About Lake Austin: A Brief History Lesson

December 1, 2011by Brian Talley

History of Lake Austin

Lake Austin, the sixth in a chain of seven lakes known as the Highland Lakes, is located in West Austin in Travis County. Formerly known as Lake McDonald, it was the first large reservoir in Texas.

According to the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), Lake Austin was created by the construction of the Austin Dam on the Colorado River in 1893, though copious amounts of river sediment followed by a dire storm caused that dam to give way in 1900. Not until 1938 did the city of Austin contract the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) to rebuild the dam, renaming it Tom Miller Dam and adding a hydroelectric power plant.

Today, Lake Austin is one of six LCRA projects on the Colorado River. “It is operated at a practically constant level, since electrical generation is coordinated with the turbine discharge at the Marshall Ford Power Plant at Mansfield Dam, twenty-one miles upstream,” adds the Texas State Historical Association.

The clean, clear, cool water of this lake makes it a very popular destination for boaters, skiers, anglers,  swimmers, and homeowners. “Lake Austin is used for public and private drinking water, flood and irrigation water conveyance, hydropower generation, as well as recreation,” says the City of Austin.

The lower water temperature of Lake Austin (it averages 65 degrees) offers Austinites and tourists welcome relief from Texas summer heat, thanks to its source. “Primary inflow to Lake Austin comes from deep water releases from Lake Travis,” the City of Austin explains.

Unlike Lake Travis upstream, however, Lake Austin maintains a constant water-level. “The LCRA controls the flow,” continues the City of Austin, “using the water to produce electricity and provide irrigation for rice farmers downstream.” Consequently, Lake Austin remains 492 feet above sea level year-round.

Austin REALTOR® Brian Talley appreciates the history behind Austin’s landmarks, especially the history of Lake Austin. 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 Austin Luxury waterfront or water view home, contact Brian today or view available homes.