The Texas Highland Lakes is a chain of seven reservoirs in Central Texas formed by several dams on the Colorado River. This portion of the river winds southeast from its headwaters near the border of Texas and New Mexico to Matagorda Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The dams provide flood control and are used to generate hydroelectric power.
The lakes and dams are (from west to east, upstream to downstream):
- Buchanan Dam — Lake Buchanan
- Inks Dam — Inks Lake
- Wirtz Dam — Lake LBJ
- Max Starcke Dam — Lake Marble Falls
- Mansfield Dam — Lake Travis
- Tom Miller Dam — Lake Austin
- Longhorn Dam — Lady Bird Lake
The Colorado River, which had a history of major flooding, especially in the City of Austin, was “tamed” by the construction of the dams in the Texas Hill Country. Engineers used the hills to form the lakes’ basins.
All of the dams were constructed by the Lower Colorado River Authority during the 1930s and 1940s, following two unsuccessful attempts to construct a dam upstream from Austin.
The City of Austin then constructed Longhorn Dam and formed a seventh lake in the chain, Lady Bird Lake, in 1960 largely to help beautify the city and to form a cooling pond for Seaholm Power Plant, a no longer used natural gas-burning power plant just north of the river.