 1939. Lake Buchanan was the first of the Texas Highland Lakes to be formed, and with 22,333 acres of surface water, it is also the largest.


Inks Lake was formed in 1938 by the construction of Inks Dam by the Lower Colorado River Authority. Located near Burnet, the lake serves to provide flood control in tandem with Lake Buchanan and features the smallest hydroelectric power plant on the Highland Lakes chain. Inks Lake was named for Roy B. Inks, one of the original board members of the LCRA.


Lake LBJ was originally called Lake Granite Shoals. The dam would be renamed Wirtz Dam in 1952 for Alvin J. Wirtz, the first general counsel of the LCRA, and the lake was renamed to Lake LBJ in 1965 in honor of US President Lyndon Baines Johnson. In addition to his work to enact the Rural Electrification Act that formed the basis for building the Texas Highland Lakes, President Johnson owned a ranch on the lake. He and Mrs. Johnson entertained national and foreign dignitaries on the lake during his vice presidency and presidency.


The reservoir was formed in 1951 by the construction of Max Starcke Dam by the LCRA, Originally named Marble Falls Dam, the dam was renamed in 1962 for Max Starcke, the second general director of the LCRA. Located near the town of Marble Falls, the lake is used as a venue for aquatic recreation and for the purpose of generating hydroelectric power. It is the newest of the Texas Highland Lakes, and at 611 acres, it is the second smallest lake in the Texas Highland Lakes behind Lady Bird Lake.


"Built specifically to contain floodwaters" in a flash-flood prone region, Lake Travis is a reservoir on the Colorado River. Forming in 1942 by the construction of Mansfield Dam on the western edge of Austin, Highlighting its purpose, even during its construction -- after a severe flood in July 1938 -- the height of the dam was raised to add storage capacity for floodwaters.

Lake Travis has the largest storage capacity of all the Highland Lakes, and stretches 65 miles.


Formerly named Lake McDonald, Lake Austin was formed by the construction of Austin Dam between 1890 and 1893. In 1900 a heavy rainstorm overwhelmed and destroyed the first Austin Dam, causing extensive flooding. The dam began to be rebuilt in 1915, but repairs were abandoned because of a contract dispute, and the unfinished dam was again destroyed in a heavy storm later that year. In 1938 the LCRA began building the Tom Miller Dam; the dam was completed and the lake filled in 1939 Lake Austin is a popular fishing and boating destination. The lake is considered to have an excellent stock of largemouth bass.


The lake was created in 1960 for several reasons, including the need for a cooling pond for the Holly Street Power Plant, which operated from 1960 until 2007. Lady Bird Lake is now a major recreation area for the city of Austin. Its banks are bounded by the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, and businesses offer recreational watercraft services along the lakefront portion of the trails. Austin's largest downtown park, Zilker Park, is adjacent to the lake, and Barton Springs, a major attraction for swimmers, flows into the lake.

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