Mansfield Dam Tramway

Historic Site
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I won't take an extreme view and say that sometimes there are good things that come out of a drought. The dry wells, shrinking lakes and tender box foliage that give rise to increased fire risk, if not an outright fire, are really part of a weather condition with no upside.

But if one finds oneself in the middle of a drought some opportunities arise that otherwise would not occur. Being able to view the remnants of one aspect of the creation of Mansfield Dam is one of them.

Mansfield Dam, earlier known as Marshall Ford Dam, was constructed by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) between 1937 and 1941. With a base that is 213 feet thick, the amount of materials needed to be moved into place for its construction was immense. A cable tramway was constructed to provide a continuous stream of materials at the point of construction.

After the dam's construction the equipment used to construct the dam was removed. The concrete blocks that served as the base of the tramway's towers were left in place and quickly submerged by the rising waters of the newly formed Lake Travis.

Except for area scuba divers, few people knew about the tramway's remains. Occasionally a drought would lower lake levels enough suck that the structures became boating hazards but their location make it impossible to get the needed equipment in place to remove the structures, until recently.

The 2011/2012 drought has been bad enough such that "Sometimes Islands" has become a full fledged peninsula connecting to Mansfield Dam Park. Some of the tramway structures not only broke the surface of Lake Travis, they re-sprouted on what is for now dry ground.

The video included here shows how the LCRA took advantage of the rare condition to bring in some heavy equipment and break the concrete base into smaller pieces that will lie closer to the lake surface once the waters rise again. Because they are not removing every last piece of the bases they still present an opportunity for visitors to catch a small glimpse of the level of effort required to construct Mansfield Dam. Unless you have access to scuba gear, the drought may provide the only opportunity you have to see this tiny bit of the history of dam construction in the Texas Hill Country.

String of towers
From this set of bases you can look off in the distance straight ahead at another set of concrete pads closer to the shore. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Steel tower remnant
This base has a bit of the steel tower material protruding from the concrete. I also found a loose piece nearby. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
All your base are belong to us!
Coppertone stands among the concrete bases that supported the tramway towers. (Photo by Austin Explorer)