The Mansfield Dam, located 13 miles northwest of Austin, was inaugurated on February 19, 1937 and completed in 1942. Although it was originally created in order to solve the severe flooding problems that farmers had experienced in the area, it was also built to help store water and to serve as Central Texas’ main form of hydroelectric power and drinking water.
Lyndon Johnson was instrumental in ensuring the dam was built and completed. Upon reflection a few years later in 1958, he quoted, “Of all the endeavors on which I have worked in public life, I am proudest of the accomplishment in developing the Colorado River. It is not the damming of the streams or the harnessing of the floods in which I take pride, but rather in the ending of the waste of the region. The region- so unproductive in my youth- is now a vital part of the national economy and potential.”
It stands 278 feet high, 7,089 feet long and 213 feet wide at the base. The lake can hold up to 369 billion gallons of water and has a hydroelectric power plant with a generating capacity of up to 108 megawatts. The top of the dam initially served as a two-lane highway, R.R. 620, but a surge in Austin’s growth coupled with the popularity of the area caused too much traffic congestion on top of the dam causing the State of Texas to build an alternate route on the downstream side of the dam. This resulted in a four-lane highway to alleviate the congestion. Drivers are no longer allowed to drive on top of the dam.