07-15-2009 Medina Lake

Medina Lake was constructed between 1911-1912 as an irrigation reservoir. At the time it was constructed, it was the biggest irrigation project west of the Mississippi.

In addition to the main dam, there is a smaller dam about four miles downstream that creates Diversion Lake, from which discharges are made to the canal system.

An extensive canal system delivers water to prairie farmlands below the Balcones escarpment around Castroville.

According to an historical account of the dam’s construction in 1966 called Ripples From Medina Lake, the original dreamer was Castroville founder Henri Castro. The year was around 1850, and the means were not available, but Castro assured his fellow pioneers that someday a great dam would be built to harness the Medina River’s floodwaters and irrigate the land around Castroville. In 1910, world famous engineer Dr. Fred Stark Pearson persuaded British investors to finance construction of the Medina dam and canal system. Although Dr. Pearson usually gets credit for building Medina Dam, several others were instrumental in the project. Medina Dam was only one component of a comprehensive master plan to establish town sites and sell land to prospective farmers. But before land sales could be started, world events spelled financial disaster for the project. When England became involved in World War I in 1914, Pearson’s access to British capital was limited, and the Company was placed in receivership. In order to make a personal appeal to British investors for more capital, Pearson and his wife boarded the Lusitania and perished when the ocean liner was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine on May 7, 1915.
At least 70 workers were killed by accidents and disease during the year of construction.

In 2002, the lake was within inches of overspilling the top of the dam. The reservoir is at this moment at about 33% capacity. Historically water levels have fluctuated wildly, which accounts for the exposed limestone cliffs seen here. Praying for rain….

MUST see! A 1912 Photo album of Medina Dam construction.



~ by myVelleity on July 15, 2009.

6 Responses to “07-15-2009 Medina Lake”

  1. A very informative comment which supports the fine pictures of the lakes and dams.
    It has quite an interesting history. Nice post.

  2. What a beautiful place. Love the colors. Simply gorgeous.

  3. nice reportage
    i just love to see huge water surfaces

  4. Interesting history and lovely series of this reservoir.
    Thanks a lot for the comments and the link about the butterfly.

  5. Very interesting history of the dam. You have some really nice shots here. Well done, Scott.

    • Thanks All, There is sooo much history associated with this landmark, I didn’t want to bore you… but it is really fascinating the way it impacted this whole region.

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