How They Built Canyon Lake

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Tony Maples Photography


The Texas countryside is full rivers and lakes, and Texans are drawn to all sorts of water sports year-round. However, not many Texans know that only one lake in Texas — Caddo Lake — is naturally occurring, and even that lake is now reinforced by man made means to make it stable. Caddo Lake, on the Texas-Louisiana border, was a natural lake originally, but its present capacity and surface area are largely due to dams built to raise the surface of the original body of water. All other Texas lakes are completely man-made, including the much-loved Canyon Lake just outside of New Braunfels.

Following severe flooding in both 1936 and 1938, the inhabitants of the area approached the federal government for help in controlling the flood waters of the Guadalupe River. According to the United States Geological Survey, the rivers of Texas are prone to long periods of drought and low water, and periodic large amounts of rainfall that result in major flooding.

How Did They Build the Lake?

Building CanyonLake

Photo: www.co.comal.tx.us

In 1954 the federal government passed the Flood Control Act which empowered the Tencon Coporation in Fort Worth to begin designing and building the new Canyon Dam in order to control the waters of the Guadalupe River.

The creation of the Canyon Lake reservoir began in 1958 and proceeded for the next few years. The dam was built as a rolled earth dam which creates an embankment to block water flow up to a given level. Canyon dam also functions to allow water to release from Canyon Lake when water levels surpass the conservation level of 9o9 feet above sea level.

What Lies Beneath the Lake?

Hancock Store

Photo: Sophienburg.com

As the water began to impound Canyon Lake, two cities were slowly submerged under the surface.  The towns of Hancock and Crane’s Mill were both in the path of the rising water and were therefore abandoned prior to building the dam.

At it’s height, Hancock had a population of 40 people, and was primarily a post office for the area.  Cranes Mill (originally spelled Crains) was also a small town, and it’s population of 35 residents move elsewhere. Some of the original structures from the cities are rumored to still be beneath the waters of Canyon Lake.

How Does the Lake Impact Texas?


Photo: SATXProperty.com

Before the work on Canyon Dam was even finished, new neighborhoods and amenities were popping up along the soon-to-be banks.  The cities of Sattler and Startzville became Canyon City which is still around today.

Of much more importance is the unincorporated area known as Canyon Lake, which surrounds the reservoir created by Canyon Dam. This vibrant area has numerous retail stores and resort complexes that serve the demanding tourist population.  Canyon Lake also has a large number of retired persons who call it home.

Currently managed by both the Army Corps of Engineers and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, Canyon Lake’s original purposes of flood control and water conservation are still maintained, but the booming tourist industry has added recreation to the reasons why Canyon Lake is so important to Texas.