LAKE TRAVIS, Texas (KXAN) — A submerged concrete plant, pecan orchards and a houseboat are just some of the relics nearing the surface of Lake Travis this summer. After several years of record heat and little rain, water at the lake is at one of its lowest points in history.
“This body of water was not originally intended to be a recreational lake. It was built to be a reservoir. So after it had been channeled out, it was flooded and everything that was in it was just left there,” Kristen Dark with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) said.
TCSO is one of the law enforcement agencies that oversees safety at the lake.
“There are pecan groves with full-grown, 90-foot trees. There’s a concrete plant down there. There’s homes, docks, cars, all kinds of stuff that are hazards in that water,” Dark said.
Visiting the lake today, many of the pecan trees can be spotted peaking out of the water. Rock faces along the lake, which would normally be underwater, are covered in old trees.
Why are there old orchards in Lake Travis?
“Most of the land that now forms the bed of Lake Travis was agricultural. It was ranch land, it was farmland,” John Williams said. Williams is the author of the book “The Untold Story of the Lower Colorado River Authority”.
According to Williams, the Lower Colorado River Authority was formed by the Texas government in the early 1930s to oversee the construction of several lakes in Central Texas. The dams to create those lakes were built to help stop flooding in an area of the country known for flash floods.
“We’re talking about massive walls of water, that were capable of taking out anything that stood in front of them. Talking about crops, we’re talking about livestock,” Williams said.
A concrete plant in Lake Travis
To build Mansfield Dam, which sits at the mouth of Lake Travis, the LCRA built a concrete plant. “We have something called the Shaker plant. It was a part of the construction of the dam. It’s a rock-crushing plant,” Robert Weiss, owner of Lake Travis Scuba said.
According to Weiss, the plant was mostly removed as the lake filled up, but some parts were left behind.
“Down there what you’re going to see is the footings of the old timber structures, you’re going to see concrete blocks that were part of, I think like the tram system. Going to see rock piles of different size aggregate. An old pipe that’s down there… raw steel pipe. So you got to be careful diving around. It can cut you, you can cut your suit,” Weiss said.
Weiss also said he has found houseboats, cars and even an old barn during his dives.
Hidden hazards and why they’re dangerous today
According to Weiss, many people don’t know about these dangers. They head to the lake, jump in and find themselves in trouble.
“There are trees that you can easily run into. Trees that you can easily jump into without realizing they’re down there. Just because you don’t pay attention or being an idiot,” Weiss said.
Dark also warned of these dangers.
“Our No. 1 effort to keep people safe on the lake is to educate,” Dark said. “We’re constantly finding opportunities to talk to the public about the dangers of Lake Travis, encourage people to use caution and to follow safety protocols for their own safety.”
“The Wake: Secrets of Lake Travis” premieres Monday, May 29th on KXAN.com. You can watch it on KXAN at 4:30pm and The CW Austin at 7:00am and 9:30pm.