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A look back at the history of Lake Granbury and the DeCordova Bend Dam

A look back at the history of Lake Granbury and the DeCordova Bend Dam

The Fort Worth Press called it a “Bonanza.”

 
 

The Brazos River Authority was going to build its second water-supply reservoir on “The Brazos, which snakes across the country at a slow pace, except at floodtime, [holding] the ancient and sleepy little town of Granbury in one of its familiar bends.”

A land boom was coming, reads the article, because the “lazy but beautiful Brazos River soon will rise out of its banks and form what will be one of the state’s most scenic lakes.”

Lake Granbury was born.

It was a long journey to reach that point. More than 300 people from across Hood County and surrounding cities in 1961 listened to then-BRA Board Member Walter Humphrey describe the plans for the dam, according to a March 2, 1961 edition of the Hood County News Tablet.

“A dream which began 30 years ago is close to realization now,” Humphrey said, according to the article.

An Oct. 17, 1963 article in the Hood County News Tablet reads: “The construction of the DeCordova Bend Dam would mean a bright future for Hood County.” The article lists the benefits of a lake to include water supply, recreation, an increase in tourism and more. 24 Granbury, “Where Texas History Lives,” was already known for its multitude of historic sites and deep Texas history. And in 2020, the area celebrates 50 years of Lake Granbury and the DeCordova Bend Dam.

50 years ago

Granburydam1968-size...

The reservoir that would become Lake Granbury was first conceived as part of a six-dam master plan in 1935 by the founding members of the Brazos River Conservation and Reclamation District, as the Brazos River Authority was then known. However, following the construction of the Possum Kingdom Lake in 1941, a lack of federal and state funding along with the growth of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control projects changed the organizations’ goals. The DeCordova Bend site, originally planned to be a hydroelectric-producing facility similar to Possum Kingdom Lake, would now serve as a water supply source for steam-electric production. Through a contract with TXU Electric to purchase water for industrial use, including cooling water for a natural gas-fired steam electric power plant on the reservoir, funding to build the new reservoir would occur entirely without tax dollars.

The BRA broke ground for Lake Granbury in December 1966, touching off a rush of development in the Hood County area. Restaurants, hotels, car dealerships and subdivisions began shaping the small town of Granbury. The dam was completed in late 1969, and a formal dedication attended by hundreds was held during the spring of 1970.

Then in 1970, Granbury and Hood County’s population saw the beginning of a boom.

According to the Texas State Historical Association, between 1970 and 1980, Hood County ranked sixth among all United States counties for the highest growth rate. Part of that sudden increase was due to the reservoirs’ completion, which had turned the county into a popular recreation and resort center and retirement community as anticipated by local officials. In 1970, Hood County had 192 retail establishments, and in 1980, that number jumped to 777, according to the state association. From 1960 to 1980, the population increased threefold, from 5,443 to 17,714.

Nodate

Fast forward, and in 2020, there are more than 3,300 residential boat docks and another 25 commercial boat docks along the edges of Lake Granbury. Constructed, owned, and operated by the BRA, the dam and lake provide a vital water supply source. The project was authorized 25 through a permit issued by the State of Texas in 1964 and provides the capacity to store water to meet the needs of municipalities, industries, agriculture, and mining.

The Brazos River flows in a winding pattern north to south through the area, while the Paluxy River flows from the northwest to southeast across the countys’ southwest corner. Granbury, the county seat, sits 41 miles southwest of Fort Worth on U.S. Highway 377. The city was named for Gen. Hiram Bronson Granbury, who led Confederate troops from this area into battle during the Civil War, according to the historical association. It even took three spirited elections to make Granbury the county seat, instead of the older Glen Rose and Fort Spunky further south.

Namesake

DeCordova Bend Dam is a massive concrete and earthen structure, housing 16 flood gates and stretching 84 feet tall. The structure was named for Jacob Raphael De Cordova, a prominent land agent and colonizer who settled in the area during the late 1830s following the Texas Revolution. DeCordova served a term in the Texas House of Representatives in 1847 and traveled across the Lone Star State, acquiring land to sell to prospective settlers.

Granbury is home to one of the three BRA reservoirs. The other two owned and operated by the BRA include Possum Kingdom Lake, located on the main stem of the Brazos River northwest of Fort Worth, and Lake Limestone, which is located on the upper Navasota River in Limestone, Robertson and Leon counties. All three reservoirs were constructed for water supply purposes.

All three undergo a rigorous maintenance regimen by BRA employees entrusted with prolonging the life of these vital structures.

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