Completed in 1941, the Mansfield Dam is one of six dams constructed by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) during the 1930′s and 40′s in order to tame the river’s reputation of major flooding – especially in the City of Austin.
I snapped this on my iPhone recently while out surveying the dropping levels of Lake Travis, the reservoir formed by this dam. Because this reservoir acts as a primary flood control for the Highland Lakes Chain, the water levels can vary drastically depending on the rainfall up river, which has been seemingly nonexistent.
When “full,” the lake’s water level peaks at 681′ above mean sea level, which is just inches from the top of the main structure you see here. The dark water line in the photo represents normal levels, but due to the drought that began in 2011, Lake Travis is currently at it’s third lowest level on record since the dam opened.
Lake Travis is considered one of the clearest lakes in Texas, and a popular place for everything from fishing to scuba diving. My wife and I spend many summer days with great friends on this lake each year – we even got married here on a nearby point!
When the water drops to these extreme levels, a crew of us like to explore the islands and new shorelines that emerge where we have found everything from sunken sailboats, riding lawnmowers, and even structures left behind from the construction of the dam.
Without a good wet season like we had in late 2009, it could take years for the lake to reach normal levels again, but until then, we’ll just keep treasure hunting.