Buchanan Dam and Lake Buchanan

Two-mile-long structure is an architectural rarity

Oldest of the Highland Lakes chain

​​​ Buchanan Dam

​Buchanan Dam, owned by LCRA, creates Lake Buchanan.

The dam, completed in 1938, is an architectural rarity. Stretching for more than two miles, Buchanan is considered the longest multiple-arch dam in the nation. Builders no longer use the design because the amount of labor required makes construction too expensive. Today's dams require far less labor, but a thousand times more materials.

Buchanan Dam and Lake Buchanan were the first completed in the Highland Lakes chain. Their primary purposes are to store water and supply hydroelectricity. They are named for U.S. Rep. J.P. Buchanan, who helped secure federal funds to complete the project after the original builder declared bankruptcy.

For information about parks on Lake Buchanan, see map of parks and recreation areas.

Lowest Lake Buchanan Elevations
Rank​​ Drought Date Height* (msl)
1 1947-57 Sept. 9, 1952 983.70
2 2008-16 Sept. 20, 2013 985.27
3 1963-64 Sept. 20, 1964 986.63
4 1983-84 Oct. 7, 1984 987.97
5 1999-2000 Oct. 15, 2000 994.73
6 2005-06 Jan. 1, 2007 997.97
*Based on daily readings at 8 a.m.
msl = mean sea level; height is feet above msl.

​FYI: Buchanan Dam

Location: Burnet and Llano counties, 414 river miles from the Gulf of Mexico
When built: Started 1931, completed 1935 to 1938
Dimensions: 145.5 feet high, 10,987.55 feet long
Primary purpose: Water supply, hydroelectric power
Generating capacity: 54.9 megawatts
Water supply storage capacity: 285.3 billion gallons
Top of dam: 1,025 feet above msl
Floodgates: 37
Discharge capacity: 347,300 cubic feet per second (cfs):

  • 7 large floodgates @ 18,800 cfs each
  • 30 small floodgates @ 7,000 cfs each
  • 3 turbines @ 1,900 cfs each

Original name: Hamilton Dam

Details on Lake Buchanan

Lake area: 22,017 acres
Elevation when full: 1,020 feet above mean sea level (msl)
Volume when full: 875,588 acre-feet
Historic high: 1,021.4 feet above msl on Dec. 20, 1991
Historic low: 983.7 feet above msl on Sept. 9, 1952
Target operating range:

  • May to October: at or below 1,018 feet above msl
  • November to April: at or below 1,020 feet above msl

100-year flood level at dam: 1,021 feet above msl
Dimensions: 30.65 miles long, 4.92 miles at widest point​