History of the Medina Dam

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The historic Medina Dam was completed in 1912 and Medina Lake was filled by 1913. The dam is a historical landmark, registered by the Texas Historical Commission and the American Society of Civil Engineers. The lake is approximately 18 miles long and three miles wide at its widest. The surrounding hills are composed of mostly fractured karst limestone covered in ash juniper, oak, persimmon, black walnut and (occasionally) madrona trees. Towering cypress grows near the Medina River and its tributaries. Medina Lake, combined with the Diversion Lake below the main dam, create the single largest recharge source for the entire Edwards Aquifer.

The Medina Lake Dam was designated a state historical landmark in 1976 by the Texas Historical Commission and was entered into The National Register of Historic Places at that time. The dam was also recognized as a civil engineering landmark in 1991 by the American Civil Engineering Society and a plaque with that designation sits on the dam, alongside the Historical Commission plaque. Today, the area that is known as Mormon’s Bluff was the site of one of the first Mormon colonies in Texas. A third plaque sits on the dam recognizing this settlement.

Three books have been written specifically about the history of Medina Lake, the first by the Reverend Cyril Matthew Kuehne, originally published by St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, entitled “Ripples From Medina Lake”. This book is currently being reprinted by the Castro Colonies Historical Society in Castroville. It is available at the Castroville Chamber of Commerce.

The second book was published by Trinity University Press in 1989, sponsored by the MLPS and written by its first president, Marilyn Schlitz. The title of the book is “Reflections on Medina Lake” and it was printed in coordination with the 75th Anniversary of the Medina Dam Celebration in 1987. We hope to have it reprinted and available for the Medina Lake Dam Centennial Celebration in 2012.

The third book about the history of Medina Lake by Rebecca Huffstutler Norton and Karen Downing Ripley “Medina Lake (Images of America)” is available at Amazon.

There are three DVD videos about Medina Lake produced by Mike Crandall. “The Vision” is about the construction of Medina Lake Dam up to 1918. “River of Rhetoric” shows how the Balcones Fault Zone affects the water storage in Medina Lake and Diversion Lake. “Weirs the Water” is about water management and suggestions on how to conserve surface water in Medina Lake. All three of these DVD’s are available at Amazon.